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More than one third of the global population needs basic sanitation. About 10 percent do not have clean water. Rotary International, one of largest humanitarian service organizations globally, and USAID, the world’s largest governmental aid agency, are partnering to make an impact.

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Promoting community-based sanitation

In March 2021, representatives from the Rotary clubs of Bwebajja, Lukaya, Kalisizo, Masaka and Kyotera and USAID’s Uganda Sanitation for Health Activity (USHA) visited Gankanga village, Lwengo district in southwestern Uganda to assess the effectiveness, sustainability and impact of community-based sanitation and hygiene promotion programs in selected households.

In Uganda, sanitation and hygiene promotion messaging is usually delivered on radio, but many residents of Gankanga village told the team that they do not have access to this medium of communication. The few residents with access to radio said they are not aware of radio programs on sanitation because such programs air while they are working in the fields in their farms.

In this rural farming community, the number one medium of communication, according to residents is apparently ‘Bizindaalo’ – a local community public address system. This represents a more effective channel for sanitation programs to reach everyone in the community, even those in the fields. It is important that messages geared towards behavioral change put into consideration the time when the target audience can readily listen to them. When disseminating messages, it is vital to know the target audience and when they are available to listen to the message.

Female residents also indicated that women’s groups in the community convene three times every month to discuss a variety of issues ranging from development to health and social support of members, among other topics. Sanitation promoters can tap into such gatherings to disseminate messages. Working through existing community-based structures not only provides insights into program delivery in the different social and cultural settings, but it also ensures that all sections of the community are reached.

During the visit, the team also observed that some households have the ability to purchase sanitation products such as SATO products (self-sealing devices which keep pit latrines closed off from insects or other disease-transmitting vectors), but they are not aware of the availability of these products within their communities. USHA, through its partner BRAC is working towards closing this market  gap through the reach of Community Health Promoters (CHPS). The insights gained from residents of Gankanga during the visit are informing and shaping their approach, as the partners seek to achieve more longer-term and sustainable impact in communities’ adoption of hygiene behavior.

Contributed by Joseph Ssuuna of the Rotary Club of Bwebajja, Edited by RI’s Mohamed Keita

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