Why it is important ?
- Young children are more vulnerable than any other age group to the ill effects of unsafe water, poor sanitation and lack of hygiene. These contribute to 88 per cent of deaths from diarrhoeal diseases. Children under 5 years old account for nearly 90 per cent of deaths from diarrhoea.
- The simple habit of hand washing with soap is estimated to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea by nearly half. It also greatly reduces the risk of respiratory infections such as pneumonia and other diseases, including eye infections, especially trachoma.
- Parents and caregivers should wash their hands with soap and water at these critical moments: (1) after cleaning the infant or young child who has defecated, (2) after helping the child use the toilet or latrine, (3) after going to the latrine or toilet themselves, (4) before touching food and feeding young children, and (5) after dealing with refuse.
- Parents and caregivers need to help children develop the habit of washing their hands with soap before eating and after using the latrine or toilet. Where soap is not available hands can be washed with ash and water. Animal and human faeces should be kept away from houses, paths, water sources and children's play areas.
- The use of latrines and toilets together with good hygiene practices – specifically hand washing with soap – are essential public health tools. They protect children and families at little cost and help realize children's right to good health and nutrition.
- Everyone in the community needs to work together to build and use toilets or latrines, practise good hygiene, protect water sources, and safely dispose of waste water and refuse.
- It is important for governments to support communities by providing information on how to design and build latrines and toilets that all families can afford. In urban areas particularly, government support is also needed for low-cost sanitation and drainage systems, safe drinking water and refuse collection.
What every family and community has a right to know ?
- All faeces, including those of babies and young children, should be disposed of safely. Making sure that all family members use a toilet, latrine or potty (for young children) is the best way to dispose of faeces. Where there is no toilet, faeces should be buried.
- All family members, including children, need to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with faeces, before touching or preparing food, and before feeding children. Where soap is not available, a substitute, such as ash and water, can be used.
- Washing the face and hands with soap and water every day helps to prevent eye infections. In some parts of the world, eye infections can lead to trachoma, which can cause blindness.
- All water that people drink and use should come from a safe source or be purified. Containers for carrying and storing water need to be kept clean inside and outside and covered to keep the water clean. Where necessary, home-based water treatment, such as boiling, filtering, adding chlorine or disinfecting with sunlight, should be used to purify the water.
- Raw or leftover cooked food can be dangerous. Raw food should be washed or cooked. Cooked food should be eaten without delay or thoroughly reheated before eating.
- Food, utensils and preparation surfaces should be kept clean and away from animals. Food should be stored in covered containers.
- Safe disposal of all household refuse helps to keep the living environment clean and healthy. This helps prevent illness.
- Hygiene is very important during menstruation. Clean and dry feminine hygiene products should be available to girls and women. A clean, private space should be provided to allow them to clean themselves and wash and dry their cloths. Sanitary napkins need to be disposed of carefully with other refuse or burned.
Key Messages - All faeces, including those of babies and young children, should be disposed of safely. Making sure that all family members use a toilet, latrine or potty (for young children) is the best way to dispose of faeces. Where there is no toilet, faeces should be buried.
- Many illnesses, especially diarrhoea, come from germs found in human faeces. If the germs get into water or onto food, hands, utensils or surfaces used for preparing and serving food, they can be swallowed and cause illness. Safe disposal of all faeces – both human and animal – is the single most important action to prevent the spread of germs by people or flies. Human faeces need to be put down a toilet or latrine, or buried.
- All faeces, including those of babies and young children, carry germs and are dangerous. If children defecate without using a toilet or latrine, their faeces should be cleaned up immediately and flushed down the toilet or put down the latrine or buried. Parents' or other caregivers' and children's hands should then be washed with soap and water or a substitute, such as ash and water.
- If it is not possible to use a toilet or latrine, everyone should always defecate well away from houses, paths, water sources and places where children play. The faeces should then be buried immediately. Animal faeces also need to be kept away from the houses, paths and areas where children play.
- Latrines and toilets need to be cleaned frequently. Latrines should be kept covered and toilets should be flushed. A clean latrine attracts fewer flies. People are more likely to use a clean latrine. Local governments and non-governmental organizations can often advise households and communities on the design, materials and construction for building low-cost sanitary latrines.
- In urban areas, the government and communities should work together to determine how to install low-cost latrines or toilets, sanitation and drainage systems, safe drinking water and refuse collection.
