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Editor's Note: This post explores ACTED's efforts to encourage good hygiene practices among Syrian refugees in the Dohuk governate in Iraq. This post originally appeared on ACTED's website, to view the original post please click here.

ACTED case workers conducting hygiene education activities with children in Syrian refugee camp - ACTED Iraq, 2016

ACTED case workers conducting hygiene education activities with children in Syrian refugee camp - ACTED Iraq, 2016

Today, 2.4 billion people in the world are struggling to stay well and keep their children alive due to the lack of access to hygiene and sanitation services. In recognition of the importance of addressing this global challenge, ensuring access to water and sanitation was listed as Sustainable Development Goal #6 in 2015.

Poor sanitation and children’s vulnerability

Inadequate provision of water and sanitation, and poor hygiene education affect people of all ages, but particularly compromise the well-being of children, who tend to be more sensitive to preventable diseases than adults. The integration of simple practices, such as hand washing and correct oral hygiene, in children’s day-to-day life can prevent the occurrence of a variety of conditions – from infections to tooth decay – that have both short and long-term impacts on their physical development. Keeping this in account, ACTED’s programme teams in Iraq have adopted a mainstreamed and multi-sectoral approach to target the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs of children and youth.

Hygiene promotion for young ages

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A clear example of this approach is the integration of hygiene promotion in ACTED’s child protection programmes. In ACTED’s child and youth friendly spaces in Domiz 1 and Domiz 2 Syrian refugee camps in Dohuk governorate in Iraq, hygiene promotion is a daily activity, implemented through awareness-raising sessions with children and youth. In order to get even the youngest ones involved, ACTED staff utilises participative methods for teaching good hygiene practices, including dramatizations, cartoon drawing, singing, peer-to-peer sessions, and short films. In recent activities, conducted in partnership with Medical Corps and Doctors Without Borders, awareness-raising campaigns were complemented by the distribution of toothpaste, toothbrushes and anti-lice shampoos to refugee families living in camps.

A multi-sectoral approach to water, sanitation and hygiene

ACTED’s comprehensive approach to providing water, sanitation, and hygiene does not only focus on encouraging good hygiene practices among the youngsters. Child Protection teams operating in Domiz 1 and Domiz 2 also conduct hygiene promotion campaigns with parents, caregivers, and volunteer committees with the focus on providing support to children and youth. These hygiene messages are shared with the community through providing information leaflets, ensuring that counselling sessions are available, and having dedicated awareness-raising activities on health and hygiene, such as the one organised in Domiz 1 refugee camp for parents whose children have been affected by lice.

Integrating hygiene promotion activities into child protection programmes allows ACTED not only to reach vulnerable children while most in need, but also to promote their physical well-being in the long-term.

Muna Wehbe, CEO of the Stars Foundation

Editor’s Note: This guest blog was authored by Muna Wehbe, CEO of the UK-based Stars Foundation. In the piece, Muna describes the foundation’s Impact Awards, a cornerstone of its programming, and explains why the award categories were expanded this year to recognize local organizations that have made an impact on the lives of children through interventions in WASH.

 At the Stars Foundation, we have spent the last 12 years identifying and investing in exceptional organizations working to improve the lives of disadvantaged children. Since 2007, we have focused our energy on the annual Impact Awards – a program that recognizes and rewards outstanding local organizations operating in the countries with the highest rates of under-five mortality.

Initially, we only accepted applications from local charities in Africa, but gradually expanded to the Middle East and Asia-Pacific by 2010. Winners were awarded for both their effective management and impact on the lives of children in one of three categories: Health, Education or Protection.

Using this model, we have established relationships with some of the best local organizations in the developing world; organizations that are embedded in their communities, responding to local needs with innovative and effective development programs that, admittedly, are always more integrated than the reductive category headlines above would have you believe.

This was certainly true for Restless Development Nepal and Action for Integrated Sustainable Development Association (AISDA) in Ethiopia. While they were ostensibly awarded for their impacts in education and health respectively, a large proportion of their development interventions involved water — improving access to it, and raising awareness of the hygiene and sanitation issues that surround it.

This is symptomatic of many of our local partners.

The connections between health, education and water are undeniable. And after a comprehensive strategic review last year, in which we interrogated our proxy measure for need — UNICEF’s under-five mortality index (PDF) — it was clear how crucial improving water, sanitation and hygiene is to child survival, and to effecting lasting impact at scale. Unsafe or inaccessible water and poor sanitation and hygiene contribute significantly to the number of preventable child deaths each year.

But our Awards program did not reflect that.

So, in recognition of its enormous impact on child survival, Stars will be awarding its first two Impact Awards in the WASH category this year, no longer conflating it with health or education.

Marketing to, assessing and awarding in a new category has not been without its challenges.

In every category of the Impact Awards, we remain fairly agnostic about the specific interventions themselves, and instead focus on the overall impact the organization is having on the lives of children, as well as evaluate its management and governance practices. 

And while we’re thrilled with the results of the 2013 Awards, we recognize additional adjustments to the process may be needed as the level of technical expertise associated with assessing interventions in the WASH sector seem to be even more pronounced than in other categories.

We cannot reveal the names of the inaugural Stars Impact Award winners in WASH just yet (they will be announced at a ceremony in mid-December and we’ll post the winners here as well). But we can disclose that, unsurprisingly, local organizations working to improve the lives of children do not ever focus on just one development issue in isolation. Rather, they employ a range of projects and interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of their communities’ most vulnerable members.

That is the strength of local organizations. And we’re delighted that adapting our award strategy accordingly with the addition of the WASH category means we can now support even more of them.

School girl from Jogimara, Nepal, washing her hands at a Restless Development Nepal water supply. (2011 Asia-Pacific Health Award Winner) Credit: Kristian Buus

School girl from Jogimara, Nepal, washing her hands at a Restless Development Nepal water supply. (2011 Asia-Pacific Health Award Winner) Credit: Kristian Buus

Editor’s Note: The STARS Foundation is a London-based organization that provides grants to nonprofits working with disadvantaged children. The Foundation is now accepting applications for their 2013 Impact Awards, including their new WASH category, which recognizes the impact that WASH solutions can have on improving the well-being of children.     

The STARS Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of the 2013 STARS Impact Awards recognizing outstanding organizations that achieve excellence in the provision of services to disadvantaged children.

In response to a growing demand for flexible funding, STARS invites NGOs to apply for up to 16 Impact Awards and, for the first time, has added a new category — Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) — due to the impact that improvements in this area can have on child survival and well-being.

Organizations working with children in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, or the Pacific are invited to apply.

The main Impact Award will be given to four winners per region — one in each of the following categories: Health, Education, Protection, and WASH. Winners will each receive $100,000 of unrestricted funding together with a bespoke package of consultancy, PR, and media support. Each organization will also benefit from the opportunity to work together with STARS for up to one year to promote their plans to other donors and seek to raise additional funding.

In addition to these main Impact Awards, smaller awards of different sizes will be made at the discretion of STARS’ board of trustees.

To find information regarding the application process, the eligibility criteria, and to apply online, please visit the Foundation's web site.

The closing date for applications is 1PM GMT Monday, November 12, 2012.

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