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Reference : V-P-LR-E-00579
Date : 05/09/2013
Country/Region : LIBERIA
Caption : Maryland County, Nikpachilu village. The Liberian Red Cross, the ICRC and other partners decided to conduct several projects and programs to improve the sanitation practices in this village and other communities.
Photographer : YAZDI, Pedram
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : Liberia: Hygiene for healthier and happier communities!

Since 2011, the Liberian Red Cross and it partners, after considering that improving hygiene in remote rural areas will help communities to accede to better development, undertook to implement sanitation programs by building latrines and by training volunteers in the heart of some communities to change and improve the sanitation habits.

Nikpachilu is a tiny village with 20 families in Maryland County located between a vast evea plantation, the forest and small family owned cassava fields.
In 2011, the Liberian Red Cross teams, with the support of the ICRC, made an evaluation on hygiene practices in remote areas. Nikpachilu was included in this assessment. Based on information gathered, the Liberian Red Cross, the ICRC and other partners decided to conduct several projects and programs to improve the sanitation practices in these communities.

Simple Gesture
"The information gathered by the field volunteers indicated that most communities in remote areas did not have access to clean water," says Marie Freeman, a Liberian Red Cross Hygiene officer. "In the meantime, it showed that simple hygiene practices such as hand washing after the use of latrines or the placing of kitchen utensils on a stand and not directly on the floor, did not exist. Another habit was the use of the open field and the forest for toilet and bathing."

The projects implemented by the different Red Cross partners were not as simple as just building wells, water pumps and latrines but the whole hygiene habits and thinking of the communities had to be altered. The poor sanitation in some villages was the main causes of waterborne diseases.

"In order to be efficient and to ensure that all families practiced the new and appropriate hygiene habits, we decided to train, in each community, several volunteers to promote, sensitize and actively motivate families to put hygiene measures into practice," underlines Marie. "In addition, we convinced them to build stands for kitchen utensils and ensure proper food disposal, manage the well appropriately, use the constructed latrines and if possible to build others instead of using the neighbouring fields for defecating."

Hygiene Promoter Volunteers in Communities
In Nikpachilu, Victor a young and dynamic farmer had been trained as a hygiene promoter volunteer and his progress has been monitored by the ICRC and Liberian Red Cross team. Two years later, he continues his sensitization and, during a recent visit, he was very proud to show the initiatives and improvements in his community.

"At the beginning we had to repeat and repeat the same hygiene instructions, nearly force families to improve the storage of kitchen items and food disposal inside and outside of the houses and to constantly tell them to wash regularly their hands before touching food items", Victor tells us. "Later, the families noticed that the number of some diseases have decreased, the children were healthier and in general the community was spending less money on medical treatment."

During our visit we noticed that small water containers were placed next to each latrine, each house had a stand made on bamboo rods and the families use the community latrines and bath instead of going to the forest. During our visit we even saw the first latrine and bath built privately by a family.

"Going to the forest, it was difficult for my wife with our small children. When I saw the facilities built by the Red Cross and discussed with the ICRC hygiene field teams, I decided to build a latrine and a bathroom for my family," Says Steven a young farmer of the village.

With the remoteness of the village and lack of resources and appropriate transport, the Liberian Red Cross teams are visiting Nikpachilu only twice a year now. But Victor is continuing his hygiene promotion volunteer duty. "As children grown up they should adopt the same practices adopted by the community which is now hoping for a complete change in the mentality," says Victor. He will also continue to manage and take care of the hand pump which is the only structure in the village providing clean water to the 20 families of Nikpachilu.
Original material : digital
Resolution : 4256x2832
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour