Sanitation and hygiene

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2008/Naser Siddique
A girl in Manikgonj washes her hands with soap at the local tube well, Dhaka division.

UNICEF works to improve sanitation coverage in Bangladesh by creating demand in local communities for sanitary latrines. UNICEF also promotes safe hygiene practices.

The Sanitation, Hygiene Education and Water Supply in Bangladesh (SHEWA-B) project aims to reach 30 million people.

Community hygiene promoters
UNICEF's SHEWA-B project is implemented through 10,000 community hygiene promoters across 19 districts in Bangladesh. The hygiene promoters are young men and women from within the local communities, trained to educate their neighbours about the health and economic benefits of proper sanitation, waste disposal and good hygiene. They visit women in their homes and hold courtyard, tea-stall and school sessions.

Sanitation for health and comfort
Hygiene promoters encourage families to invest in improved latrines (that isolate excreta from the human environment) by explaining that money can be saved on diarrhoea medication and through fewer sick days for working adults. They also emphasize the social benefits of improved sanitation, including greater privacy and fewer offensive odours.

In 2009, overall access to improved latrines was 54.1 per cent (54.3 in rural areas, 53.5 in urban areas; and only 8.5 per cent in slums). The number of people defecating in the open and in hanging latrines (which empty directly into water sources) is nearly 10.5 per cent.  Encouraging people to defecate in a fixed place and away from water sources is the first step to achieving proper sanitation.

Mapping toilets
Under SHEWA-B, community members meet for water and sanitation assessment walks around their village or slum. During the walk, everyone is encouraged to point out water sources, sanitary and unsanitary latrines, and spots where people defecate in the open or dispose of waste. Afterwards, the community draws a map that shows all houses, pumps, toilets and waste sites. The community uses this map to plan for future sanitation improvements, which they must finance themselves. By the end of 2010, SHEWA-B communities had installed nearly 1.3 million latrines using their own funds.

Hand-washing with soap
In 2008, UNICEF launched a national campaign on TV and radio to encourage hand-washing with soap after defecation and before eating. Hygiene promoters also focused on the importance of hand-washing with soap or ash during their education sessions. While improvements have been made since 2007 in project areas, a formative research commissioned in 2010 revealed that there is still slow uptake of hygiene behavioural change.  Accordingly project strategies and approaches were sharpened and the sanitation and hygiene promotion strategy was revamped to create a critical mass of adopters. Mothers of children under five and primary school students are the primary audience and topics address the most critical WASH behaviours.  An intensive mass communication hygiene promotion campaign launched in 2010 aims to reach 10 million additional people.

School sanitation and hygiene
UNICEF’s earlier successes in school sanitation have been incorporated into the Government’s Primary Education Development Programme. In schools with proper sanitation, students miss fewer days of class. Community hygiene promoters continue to work with local schools to explain proper hygiene behavior and Support development of WASH in schools plans.

Download the Rural and Urban Water and Sanitation factsheets



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