When children have access to safe water and good behaviours associated with personal hygiene and eating habits, their overall health improves.
The cost of unhygienic practices can have serious consequences including repeated infections or even death. UNICEF and the WHO studies have proven that poor water quality, inadequate sanitation, bad hygiene and nutrition practices all contribute to the poor health and educational attainment of children in Egypt.
Millions of children in Egypt need to learn as early as possible about the importance of regular handwashing, dental care and healthy choices in nutrition. These are simple practices that can save lives. The scale of this challenge requires a bigger, faster, more concerted approach between multiple sectors.
With Unilever’ support to UNICEF’s programming on WASH )Water and Sanitation Hygiene( and nutrition in communities and schools in disadvantaged areas, sprouts of change in the levels of hygiene and nutrition awareness have seen the light.
“Children's Awareness for Water Conservation, Health and Proper Nutrition” is a joint program dedicated to strengthening positive behavioural practices regarding health and hygiene through communities across Egypt.
In order to disseminate awareness messages to the most vulnerable communities, UNICEF collaborated with the Holding Company for Water and Safe Waste (HCWW) to integrate critical hygiene behaviours and healthy nutrition information into children’s daily routines in 300 schools in selected governorates.
The primary phase of the project is currently being implemented in Minya and Fayoum. The project aims to directly reach around 300,000 students between 6 and 11 years of age, and an estimated 600,000 indirect beneficiaries (through child to child and child to parents’ communication) and 4,000,000 users through UNICEF’s digital platforms.
UNICEF’s partner, the HCWW, already has a built-in relationship with the community through the provision of water and sanitation services. Therefore, UNICEF worked on building the capacity of the water company staff to specifically promote hygiene awareness messages aiming at improving the health outcomes of beneficiaries in this joint program.
The 120 trained employees of Minyia and Fayoum water companies are currently acting as master trainers who are further disseminating training and capacity building to teachers for sustainable inclusion in 300 schools.
Building the capacity of teachers to promote hygiene and nutrition awareness messages in schools is an important step: it will enable children to practice healthy behaviours both at school and at home.
The immediate results of the first round of trained teachers have reached hundreds of Minya students whose teachers have involved them in different art activities and projects to raise their awareness and encourage them to spread the word among their peers. This included creating colourful awareness signs, mock ups, performances and songs.
Among the other tools provided by UNICEF are 300,000 colouring books (available digitally and distributed at schools through the awareness van) with a package of messages on body and oral hygiene, sanitation, water safety and healthy nutrition options.