Removing barriers to the practice of hygiene in Southern Africa

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Hygiene, COVID-19
Molia Abdallah, 47, washing hands at the water kiosk in Chicoma, Mozambique, June 2019.
Image: WaterAid/ Chileshe Chanda

The practice of good hygiene is central to achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 – along with additional key development goals, including health, nutrition and education. As the 2020 coronavirus pandemic highlights, hygiene is also a vital first line of defence against health crises.

Without good hygiene practices – such as handwashing with soap, food hygiene, disposal of human waste, water treatment and menstrual hygiene management (MHM) – the benefits of other poverty reduction strategies will be undermined, and human rights will be compromised.

In 2018–19, we carried out formative research in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, eSwatini and Zambia to examine the motivational drivers of and barriers to hygiene across urban and rural communities, schools and healthcare facilities. In this summary we present a combined analysis of the findings of our research – identifying common barriers and pathways to change, and motivations that have the highest potential to be relevant, efficient, effective, impactful and sustainable.

Read the summary to learn about practical actions that can improve sustained hygiene behaviour change and increase support for greater investment in and action on water, sanitation and hygiene.