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Improvement of access to sanitation and raise of hygiene awareness in the district of Kebemer, Senegal

According to official figures, only 17% of Senegal's rural population has access to sanitation. People generally relieve themselves in areas which are unfit for the purpose, including in primitive and substandard latrines, which, owing to their lack of leakproofness and inappropriate location, pose a threat to the environment and the health and safety of humans and farm animals. This situation threatens the cleanliness of watercourses and is conducive to the incidence of parasitic and bacterial diseases. Contamination of food and drinking water represents a real epidemic risk.

Lack of sanitation and poor public awareness of maintaining proper hygiene lead to the spread of diseases that most often affect children. They also bring significant economic losses, exacerbating the poverty of the already very poor families. The treatment of the so-called dirty hands diseases is time-consuming and costly, while the affected people are not able to take up employment or attend school.

Senegal's rural areas also badly lack information campaigns that highlight the link between poor hygiene and environmental pollution and the spread of diseases. However, the local population's awareness of health and sanitary issues can be enhanced by the activities of widely respected social leaders, commonly referred to as badianou ngox ("elderly aunties"). These women, who typically come from the griot caste and have outstanding oratory skills, are the indispensable figures at major events in villages and towns, and their voice matters for both sexes. The importance of badianou ngox is appreciated by Senegal's Ministry of Health and Social Action, which for years has entrusted them with the role of trainers and communicators in health programmes, birth control, promotion of assisted births and vaccinations.

Improvement of access to sanitation and raise of hygiene awareness in the district of Kebemer, Senegal

The overall objective of the project carried out in the municipalities of Ndande, Diokoul and Kab Gaye is to improve the state of the natural environment and the hygienic and health situation of Senegalese residents. The project follows up on measures carried out in the Kébémer Department area in 2016-17, combining the infrastructure and education aspects.

As part of the project, 21 local primary schools will be retrofitted with multiple toilets with bathrooms and access to running water, which will not only improve the level of health safety in these establishments but also, as agreed by the heads of schools covered by the previous activities, will lead to an increase in the number of pupils. The construction works will be preceded by training on building safe and norm-compliant latrines for at least 20 non- or low-skilled workers, who will not only acquire skills that will enable reducing the cost of building lavatories in the future, but who will also be paid for the performance of earthworks for septic tanks under the supervision of a contractor.

A key element of the project will also involve preparing four badianou ngox to the role of local hygiene trainers. The women will participate in training provided by the staff of local health centres — a qualified male nurse and a midwife. The programme will cover issues such as: the impact of defecation in places not designed for the purpose on the environment and human and animal safety, the benefits of having latrines in households, the correct use of common lavatories, their maintenance, the emptying of septic tanks and the methods for communicating the acquired information. The first training session will be accompanied by a meeting of a Health Committee set up in 2016, composed of representatives of the communal authorities, health centres and head teachers.

After appropriate preparation, each coach will carry out at least two seminars per month among the local community, which will help increase hygiene awareness of at least 1,500 people. The activities will take the form of accessible and engaging talks and will be carried out in the local wolof language.

Pupils of all the 21 schools will also be trained. A total of 1,800 students will attend the hygiene courses delivered by health centre staff.