Teaching proper hygiene to children in MyanmarPublished: Jun 16, 2020 Reading time: 4 minutes
Access to clean drinking water and clean latrines, the use of proper handwashing techniques prior to eating or preparing food, and safe food preparation practices are key to avoiding a host of life-threatening diseases, as well as preventing the spread of COVID-19. In Myanmar’s Kachin State, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) practitioners are working to increase awareness of good hygiene practices among schoolchildren in an effect to encourage lasting behavioural change. Hygiene promotion activities, especially those emphasising the frequent washing of hands with soap and water, are among the most important interventions for preventing illness among children.
WASH training for 10 schools
People in Need (PIN), together with local partner, Alinn Banmaw Local Development Organisation, and with support from the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund, provided a series of WASH promotion trainings in May of this year. The team employed the “Thant Shin Star Approach,” or “Three Star Approach,” to train more than 100 schoolchildren from 10 targeted schools in conflict-affected villages of the Momauk Township in Kachin State. According to a UNICEF field guide, the Thant Shin Star programme “ensures that healthy habits are taught, practised and integrated into daily school routines.”
For example, “schools are encouraged to take simple, inexpensive steps to ensure that all students wash their hands with soap, have access to drinking water, and are provided with clean, gender-segregated toilets at school every day,” the guide says.
Daw Khan Shwin, a community volunteer who leads trainings in the village of Naung Khun, notes that “due to the situation in our villages, most children do not know about good hygiene before the trainings. However, after the training, they are more knowledgeable and able to practice good hygiene. The children learn quickly and share the new knowledge with their family and friends, which is one of the reasons we target children with the training.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WASH practitioners followed social distancing guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Sport and the World Health Organisation throughout the trainings. They split the children into groups of five and ran two training sessions each day. Participating in the WASH training was also a good opportunity for the children to learn more about staying safe during the pandemic.
Sharing their new knowledge
Eleven-year-old Ma Saung Ying attended a training and says the lessons she learned will stay with her for a long time. “The training taught me how to keep my hands clean,” she says. “My friends, sisters, and I enjoy learning together, and I shared the knowledge with my mother as well. Now, I know how important it is to wash my hands before eating or preparing food, and to protect the food from dirty flies. Also, after we come back from the toilet, we have to clean our hands with soap and water.”
In addition, Ying took home valuable lessons related to COVID-19. “I do not touch my eyes and mouth with my dirty hands, and I wear a mask whenever we go outside,” she explains. “It is not easy to wear, but I keep it on.”
Daw Ni Ni Aung, the project coordinator of the Alinn Banmaw Local Development Organisation, says in her region, the programme is a great success. “We trained 18 community volunteers in 10 villages in Momauk Township on good hand washing practices, and provided proper hygiene training to over 100 local children. Most of the children were from conflict-affected villages, and all of them are very clever.”
Providing access to clean water with LifeStraw filters
PIN and the Alinn Banmaw Local Development Organisation also distributed 20 LifeStraw water filters to 10 schools, and trained school officials and teachers on how to use the filters correctly. Finally, PIN distributed posters with basic WASH information and COVID-19-related awareness-raising messages at schools to promote good hygiene within the communities.
“Hygiene promotion is a crucial component to our WASH in Education programming,” says Laurel Jansury, PIN Myanmar Area Manager. “Training students and teachers on proper hygiene will help to reduce illness, ensuring that children are healthy and able to attend school regularly. Now that the trainings are complete, teachers and students can take responsibility for practicing good hygiene both in school and at home.”
In Kachin State, PIN works with local partner organisations on education and protection for conflict-affected children. We improve access to quality education, provide vital protection mechanisms, and promote stability and psychological well-being to help children thrive. The work is made possible with funding from the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.