Key Messages- All family members, including children, need to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with faeces, before touching or preparing food, and before feeding children. Where soap is not available, a substitute, such as ash and water, can be used.
Washing the hands with soap and water removes germs. Rinsing the fingers with water is not enough – both hands need to be rubbed together with soap and water, and then rinsed with water. This helps to stop germs and dirt from getting onto food or into the mouth. Washing hands can also prevent infection with worms. Soap and water should be placed conveniently near the latrine or toilet. Where soap is not available, ash and water can be used.
- It is especially important to wash the hands with soap after defecating and after cleaning the bottom of a baby or child who has just defecated. It is also important to wash hands after handling animals and raw foods.
- Hands should always be washed before preparing, serving or eating food, and before feeding children. Children should be taught to wash both hands rubbed together with soap after defecating and before eating to help protect them from illness.
Children often put their hands into their mouths, so it is important to wash their hands often, especially after they have been playing in dirt or with animals. Washing a child's body regularly is also important to avoid skin infections.
Children are easily infected with worms, which deplete the body's nutrients. Worms and their eggs can be found in human and animal faeces and urine, in surface water and soil, and in poorly cooked meat.
- Children should not play near the latrine, toilet or defecation areas. Shoes or sandals should be worn near latrines to prevent worms from entering the body through the skin of the feet.
- Children living in areas where worms are common should be treated two to three times per year with a recommended deworming medication.
Washing hands with soap and water after handling poultry or poultry products, after touching eggs and raw meat, and after cleaning the place where poultry is kept can also help prevent the spread of germs and avian influenza (bird flu).
Key Messages- Washing the face and hands with soap and water every day helps to prevent eye infections. In some parts of the world, eye infections can lead to trachoma, which can cause blindness.
- Flies carry germs. A dirty face attracts flies, spreading the germs from person to person. If the eyes become sore or infected, vision may be impaired or lost. Eyes must be kept clean and healthy.
- If the eyes are healthy, the white part is clear, the eyes are moist and shiny, and vision is sharp. If the eyes are extremely dry or very red and sore, if there is a discharge or if there is difficulty seeing, the child should be examined by a trained health worker as soon as possible.
Key Messages- All water that people drink and use should come from a safe source or be purified. Containers for carrying and storing water need to be kept clean inside and outside and covered to keep the water clean. Where necessary, home-based water treatment, such as boiling, filtering, adding chlorine or disinfecting with sunlight, should be used to purify the water.
Families have fewer illnesses when they have an adequate supply of safe water and know how to keep it clean and free from germs. If the water is not clean it can be purified using low-cost solutions at home. It can be (1) boiled, (2) cleaned through a filter, (3) purified with chlorine or (4) disinfected with sunlight or other simple measures. The trained health worker or extension agent should have information on home treatments that are available locally.
Safe water sources include properly constructed and maintained piped systems, public standpipes, boreholes, pond sand filters, protected dug wells, protected springs and rainwater collection. Water from unsafe sources – rivers, dams, lakes, ponds, streams, canals, irrigation channels, unprotected wells and springs – is best avoided. If necessary it can be made safer by the home-based water treatment methods referred to above. Water should be safely stored in a covered container that is clean on the inside and outside.
Families and communities can protect their water supply by:
- Lining and covering open wells, installing a hand pump and protecting the immediate area from animals and vandalism
- Protecting a spring with a spring box
- Disposing of faeces and waste water (especially from latrines and household cleaning) well away from any water source used for cooking, drinking or washing
- Building latrines at least 15 metres away and downhill from a water source
- Always keeping jerry-cans, buckets, pitchers, ropes and jars used to collect and store water as clean as possible by storing them in a clean place, off the ground and away from animals
- Keeping all animals away from drinking water sources and family living areas
- Avoiding the use of pesticides or chemicals anywhere near a water source.
Families can keep water clean in the home by:
- Storing drinking water in a clean, covered container
- Washing hands regularly – including before handling stored clean water
- Taking water out of the container with a clean ladle or cup
- Having a tap on the water container
- Not allowing anyone to put their fingers or hands into the container or to drink directly from it
- Keeping all animals away from stored water.
If there is uncertainty about the safety of the drinking water, local authorities should be consulted.
Key Messages- Raw or leftover cooked food can be dangerous. Raw food should be washed or cooked. Cooked food should be eaten without delay or thoroughly reheated before eating.
Cooking food thoroughly kills germs. Food, especially meat and poultry, should be cooked all the way through.
