WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) promotion is a term we throw around a lot here at Water Missions International. But what does it really mean? WASH promotion is a planned, systematic attempt to enable people to take action to prevent water and sanitation related diseases. At its most basic, WASH promotion involves educating people on the realities of how germs are spread through contaminated water and improper hygiene.
While concepts like proper handwashing techniques are common in many societies, this is a taught behavior, something that mothers teach their children. Without a foundation for this knowledge, it cannot be learned and passed on. As a key component of Water Missions International’s community development projects, WASH promotion is vital to ensuring a project’s sustainability.
Philipines WASH Promotion
Water Missions International staff don’t just focus on WASH promotion in community based projects; we make sure to incorporate this vital component into our disaster relief efforts as well. In the aftermath of disaster, the risk of disease rises sharply. While the act of handwashing may seem like a small thing, this practice has the ability to dramatically reduce diarrhea and respiratory infections, as well as potentially impacting skin and eye infections.
After installing one of our Living Water™ Treatment Systems to purify contaminated water sources in the aftermath of disaster, our staff conduct WASH promotion in communities. At schools and other meeting areas, our staff hold seminars which cover everything from proper handwashing techniques to the importance of washing fruits and vegetables intended for consumption. They distribute informational pamphlets written in the local language to communities to foster understanding. During our recent disaster response efforts in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, our staff conducted WASH promotion seminars throughout the Philippines, educating hundreds on how they could easily prevent the spread of illness.
A Water Missions International staff member leads a WASH promotion seminar at a Filipino school.
It’s not enough simply to lecture though. In order to successfully change lives, WASH promotion has to lead to action. In the Philippines, Water Missions International staff asked for a bigger act than washing hands. Our staff taught local government officials on Cebu island how to tell if water is actually safe. They distributed water testing kits and led classes on how to use them, helping the local government grow in its capacity to act when the next disaster strikes. Our staff also trained others on how to conduct WASH promotion, ensuring that when our staff transitions projects to the Filipino people, they will be equipped with the ability to make sure safe water continues to flow.