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
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.