Health Promotion and Disease Prevention through Hygiene Education and Access to Water & Sanitation

Donors: GE Foundation and the Embassy of Japan in Colombia
Local Allies: CINARA, the Colombian Ministry of Housing and Territory, and the Colombian National Planning Department
Beneficiaries: 890 students, parents and teachers from two schools
Location: Magangué, Bolívar

In 2008, only 72% of rural areas in Colombia had water service coverage, and sewarage coverage lagged behind at only 69.6%. Children in rural areas were among those most affected as public schools often lacked the proper sanitary infrastructure. Studies have shown that  hygiene practices such as hand-washing could reduce Acute Diarrheal Diseases and Acute Respiratory Infections by up to 45%. In addition, poor sanitary conditions in schools increases school absenteeism as children contract water-transmitted diseases. 

Given that it has been proven that safe drinking water and basic sanitation in rural schools could reduce school absenteeism by up to 35%, Give To Colombia sought to tackle this issue. GE Foundation’s funding allowed us to develop a new, cost-effective health training model that builds local capacity in hygiene practices, raises awareness, and reduces the prevalence of diseases in children.

The program was created based on UNICEF’s SWASH methodology, and was implemented through workshops conducted in the schools of San Sebastián de Madrid and San Juan Bautista resulting in the creation of an Operations Manual, a Guide for Facilitators, and a Guide for School Committees. These guidelines will serve the Colombian government in the elaboration of new public policies, and will be included by The Secretary of Education of Magdalena in its public school policy for hygiene, potable water and sanitation.

Through this pilot, G2C was able to proved that although the construction of sanitation facilities in public schools is a pressing matter, these improvements must be complemented with training and capacity-building programs focused in developing healthy behaviors and hygiene practices, which must be integrated into the school curriculum. 

This project served as a pilot and was later replicated across schools in the municipalities of Fundación, Pivijai, and Algarrobo through the program “Comprehensive Models of Access to Water and Sanitation in Colombia”.