Washing hands for a healthy future
In Kenya, poor sanitation causes an estimated 17,000 deaths of children under five each year, 90% of which are due to diarrheal diseases. Inappropriate hygiene behavior is disastrous for infants and young children; handwashing is considered as one of the most inexpensive yet efficient interventions in curbing hygiene-related illnesses. Sanergy makes that intervention critical to our work: all Fresh Life Toilets in our franchise network come with a handwashing stand and soap and water. Fresh Life Operators also receive trainings that stress the importance of having clean water and soap at all times for Fresh Life users. This is particularly true in schools.
Among school children, an average of 272 million school days are missed every year globally due to diarrhea. “It is not enough that children have a safe place to go, we need to make sure that each school identifies WASH champions who reinforce and entrench the habit of handwashing,” says Polycarp Sifuna, Senior Field Officer, School WASH program. Polycarp and his team assist the teachers in implementing the WASH curriculum – a toolkit that was designed as an implementation framework for best WASH practices in schools.
Some schools that have implemented the WASH curriculum have gone a step further and formed Health and Environment clubs in their schools. Ruben Baptist School is one of these schools. “Through the clubs, students learn proper handwashing and participate in the development of innovative solutions that promote hygiene within the school. One innovation is the ‘Tippy Tap’ handwashing stations,” says teacher Janet, a sanitation and hygiene patron at the school. The tippy tap is a simple hands-free device for handwashing that is especially appropriate in urban settlements where there is water scarcity.
In addition, Janet and other teachers in the school organize “edutainment activities” such as inter-class debates that help students internalize the hygiene and sanitation lessons they have learnt. Ruben Baptist School began with 3 Fresh Life Toilets and recently launched an additional 4 facilities! “Our student population has grown tremendously to over 200 pupils, which prompted us to expand,” Janet says.
The impact of the WASH program has gone beyond the classroom; the students have transferred lessons learnt in school back to their homes. Adds teacher Janet, “Since implementing the program, we have heard from many parents who are amazed that their children insist on washing their hands every single time they visit the toilet.”
The lost days could be gained if diarrheal illness is reduced and students have access to sanitation and safe water supply. At Sanergy, our work in schools such as Ruben Baptist is testament that it is possible to have healthy school-going children by rethinking and designing innovative sanitation solutions for schools.
Sanergy’s WASH in school program is being implemented across 94 schools located in Nairobi’s informal settlements. Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with clean soap and water.