Good hygiene behaviours that prevent the transmission of disease causing pathogens are essential to reduce incidence of diseases, malnutrition and for promoting child health, and most importantly realising the full benefits of water and sanitation programmes.
Something as simple as handwashing with soap can cut incidences of diarrhoea almost by half. However, hygiene remains one of the least prioritised areas in development. At WaterAid India, hygiene is integrated into everything we do, and forms part of a three-pronged approach alongside water and sanitation.
Our approach is to improve hygiene practices by promoting knowledge and motivating change. Through our local partners and institutions, we focus on five main hygiene behaviours: handwashing at critical times; safe management and handling of drinking water; hygienic use of toilets; menstrual hygiene; and food hygiene especially weaning foods. We train local institutions like schools and aangawadi to integrate hygiene promotion in their regular work and motivate communities to improve their hygiene behaviour.
Based on lessons from our practical work and that of other local and international experiences, our work with governments and service providers encourages the public policies and programmes to integrate hygiene promotion.
We encourage prioritisation and funding of hygiene programmes, focusing on:
- Prioritisation of hygiene within the WASH and non-WASH sector with long-term resource allocation;
- Promoting integration of hygiene within public programmes;
- Mapping how responsibility for hygiene is cross-cutting among various sectors and pushing them to deliver; and
- All allied programmes like school education, de-worming, public health to embed structured hygiene messages.
We must remember that unless the good hygiene practices are fully understood and adopted as an everyday practice, toilets may not be used, safe water may still be contaminated by handling it with dirty hands and dignity of girls might be compromised with inadequate menstrual hygiene awareness.