Germs grow quickly in warm food. Food should be eaten as soon as possible after cooking so it does not have time to collect germs.
- If food has to be kept for more than two hours, it should be kept either very hot or very cool.
- If cooked food is saved for another meal, it should be covered to keep off flies and insects and then thoroughly reheated before being eaten.
- Yogurt and sour porridge are good to use in the preparation of meals because their acid prevents the growth of germs.
Raw food, especially poultry and seafood, usually contains germs. Cooked food can collect germs if it touches raw food, and these germs can breed in the cooked food in a few hours. Raw and cooked foods should always be kept separate. Knives, chopping boards and surfaces should always be cleaned with soap and water after preparing raw food.
- Special care should be taken in preparing food for infants and small children. Their food should be freshly made and eaten immediately, not left standing.
- Breastmilk is the safest (and most nutritious) milk for infants and young children. Expressed breastmilk can be stored at room temperature for up to eight hours in a clean, covered container. If older children are given animal milk it should be freshly boiled or pasteurized (a special way of heating milk to destroy harmful bacteria).
- All poultry and poultry products should be cooked the whole way through to prevent the spread of avian influenza (bird flu).
- Fruit and vegetables should be peeled or washed thoroughly with clean water, especially if they are to be eaten raw by young children. Fruits and vegetables are often treated with chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides, which can be harmful.
- Hands should be washed with soap and water after handling raw foods.
Key Messages- Food, utensils and preparation surfaces should be kept clean and away from animals. Food should be stored in covered containers.
Germs on food can be swallowed and cause illness. To protect food from germs:
- Keep food preparation surfaces clean
- Keep knives, cooking utensils, pots and plates clean and covered
- Wash cloths used to clean dishes or pans thoroughly every day and dry them in the sun. Wash plates, utensils and pans immediately after eating and put them on a rack to dry
- Keep food in clean, covered containers to protect it from insects and animals
- Do not use feeding bottles or teats, because they may contain germs that cause diarrhoea. Breast feed, or feed children from a clean, open cup. If bottles/teats are used, clean them after each use with boiling water.
Key Messages- Safe disposal of all household refuse helps to keep the living environment clean and healthy. This helps prevent illness.
- Germs can be spread by flies, cockroaches, rats and mice, which thrive in garbage such as food scraps and peelings from fruit and vegetables.
- If there is no community-wide refuse collection, each family needs a garbage pit where household refuse is buried or burned every day.
- Keeping the household and nearby areas clean and free of faeces, refuse and waste water can help prevent disease. Household waste water can be disposed of safely by making a soak pit or a channel to the kitchen garden or to the field.
- Chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides can be very dangerous if even small quantities get into the water supply or onto food, hands or feet. Clothes and containers used when handling chemicals should not be washed near a household water source.
- Pesticides and other chemicals should not be used around the household or near a water source. Chemicals should not be stored in or near drinking water containers or near food. Never store food or water in pesticide or fertilizer containers.
Key Messages- Hygiene is very important during menstruation. Clean and dry feminine hygiene products should be available to girls and women. A clean, private space should be provided to allow them to clean themselves and wash and dry their cloths. Sanitary napkins need to be disposed of carefully with other refuse or burned.
Adolescent and pre-adolescent girls need to be informed about the significance of menstruation in relation to reproduction and the importance of menstrual hygiene. They need information on how to care for and clean themselves when they are menstruating. Boys should also learn about menstruation and be aware of girls' particular hygiene needs.
Hygienic menstruation practices among adolescent girls and women should be promoted and supported.
- Clean and dry feminine hygiene products such as cloths or napkins should be available. Where cloths are used it is important that they are regularly washed with soap and water and dried fully in the sun before the next use. Damp cloths can carry germs that can lead to infections. Used sanitary napkins should be disposed of in a refuse pit or collected and burned.
- Water and soap should be provided in a private place (bathing area, latrine) for girls and women to wash during menstruation and for washing their hands after changing their cloth/napkin. Poor menstruation hygiene can lead to fungal infections. Repeated infections can lead to serious reproductive tract infections. These could cause infertility.
- Schools should have separate latrines for girls and boys. The girls' latrine in particular needs access to water and soap so girls can clean themselves. Latrines that are private, clean and safe contribute to keeping girls in school longer, which can delay early marriage and pregnancy.
- When girls and women are menstruating, their privacy needs to be respected.