19 June 2018

Hygiene Promotion and Community Mobilisation in Rural Settings

The following guiding tools for implementing hygiene promotion interventions in Rural Settings provide further details and guidance. 

Humanitarian water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions in rural settings aim to improve hygiene practices and to ensure the best use of water, sanitation and hygiene services for refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs). The aim is to provide a structure for promoting hygiene that protects the health and reduces morbidity and mortality among displaced populations and their host communities.

Unlike in Urban Settings, infrastructure in rural areas is often weak, making hygiene promotion activities even more important. In these contexts, hygiene promotion is most effective when focusing on the most disease transmitting practices and high-risk vectors.

Promoting hygiene in rural settings requires reaching out to – often anonymous – refugees and IDPs that are dispersed over large areas. In order to use resources efficiently, strategies should be harmonised and coordinated between humanitarian actors and local authorities. Interventions should also focus on building capacities and on assisting the affected populations in adopting and maintaining good hygiene practices in their new environment.

The The Sphere Project Standards Minimum Standards provide the following guidance on relevant hygiene items in rural settings:

  • SPHERE, Hygiene Promotion Standard 1: Hygiene promotion implementation. Affected men, women and children of all ages are aware of key public health risks and are mobilised to adopt measures to prevent the deterioration in hygienic conditions and to use and maintain the facilities provided.
  • SPHERE, Hygiene Promotion Standard 2: Identification and use of hygiene items. The affected population has access to and is involved in identifying and promoting the use of hygiene items to ensure personal hygiene, health, dignity and well-being.

Surveys at the household level are required at an early stage to understand the knowledge, attitude and practices and should be used to develop hygiene promotion strategies together with stakeholders and humanitarian actors. This is especially important because in rural and urban areas the refugees tend to congregate in the poorest areas, where it is more difficult to maintain safe hygiene practices.

Beyond identifying and providing hygiene items that are culturally appropriate, hygiene promotion in rural settings also needs to take up a collaborative approach that empowers both the displaced and the host communities. Such an approach can help to build trust (which is often lacking) and to empower the affected populations.

Access to information is another important issue in rural settings and dissemination of hygiene messages should use techniques that are appropriate for the dispersed populations (such as Media Campaigns - Radio (DC)). Disseminating information around proper hygiene should be delivered early but should not include too many messages but rather focus on key practices responsible for hygiene risks and disease transmission practices. The often-low literacy rates in rural areas means that campaigns in rural settings may have to be designed around graphics rather than text-based information. Delivery mechanisms of hygiene items in rural areas are often most appropriate when designed around cash-based interventions.

The following set of guiding tools provides in-depth information on planning, facilitating and implementing hygiene promotion interventions in Rural Settings that aim to ensure that all concerned stakeholders (refugees and the host communities) have safe access to hygiene services of good quality. The descriptions include considerations regarding the target group, gender, appropriateness in the cultural context as well as guidelines for efficient coordination with partners and the affected population.

Library References

The Sphere Handbook

This appendix of SPHERE handbook is a water supply and sanitation initial needs assessment checklist. This list of questions is primarily for use to assess needs, identify indigenous resources and describe local conditions. It does not include questions to determine external resources needed in addition to those immediately and locally available.

THE SPHERE PROJECT (2011): The Sphere Handbook. Rugby: Practical Action Publishing URL [Accessed: 19.10.2016]

WASH in Rural Areas

This entry discusses WASH responses in rural dispersed settings. WASH interventions help to improve hygiene and health, and reduce morbidity and mortality among both refugees and host populations. In the first phases of an emergency, a WASH response in rural dispersed settings focuses on identifying WASH infrastructural gaps and needs, and software components required, as well as monitoring the WASH situation.

UNHCR (2015): WASH in Rural Areas. In: UNHCR ; (2015): Emergency Handbook. Geneva: . URL [Accessed: 26.10.2016]

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