A Community’s Efforts for a More Hygienic Future
When Peace Corps Volunteer Lindsay first arrived at her site in the Saloum Delta region of Senegal, she found a community highly motivated for health and development work. During the first few months of her service, Lindsay and local health workers performed a baseline survey to determine the most prevalent health issues in her community and the reasons for these issues. Results proved hygiene and sanitation measures were lacking and likely to be the cause of common illnesses, especially among children.
The survey showed that community members’ primary concern was access to latrines; only 13% of community households had any sort of water and sanitation system. Secondly, it showed that large percentages of the population were not practicing hygienic behaviors, such as handwashing, and failed to recognize the correlation between such behaviors and common illnesses and conditions, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malnutrition.
After hearing the results of the survey at a community-wide meeting, community members determined the need for a large scale water, sanitation and hygiene behavior change and latrine construction project. Once the project plan was designed, and roles assigned, Lindsay requested funding from Water Charity to cover the cost of 55 household latrines and two at the village’s schools.
In order for a household to participate in the project and receive a latrine, they were required to first attend a training series on hygiene-related illnesses and hygienic behaviors. These sessions were led by members of the village health committee as well as the Hygiene Agent from the nearby district hospital. Additional trainings were led by Lindsay and teachers at the local elementary and Arabic schools, during which students were taught about germ theory and illness, sanitation in their community, and proper hand-washing. Students learned how to make soap and also how to build a hand-washing station out of easily-found materials. After the programming was finished students wrote and performed skits on the importance of hygiene for health.
After trainings took place, villagers organized the latrine construction. Time was limited to accomplish this daunting task before the rainy season began, but community members were quick to play their part. Cash contributions were collected in order to purchase the necessary materials in the nearby town. The village chief ensured materials were efficiently distributed to each household upon delivery. Finally, as each household finished digging their pits, three local workers began building bricks and 12 masons fanned out to install latrines on a first-come, first-served basis. They worked on a strict schedule completing six latrines a day, and the project was complete in approximately one month.
After rainy season, households finally had the chance to break open the holes in their new pit latrines and put up fencing for privacy. The community has been very grateful for this opportunity and displays a sense of pride in their development efforts. This project has rid any shame in the sanitation status of the community, as 100% of households now have access to latrines. Additionally, villagers recently organized a community-wide clean-up and are excited about furthering hygiene efforts in the future. Over the years to come, improved community health will certainly follow, as will the inspiration to continue large-scale projects for the community’s well-being.