In Burundi, against COVID, hygiene is the key

Curbing community transmission of COVID-19 has been a major factor in reducing the spread of the virus. Behavior change was significant to this

Fatoumata Tandiang
Judith Cishahayo's home
24 February 2022

UNICEF, with the financial support of Germany, conducted awareness raising activities, community engagement and integration of good hygiene practices in urban and peri-urban areas that were densely populated and therefore at high risk of infection.

Thus, community relays were trained in awareness activities to inform communities about the COVID-19 pandemic. Through door-to-door visits, and with updated information, these community relays encouraged nearly 3,500 households to adopt good hygiene practices.

We are in the commune of Kayorogo which comprises 29 hills. Here, for the training of community relays, each hill was represented by two women. Thus, a total of 58 women were trained on hygiene practices. They were then deployed to sensitize families. With determination, they were able to sensitize nearly 500 vulnerable households. Each household also received a hygiene kit consisting of 4 water storage containers, 2 buckets, 3 cups, 1 pack of 24 soaps and sanitary towels for families with teenage girls.

Jeanine Sifa, is a community relay, trainer on good hygiene practices,  Makamba
Jeanine Sifa is a community relay, trainer on good hygiene practices in Makamba

Jeanine Sifa is a community relay. She is 36 years old, married and mother of 10 children, including twins. She is one of the community relays trained on good hygiene practices who in turn sensitized vulnerable families. During the visits to the families, she makes sure that the family has understood the importance of having a hygienic behavior, not only in the toilets, but also for water conservation. During community dialogues, she emphasizes key moments to wash hands with soap.

"I use a worksheet and every time I visit a family, I compare the data to see if the household is changing, then I make recommendations to them and make sure that what has been taught is being applied. We have been working on habits, i.e. avoiding shaking hands, hugging, etc. With my colleague, we follow up on 19 households and we visit these 19 households every week”, explains Jeanine.

Judith Cishahayo, received a complete hygiene kit, Butere hill, Makamba
Judith Cishahayo received a complete hygiene kit, Butere hill, Makamba

Judith Cishahayo, is a widow and mother of 4 children. She lives in the hill of Butéré . She is one of the vulnerable families who benefited from these awareness sessions.

With the awareness sessions, she understood that hygiene was very good for her, but also for the health of her children. With Jeanine's regular visits, even the children have come to understand that the basic rules of hygiene are important and very simple to apply. For example, they  wash their hands systematically because there is now a hand-washing device at the entrance to her house. "I understood that good health starts with hygiene, hygiene is the key. Now that these hygiene practices have become a habit for me and my children, we systematically avoid giving hands and I am now very careful about my children's behavior. There is always soap and water. As for the cooking utensils, they are now well covered to avoid flies contaminating them with microbes".

Berthe Nzeyimana received a complete hygiene kit, Butere hill, Makamba
Berthe Nzeyimana received a complete hygiene kit, Butere hill, Makamba

Berthe Nzeyimana, a widow, lives in Butere hill. She has 4 children and 9 grandchildren. Her age? She doesn't know, but she likes the idea of being in her sixties.

One day, some community relays came to her house to sensitize her on the good hygiene rules, i.e. cleaning the latrines, putting water and soap in the toilets to encourage hand washing, among others. This has been very positive for her, as she admits that since she implemented the handwashing device, her grandchildren are not often sick anymore. " I didn't know that all these rules were important, but now I am informed and I am convinced of the effectiveness, because I already feel the impact on my family.”

The project also provided water and handwashing facilities in schools. Some schools have had their water points rehabilitated, while others have been connected to the existing water supply network. All of these measures helped ensure that students followed good hygiene practices during the COVID period.