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A large-scale survey carried out by BRAC’s Research Evaluation Division (RED) amongst 30,000 households found that knowledge of hygiene is very strong among more than 90% of the people, but actual hygiene practices develop far more slowly.
BRAC, the world’s largest development organisation in the southern hemisphere, has been working since 1972 on poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor. Since its inception, BRAC has brought an exceptionally strong and consistent dedication to improving the quality of life and empowering women and poor families through a holistic approach of development. Aligned with other interventions, BRAC launched a comprehensive intervention on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) since May 2006 (Kabir et al 2010).
In Bangladesh, traditionally women are responsible for managing all water, sanitation and hygiene related activities like cooking, washing, feeding babies, animals and cleaning everything in their households. Sustainability of this programme is unimaginable without spontaneous women participation in the programme. For this reason the programme has been organizing monthly cluster meetings to create awareness among the women from 10 households and adolescent girls from 45 households at community level.
Adolescent-girls cluster meeting (Photo: BRAC WASH Programme 2010)
The programme assistants are organizing cluster meetings to disseminate water, sanitation and hygiene messages through different behavioural change communication materials such as posters, flipcharts, and demonstration of handwashing practices.
The programme has been disseminating the following messages to the intervention areas for adopting water, sanitation and hygiene practices and breaking the contamination cycle for all individuals, households, and the entire community
Messages for handwashing:
- Wash hands by rubbing both hands with soap before preparing food
- Wash hands by rubbing both hands with soap before serving food
- Wash hands by rubbing both hands with soap before eating and feeding the baby
- Wash your left hand first and then wash both hands thoroughly with soap after defecation
- Wash your left hand first and then wash both hands thoroughly with soap after baby’s defecation and disposing of the faeces in the latrine.
Message for Safe water:
- Use the arsenic free water from the tube well, marked green for cooking and drinking purposes
- Collect water in a clean container
- Cover the water container with a clean lid while carrying the container
- While storing the water, the container should be clean and kept in a clean and dry place which is slightly elevated
- Use the water by pouring from the container instead of dipping into it.
Message for Sanitation:
- Always keep the latrine clean
- Pour water in the pan before defecation
- Keep sufficient water in /or around the latrine and pour enough water in the pan after defecation
- Make soap available in / or around the latrine for use
- Use a pair of sandals specifically for going to the latrine
- Use your right hand for carrying the water pot while going to the latrine and after using the latrine
- Wash both hands with soap after using the latrine
- Everyone in the family including children have to use a sanitary latrine
- Baby’s faeces should be disposed of in the latrine and the latrine should be cleaned subsequently with enough water.
Knowledge increased, practices not enough
A large-scale survey carried out by BRAC’s Research Evaluation Division (RED) amongst 30,000 households found that knowledge of hygiene is very strong among more than 90% of the people, although actual hygienic practices develop far more slowly (Akther, 2008). People havethe knowledge but do not practice the hygienic behaviours disseminated through cluster meetings. RED also found that self-reported washing hands with soap before eating increased from 8% to 20%. Thus, while progress has been made, there is a considerable distance to achieve hygienic behaviour. (Akter and Ali 2011)
However, the programme has surpassed the original target for WASH I of providing access to hygienic sanitation for 17.6 million people. By the end of WASH I, it was expected that 24.5 million people in all will have gained access to hygienic sanitation through the programme.
Akter Tahera and Ali ARM Mehrab (2011) Knowledge and practice of hygiene in BRAC’s WASH programme areas, First assessment 2007 – 2009, BRAC Research and Evaluation Division (RED). South Asian Hygiene Practitioners workshop, 2011, Dhaka, Bangladesh. www.bracresearch.org
Dr. Kabir Babar et al (2010) Contributions of Village WASH Committee in breaking the cycle of unhygienic behaviours in rural Bangladesh. South Asian Hygiene Practitioners workshop, 2010, Dhaka, Bangladesh. http://www.irc.nl/page/51611
Akther Nasima et al (2008) WASH Programme of BRAC: Towards Attaining the MDG,Targets: Baseline Findings, BRAC Research and Evaluation Division (RED). www.bracresearch.org
Md. Mahidul Islam, IRC 2nd round young professional