A Day in the Life of a Volunteer Hygiene Promoter in north-east Nigeria

Zainab, a volunteer hygiene promoter recently trained by UNICEF with funds from The Netherlands Government, works on the frontline to ensure communities are protected from the coronavirus

Oluwatosin Akingbulu, Communications Officer; Asabe Mshelbara, WASH Facilitator, UNICEF Nigeria
A volunteer hygiene promoter talking to a family
UNICEF Nigeria/2020
18 September 2020

“I enjoy seeing people enlightened.”

On the frontline to ensure communities in Borno State are kept safe from the coronavirus are volunteers like 20-year-old Zainab Abdulhamid. These volunteer hygiene promoters are people who against all odds have continued to create awareness about the importance of good hygiene and sanitation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

For Zainab, volunteering comes easy.

“I have a passion for serving people, especially when it has to do with vulnerable people. This is my major drive - I feel it’s my own way of contributing towards ensuring a clean environment,” she said.

Volunteers go from house to house spreading the message of handwashing with soap under running water. They also speak to community members in markets, motor parks and other public places about other measures they can take to protect themselves, such as physical distancing and wearing a face mask to protect their families from contracting the virus.

“It makes me happy because I enjoy seeing people enlightened. It also makes me feel grateful because volunteering has given me the chance to see other people’s tough situations,” said Zainab.

Zainab at home
UNICEF Nigeria/2020

“Sometimes I feel scared…”

Zainab lives with her parents and siblings in Biu Local Government Area (LGA) in Borno State. As a volunteer hygiene promoter, she visits many communities to speak to mothers and children on good hygiene practices.

“Sometimes I feel scared because of how the disease spreads, but I always go with my hand sanitiser, my face mask, a handwashing bucket for demonstrations - and I always ensure physical distancing when I am in the community.”

When Zainab returns home, she takes a bath immediately and puts the clothes she wore in a basket away from her clean clothes.

Zainab on her way to communities in north-east Nigeria
UNICEF Nigeria/2020

“My people have suffered so much already as a result of the ongoing conflict. I remember those days when we battled a cholera outbreak in my area. So many lives were lost,” Zainab recalled. “I do not want my people to suffer the same fate again and this is what motivates me to go out every day to let people know about the importance of good hygiene.”

Zainab speaking to women and girls in the community
UNICEF Nigeria/2020

In north-east Nigeria, women and children are bearing the brunt of the conflict in the region. In addition to the hardship of being displaced - forced to leave behind their homes and move to another community - they also face the many challenges of ensuring their families are protected and have their basic needs met. Often, women and girls have all of the responsibility of household chores and other work that can take several hours a day, without pay. Zainab and her colleagues understand the challenges these women and children face, and so they make the extra effort to reach them with key messages on how to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Zainab, alongside other volunteer hygiene promoters, regularly visits Tashangandu, a popular place in Biu LGA where women and teenage girls work on farms to earn a daily wage. These daily wage earners are mostly widows, pregnant women, nursing mothers and teenage girls affected by the conflict in the north-east. Zainab spends time teaching and training these women and girls on keeping safe during the pandemic by maintaining good personal hygiene and how to manage their menstrual period safely.

Zainab speaking to women and girls in the community
UNICEF Nigeria/2020

Although Zainab enjoys volunteering and the opportunity to be part of the hygiene campaign, there are challenges she faces while carrying out her tasks in the communities.

“People sometimes don’t want to listen because they know that we are not distributing money. So, when we talk to them, it takes a lot of time to convince them.”

“I hope that one day people live happily in a safe environment…”

Zainab was one of a group of several volunteers recently trained by UNICEF, with funds from The Netherlands Government. She learned about the coronavirus, its mode of transmission and prevention measures.

Zainab teaching families how to use a Tippy Tap
UNICEF Nigeria/2020

She also learnt how to install a tippy tap for those who don’t have access to running water in their households. As part of her training, she learned how to make face masks using locally sourced materials.

Zainab speaking to women and girls
UNICEF Nigeria/2020
Zainab speaking to women and girls in the community
UNICEF Nigeria/2020

Zainab and other volunteers collect and record data on the number of people reached within each community with vital information on staying safe during the pandemic.

Zainab returning home
UNICEF Nigeria/2020

“I hope that one day our communities and villages will return to normal without fear of conflicts or diseases. I also hope that people live happily in a safe environment, practicing good hygiene,” said Zainab.


UNICEF Nigeria, with funding from The Netherlands Government, is supporting the Borno State Government to promote good hygiene in communities. Key hygiene practices, including handwashing with soap, help to curb the spread of the coronavirus, particularly among vulnerable populations.