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Handwashing with soap is still the most effective way to reduce the spread of diarrheal infections. Today on Global handwashing day, hygiene and sanitation expert Alana Potter talks about key messages from IRC's experience how to make hygiene promotion work.
No matter how good the infrastructure, if it isn't hygienically used and operated, people's lives and health will not be improved.
Handwashing with soap at critical times, access to a safe latrine and managing household water are the hygiene behaviours most widely accepted as having the greatest impact on health. But how can we make sure the behaviours last? At IRC, we know from research that hygiene promotion can only lead to sustainable behaviour change if users have access to the necessary facilities, and receive consistent messages from multiple sources.
Ideally, hygiene promotion should be seen as a public or environmental health function and therefore as a 'service'. In reality, hygiene promotion is usually an 'intervention' that happens in a water, sanitation and hgyiene project cycle and is seldom linked up to ongoing public or environmental health services and initiatives. The link-up matters to changing behaviour. Hygiene promotion is more effective when integrated as part of water and sanitation improvements – not tagged on as an extra.
IRC calls for sustainable hygiene promotion to make Global Goal 6 - universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030 - a reality.
Happy Global Handwashing Day!