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Positive Hygiene Practices

t-story-5.jpgWe spent the last two days checking out the latrines that community members had built, and watching them show us how they wash their hands.

Some of you reading this may wonder what the big deal is - but it is. Hand washing at critical moments – after using the latrine, before eating, after handling animals  - is the most effective way to stop the spread of diseases.

But why is it blogworthy you may wonder, didn’t they wash their hands before? No, not all did.

And how is that possible in 2015 others may think? It simply wasn’t a practice here.

But to halt any possible incredulity let’s think back to where our own families originated from many years ago. Somebody in their community was the first to understand the importance of hand washing and start. It started with someone. In these communities, CPAR, our partner UNICEF, the district officials, the volunteers, the natural leaders are the “someones”.

img_story_tanzania3.jpgAs with the latrines, each community member constructed their own handwashing station, located outside of their latrines.  In most cases it consisted of a bucket suspended with string from a simple wooden structure. The bucket contains water.  Also suspended near the bucket is a cup in which holes have been punched and it is suspended with a wire. On another string, or in a bag nearby, is a bar of soap.

The small cup is scooped into the tub to fill it with water, and then suspended, allowing the water to drip out as the person washes their hands.

While the elderly residents sometimes struggle with this new hygiene practice (in which case community volunteers and natural leaders are there to help them), the younger generation is picking it up quickly, and it is becoming a natural and regular part of their lives and practices.

In some communities the members use the system described above, while in others they use the “tippy tap”, which was introduced as an option by one of CPAR Malawi’s staff members as many residents and even local district officials had not been aware of it before.

img_story_tanzania4.jpgAs with the other system, the tippy tap consists of a container full of water suspended by a string from a simple wooden structure. The container is usually a bottle or jug and a string is tied around the neck of the bottle. A piece of wood is tied to the bottom end of the string. When a foot is pressed down on the wood, the bottle tips and water flows out, allowing hands to be washed and rinsed.

This system is considered a better one because it decreases the chance of water being contaminated.

And since soap can be difficult to find, the use of ash as a viable alternative is promoted.

On most of the latrines that we inspected the community members had written reminders to themselves as to some of the lessons and behaviours that they had learned. For example, to wash their hands before meals. In the photo below, in the local Chichewa language, it states “Wash hands with ash here.”

Dusanka Pavlica
Executive Director, CPAR