THE RURAL WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION PROJECT
Water is an essential resource for good health, the sustainability of life and a powerful tool for development, which must be valued, conserved and managed in an appropriate fashion for the benefit of all (The Gambia National Water Policy, 2006). Therefore, improving access to safe water and sanitation facilities leads to healthier families and communities (RWSSP appraisal report, August 2011).
In the Gambia, Poor water and sanitation related-deaths account for 20% of under-five (U-5) deaths. U-5 mortality rates in rural areas are estimated to be 36% higher than those in urban areas. About 265,000 people in rural areas have no access to safe drinking water, and close to twice that number do not use improved sanitation facilities. In addition, due to general poor hygiene practices, there is a high level of water contamination (estimated at 79%) during handling and storage which undermines the objective of having an improved water source. (RWSSP appraisal report, August 2011).
Globally, the annual diarrheal cases results in 1.9 million under-5 child mortality. In The Gambia, the main causes of diarrhea have long been associated with inadequate and unsafe water, poor sanitation, and unsafe hygiene practices. One way to sustainably reduce this massive burden of disease is through the use of safe drinking water, sanitation and improved hygienic practices, in particular hand washing with soap. Water, sanitation and hygiene are also linked to many other diseases that kill children or stunt their development, including helminthic infections, dracunculiasis, trachoma, cholera (RWSSP appraisal report, August 2011).
Access to improved water and sanitation facilities alone does not, necessarily lead to improved health. There is now very clear evidence that the importance of hygiene promotion and education, aim to instill hygienic behavior, in particular hand-washing with soap at critical times: after defecating and before eating or preparing food.
In this regard, the Department of Water Resources under the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resource acquired funds from the African Development Bank to implement the Gambia Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project (RWSSP). The four year project funded through the African Development Fund and the Rural Water Supply Initiative Trust Fund targets 45 beneficiary communities. The project consists of the following components:
- Water Supply and Sanitation Infrastructure component; which is the provision of 22 solar powered water supply network to 45 communities,
- Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building/ Training
- Hygiene Promotion and Education component; which involves training and sensitization of the 45 communities to improve and sustain environmental sanitation and water quality and
- Project Management and Implementation/ Engineering Unit.
The third component is contracted to HePDO for implementation. The project Team conducted a Familiarization visit with the main objective; To visit beneficiary communities and identify community structures, To introduce HePDO to the beneficiary communities, To assess the communities’ hygienic water and sanitation practices, To assess the current hygiene conditions of the communities and schools water supply sources and To visit the RHTs and introduce the project to their staff.
The team travelled to all the 45 beneficiary communities, held Meetings with all the 5 RHTs, held focus group discussions with all the communities, made observations and took extensive notes with the use of a checklist. The project implemented various activities namely, Developing the hygiene promotion and education messages, Pretesting of IEC and Training Tools, Training of Communities on water supply & Sanitation, Training/sensitization communities on personal hygiene, Conduct Open field days on Hygiene promotion & education, Radio programs on hygiene promotion & Education, Identification, Orientation & Sensitization of traditional communicators & drama groups, Conduct drama performance to promote hygiene and sanitation and Conduct film shows on hygiene promotion and education.
Hygiene Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Training
Promoting hygiene and sanitation is crucial in the management of safe drinking water from water supply systems which greatly contribute to improving health. Water Hygiene and Sanitation education is an indispensable part of the provision of safe drinking water supply and improved health of communities. Through hygiene and sanitation promotion and education, community members are informed about the correct method of water collection, transportation, storage and the maintenance of clean water surroundings as well as the proper disposal of solid and liquid waste. Water hygiene and sanitation awareness creation focus on changing behaviour by communicating key hygiene practices such as drinking clean safe water, management of water supply systems from sources to consumption point, hand washing with soap and management of solid and liquid wastes.
To achieve the benefits of the consumption of safe drinking water supply leading to reduction in faeco-oral disease transmission, improved personal hygiene and sanitation, HePDO conducted Hygiene promotion and CLTS training targeting 3 Lumo committees, 28 Schools and 6 Madrasas of which 33 Lumo committee members, 358 Teachers and 405 Environmental Health Committee members in Schools and Madrasas trained.
Transforming knowledge into positive behavioural change is a process that requires continuous follow up, it is therefore necessary that the MOH (Directorate of health Promotion) staff at the regional level as well as the water motivators of DWR conduct follow up to ensure sustain water hygiene and sanitation practices.
Overall, the trainings were conducted successfully with informative messages that will be crucial in attitudinal changes towards the hygienic management of water and good environmental sanitation in the various settings and their surrounding environments.