Hygiene Promotion: A View from Uganda

An up close look at Action Against Hunger's hygiene promotion programs
Water collection point, northern Uganda. Photo courtesy: E. Simiand

Mrs. Oyella Santa, a mother of a household with 10 members, lives in Owak village in Amuru District, Northern Uganda. Ever since Action Against Hunger (ACF) launched environmental sanitation programs in her area, Mrs. Oyella has worked to improve her home by attending the Hygiene Promotion Sessions and setting up environmental sanitation facilities.

Self-Sufficient Sanitation Facilities

ACF began its hygiene promotion programs by distributing digging kits to help the people of Owak village build latrines, refuse pits, dish drying racks, and bathing shelters. Apart from the digging kits, the only items ACF distributed were a “SanPlat” latrine slab—the concrete cap for a new dugout latrine—and a “tippy tap” hand washing facility to improve sanitation. Beyond these distributed items, all of the construction materials, labor, and other inputs are provided by the participating households. Mrs. Oyella eagerly attended each hygiene session and was committed to developing a “complete package” of environmental sanitation facilities for her home.

With ACF’s assistance, the Oyella family was able to dig and build a latrine and install a “tippy tap” hand washing facility. The “tippy tap” is a simple design involving a mounted plastic water jug that acts as a faucet when someone “tips” it by stepping on a wooden pedal (no hands needed). The facility is installed next to latrines to promote collective hygiene by eliminating the need to handle the plastic water jug after using the latrine. The impact is potentially huge: hand washing with soap helps curb half of diarrhea-related diseases.

Hygiene Promotion: Other Simple Fixes

In the construction of a bathing shelters, the use of gravel allows communities to better control waste water, which might otherwise attract pigs or other disease-carrying animals drawn to the muddy ground. Gravel also helps minimize odors and the presence of flies and malaria-carrying mosquitos associated with standing water.

Traditionally, Mrs. Oyella dried dishes by the fire place in the house. This changed after the ACF hygiene promotion sessions that she attended. She constructed a dish drying rack in her compound so that all the water drips out and the sunlight kills the germs. Drier dishes do not attract as many flies, ensuring greater cleanliness.

Mrs Oyella learned at an ACF Hygiene Promotion session that the proper way to obtain water from a water storage container is the two cup system: using a clean cup to dip into the water and then pour into the cup from which someone will drink. The use of a two cup system is a method that helps reduce the risk of contaminating the stored water by using the same cup for scooping and drinking.

With the use of a refuse pit, Mrs Oyella learned that disposing of solid wastes (mostly organic bits of plant material) away from her home keeps away flies and disease carrying rats. Her family now dumps their garbage in a remote pit, which is is covered with earth once it’s full. By attending Action Against Hunger’s hygiene promotion sessions, Mrs. Oyella quickly learned that even small precautions such as these can have a great impact on the health and well-being of her family.

The Real Benefits of Hygiene Promotion: Healthier Communities

Because the region’s health center is several kilometers away, Mrs. Oyella sees the real costs involved in getting sick: “it is cheaper to prevent than to pay for a cure for preventable diseases.” As she implements the range of sanitation services promoted by ACF, Mrs. Oyella helps ensure the health of her family and her community. Better hygiene means fewer illnesses, less time spent traveling to the remote health center—and more time spent growing food in her garden.

Story support from Bob Bongomin Jr.; Photos by Nyeko Geoffrey David