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Burkina Faso

Schoolchildren adopt improved sanitation and hygiene practices in Burkina Faso

© UNICEF BurkinaFaso/2008/Tarpilga
Handwashing with soap is the latest craze at Weotenga Primary School in Burkina Faso.

By Jean-Jacques Nduita

WEOTENGA, Burkina Faso, 22 January 2009 – For the students at the Weotenga Primary School in central Burkina Faso, handwashing with soap is anything but a chore. In fact, it’s the latest craze, thanks to efforts by UNICEF to elevate the importance of personal hygiene in the region.

“I always wash my hands with soap after going to toilet,” says Ousmane Compaoré, 12, motioning towards a UNICEF-provided handwashing sink in front of the school’s lavatory.

His enthusiasm is the result of the sensitization campaign carried out in Weotenga village, roughly 100 km from the capital, Ouagadougou. Since the campaign, handwashing with soap has become a reflex activity for the village’s children.

“In many families, children will no longer eat without first washing their hands,” says Aminata Ouédraogo, a village advisor.

Children teach their parents

The children have also been spreading their newfound enthusiasm for hygiene to their family members.

© UNICEF BurkinaFaso/2008/Tarpilga
A boy heads towards the newly built toilet facility in Natenga village.

“It is the children who teach their parents how to conduct themselves to avoid contracting diseases resulting from dirty hands,” explains Weotenga Primary School head teacher Olivier Ziba.

Such knowledge transfer is having an impact on village health. Since May of this year, Weotenga has not recorded a single case of diarrhoea attributable to lack of hygiene, says the chief of the village health post, Apiou Tibirou.

New latrine in Natenga

In a different village, Natenga, there is a new mud-brick toilet facility roofed with iron sheets and supported by a pile of stones. It is equipped with a ventilation system and a waste outlet mechanism to facilitate emptying.

The village’s Hygiene and Sanitation Programme supervisor, Ouédraogo Congo, proudly shows off the facility, which was built by her husband, a mason, with the support of UNICEF and the Regional Centre for Low Cost Water Supply and Sanitation (CREPA).

“With this toilet,” she says, “we no longer go to the bush, gripped with fear, to respond to nature’s call, with all the risk of being bitten by a snake.”

‘We were ashamed’

Gone are the days when children and adults defecated in the bushes behind their compounds.

© UNICEF BurkinaFaso/2008/Tarpilga
A girl drinks water from a safe-water point, installed with help from UNICEF, in Nabitenga Primary School.

“At night all our houses were filled with stench,” recalls Ms. Congo’s daughter, Rosalie, 10. “We were ashamed to receive strangers with this odour.”

Since 2005, UNICEF and CREPA have been helping the families in this village acquire latrines. This operation was preceded by a vast sensitization campaign that succeeded in changing the hygiene habits of the villagers.

Students taking the lead

A large sign has been posted in the primary-five classroom of the Nabitenga Primary School in central Burkina Faso. It highlights the two essential habits needed for proper hygiene: handwashing with soap, and the use of appropriate toilet facilities.

The children in the classroom seem to be getting the message.

“When we defecate outside, rainwater carries the faeces to the leaves of bean plants that we enjoy eating. It spoils them and we shall certainly fall sick if we eat them,” says Kafando Nafisa, 9.

Observing hygiene rules

The classroom has also been equipped with a safe-water point, which consists of a pot mounted on a metal block and fitted with a tap. The schoolchildren fetch the water themselves and have even formed groups to take turns cleaning the pot.

The groups operate under the supervision of a monitor, while the class teacher, Ouédraogo Mouni, makes sure everyone observes the rules of good hygiene.

Taken together, these and other UNICEF-supported programmes in Burkina Faso are ensuring that a generation of schoolchildren have the knowledge and facilities needed to practice good hygiene and keep themselves healthy.



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