Drinking Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Education must go Together
According to the latest estimates of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), 32 per cent of the world’s population – 2.4 billion people – lacked improved sanitation facilities, and 663 million people still used unimproved drinking water sources in 2015. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more.
Poor sanitation, water and hygiene have many other serious repercussions. Children – and particularly girls – are denied their right to education because their schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities. Women are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, health systems are overwhelmed and national economies suffer. Without WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), sustainable development is impossible.
Drinking water supply and sanitation projects must be supplemented by communication activities as a pre-requisite for the acceptance, ownership and sustainability. The forms of communication and their effects overlap and may involve information, social marketing, advertising, awareness building and educational measures to change the attitude and behaviour of the target group by imparting new knowledge.
Education in hygiene and health is crucial in the implementation of drinking water supply and sanitation projects in order to achieve health and environmental objectives and goals. It is necessary when short and long term health gains are to be achieved in drinking water supply for rural households, centralized piped water supply systems, excrete disposal, waste water disposal, solid waste disposal and storm water drainage.The blockage of the pathogen transmission systems from excreta to human beings cannot be achieved only through the construction of sanitation facilities. Hygiene education plays a great role in ensuring that these transmission systems are eliminated through hygiene practices like washing of the hands with soap after every use of toilet, exchange of baby diapers etc as is recommended by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.
The objectives set to reach the MDG goals should therefore not only involve the development of infrastructure but must be accompanied by communication measures. Hygiene education is a major component of these communication measures and should be part and parcel of every water supply or sanitation project or both.
For the overall sustainability of these projects in terms of social acceptability, affordability, technical viability and environmental friendliness, the projects should be anchored on the national legal institutions. The planning and implementation should also be within the legal framework conditions with strong linkages to the national policies and concepts. When all these conditions are fulfilled then the up scaling of the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects become achievable.