31 May 2017

Hygiene education is made more accessible to communities in Murun through home-based sessions

The house-to-house hygiene training is in session for both parents.

Bayanbaatar’s family is one of thousands of ordinary young families living in Murun city. His wife Delgersaikhan, 34, is a teacher at the “Soroban” Abacus Training center. Bayanbaatar (30) is unemployed currently and takes care of their baby girl Zolboo, who was born slightly less than two months ago. Older child of the couple is a 9 year old boy called Myagmar. Bayanbaatar’s family moved to Murun several years ago from Selenge province in search of a better livelihood.

Like the vast majority of Murun city residents, they live in a ger, the traditional nomadic dwelling of Mongolians not connected to any infrastructure. Though it might seem a bit gloomy from outside, Bayanbaatar’s ger is a cozy and warm place inside, very clean and tidy. One and a half month old little girl Zolboo was sleeping peacefully, when Ms. Munkhtsetseg, Public Health Nurse from “Gurvan Gal” Family Health Center knocked on the door for a home-based hygiene training session for her parents. 

Neatly piled chopped timber outside Bayanbaatar's ger shows that the owners of the home are hardworking people. ©UNICEFMongolia/2016/MungunkhishigB

This home-based training session is a new initiative launched this year in Murun as part of the “Two Habits” Campaign, a hygiene promotion campaign, which covers a one month period between the Global Handwashing Day on 15 October and the World Toilet Day on 19 November and it aims to improve knowledge and change behaviors of local communities on handwashing, hygiene and sanitation issues.  

Nurse Munkhtsetseg and her colleagues from other family clinics around Murun were recently trained specifically to conduct this home-based hygiene sessions at a workshop organized an d co-facilitated jointly by the Aimag Health Department and Aimag Red Cross Society, both of whom are partners of the AUSAID funded UNICEF project on Accelerating Access to Safe Water, Sanitation, and Child Hygiene Practices implemented in Khuvsgul since 2012. 
Poster on proper handwashing and hygiene is displayed over the sink inside the ger.
All the participants were trained on the methodology and messages for the home-based training, as well as were provided with posters on handwashing and sanitation, soaps, and toilet papers to be distributed to households during the training. Each Family Health Center will provide home-based training to 100 households in each of their catchment area, meaning a total of 500 families will be reached during the one month Campaign.

One of the challenges that health education campaigns and trainings face is, commonly, there is a very low attendance and participation by parents and caregivers, when health or hygiene education sessions are organized at Family Health Centers or other organizations.  Some parents complain that the schedules of the sessions are not very suitable for their schedules, while some others say that despite the interest in the sessions they cannot leave home to come to trainings, having no one else to take care of their young children.  These home based trainings will address this issue and is expected to make hygiene education closer to communities. 

Munkhtsetseg’s first training this day went smoothly. Both Bayanbaatar and Delgersaikhan listened diligently to her brief information session explaining the importance of handwashing, improved sanitation facilities and negative impacts that open defecation might cause. A practical session followed, when both trainees were asked to wash hands under the guidance of the trainer following correct handwashing techniques. In addition to the training, Munkhtsetseg gave some advice to the couple on other topics such as exclusive breastfeeding, nursing prevention from seasonal flu.  
This old wooden latrine will no longer be here next summer.
At the end of the session, Bayanbaatar shared with the nurse his plans to build a new improved latrine next spring when it gets warmer. “I was very much inspired by a session at the Family Health Center on VIP Latrine, where they showed us a nice model of a VIP latrine. When we bought this yard several years ago, it already had an old latrine, which was there for ages. Until I attended the session on the VIP Latrine at the Health Center, I never gave importance to this issue. But now, I can’t wait for the next spring to build my brand new improved latrine.” he shares with excitement.
Older child in the family, 9 year old Myagmar, has been learning lots of good hygiene behaviors from school according to Delgertsetseg. “The first thing he does when he comes home after school is washing his hands and only then kissing her little baby sister” explains the proud mother. “Thanks to UNICEF project, now my son and other kids at the school have filtered drinking water. To tell the truth, drinking water is a new habit for us and we were not aware of its importance before.” adds Delgertsetseg. 
Dr. Lkhagvasuren, a strong local partner of UNICEF on WASH.
Changes in attitudes and improved knowledge by this young couple are echoed by Dr. Lkhagvasuren, the Head of the Public Health Division of the Health Department, who claims explains “Since the start of the UNICEF projects in the province back in 2012, there have been significant shifts in people’s perceptions and attitudes towards the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene.” She further highlights that “Hygiene is no longer a “heath department’s business only”. Over the few years of our collaboration with UNICEF projects, we were able to mobilize and ensure participation of various sectors, organizations and parents and communities.” 

Ms. Zoya Baduan, Community Development Officer in UNICEF Field Office in Khuvsgul appreciates well-established partnership between various actors as part of the AUSAID funded WASH project’s Advocacy an Community Mobilization interventions and their valuable contribution to changing behaviors at the community level. “Although children learn many good hygiene behaviors at kindergartens and schools, if the home environment and parents do not support them, behaviors will never become habits. Therefore, during the Two Habits Campaign this year, a special attention was given to improving parents’ hygiene education at home environment.” concludes Ms. Zoya.

Mr. Naranbaatar, a first-time dad, holding his son's hand.
 “May all the children have caring hands at home and let those hands be clean hands.”

Odgerel Myagmar
C4D Officer, UNICEF Mongolia

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