The lack of latrines and drinking water causes many diseases. In the east of Burkina Faso, Helvetas works with schools where children learn the importance of adopting good hygiene in order to become "health ambassadors" in their families. At the same time the communities commit themselves to keeping their villages clean and adopting good hygiene practices.
Project NameLaafia – Health for Schoolchildren and Families
Project Phase2019 to 2022
FundingThis project is funded by donations.
Clean Water and Better Hygiene for Communities
In the province of Gnagna in eastern Burkina Faso, access to safe water and sanitation remains a challenge. Nearly 89% of households do not have a latrine, and half of elementary schools do not have a water point. People are forced to relieve themselves in fields or bushes, often without realizing that they are endangering the health of their community. Women, girls and especially children under 5 years pay the heaviest price in this situation. Diseases related to lack of hygiene represent almost a third of the recorded pathologies. Malnutrition, which is also one of the consequences, affects more than one in three persons.
Since January 2016 Helvetas has been working with the town councils and local organizations in the municipalities of Manni and Coalla to help improve the health and quality of life of the population. The LAAFIA (which means "health") project works in schools and communities by promoting good hygiene practices and sanitation.
With the "Blue School" approach, students have access to clean water, functional and well-maintained latrines and adequate food. Children learn why hygiene is important and become ambassadors of good practices in their families.
It is often at school that they discover a latrine and use it for the first time. It is also where they learn to wash their hands regularly. When they return home, they talk about latrines, handwashing, soap, germs, and methods for keeping water safe.
Access to water also helps create school gardens where organic vegetables are grown to improve the quality of food at school. Students have the opportunity to participate in all activities: they plant the salad, eggplant or cabbage, water them and check how the plants are growing. This is a good opportunity to learn lessons about biology and ecology.
Actions to improve the lives of young girls at school
Helvetas also promotes awareness of menstrual hygiene among students. Menstruation is still a taboo subject, so girls for shame or lack of protection and adequate facilities often do not go to school during their period.
The Laafia project, with the support of teachers, women and girl leaders, sensitizes all students on the subject. It adopts and supports young girls with exchange meetings on good menstrual hygiene practices at school and at home.
Young girls who already have their periods receive menstrual hygiene management kits called "Palobdé". These kits are reusable.
Helvetas also sensitizes people in the villages, how much their health depends on family sanitation and a clean environment. This work consists of implementing the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) process.
The first step is a collective walk in the village and surrounding area so that people can see the level of fecal contamination and its consequences. It is a powerful experience that triggers disgust and shame and makes families aware of the importance of having a latrine. Other good practices such as handwashing with soap, storing pots in a clean place, and yard maintenance are also adopted. The process is accompanied and monitored by the Village Sanitation Committee (VSC), which consists of representatives from each neighborhood. Their task is to raise awareness among the population and ensure that the commitments made by the heads of households are fulfilled.
Finally, the VSC organizes the community evaluation by going around the households to check that certain criteria in terms of hygiene and cleanliness are respected so that the village can be declared FDAL (Free of Open Defecation). This is a very important and eagerly awaited moment for the community, celebrated by the display of the "victory flag" during an official ceremony with dancing and music. This celebration, introduced by Helvetas, has greatly contributed to motivating communities to commit to better health.
Many health problems are related to the consumption of water that is not clean. This is why the LAAFIA project has also trained a group of women on the production of chlorinated water they sell in the villages. During these visits, they also play a very important role in raising awareness of behaviors that reduce the risk of disease.
In addition, other women are trained on the production and sale of liquid soap. An activity that makes this essential hygiene product more accessible in the villages and at the same time gives the women an opportunity to earn some money and contribute to the needs of the family.