Global Hand Washing Day

Supporting prison communities – taking hand-washing from luxury to habit

Today, 15 October, marks Global Hand Washing Day. It will be a particularly special day in the lives of the prisoners and prison officers, including their families, living in Nakifuma Prison Community. For them, hand washing was considered a luxury before the inception of the “Water for Improved Health and Hygiene” project in July, 2016.

Each day, a prisoner would have roughly five litres of clean water available to them. This would be supplemented with unclean water collected from swamps in the surrounding area. The only borehole available was located approximately 1.5km from the prison. Twenty prisoners would be given an hour to access the borehole and collect water to be shared with over 90 other prisoners and used within the prison kitchen.

Spread of disease

Even the most basic sanitation and hygiene practices, such as washing hands before a meal or after using a latrine were a luxury for the prisoners of Nakifuma. The lack of clean water also impacted the 17 prison staff and their families, having to compete for water with a community of 2,600 adults and still be expected to make it to work on time.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) related disease was widespread, with a high incidence of diarrhoeal disease and skin infections resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene practices as well as bathing in contaminated water from the swamps.

The provision of clean water

The “Water for Improved Health and Hygiene” project was set up for the prisoners, prison staff and their families with the goal to provide the community with a sustainable source of clean water and to improve their sanitation and hygiene practices through health education.

The project was implemented through our Health Programme. Funds were used to drill and construct a borehole 90 metres outside the prison premises connecting to a 10,000 litre reservoir tank within the prison via an underground pipe system. The water is pumped to the tank using foot pump, operated by two prisoners at a time. With this setup, every prisoner has access to at least 100 litres of water a day, which fits within the World Health Organisation recommendation that everybody is entitled to 50-100 litres per day to ensure that basic hygiene and sanitation needs are met avoiding WASH related health concerns.

Training Sanitation Champions

During the development of the project, a team of 14 representatives from the prison community as well as members of the public were trained as Sanitation Champions during a five day workshop. The training focused on water source maintenance, sanitation and hygiene best practices, involving the use of pictorial illustrations and practical sessions which can be replicated during hygiene and sanitation campaigns conducted by the Sanitation Champions. During one of the sessions, the Sanitation Champions were taught how to construct a Tippy Tap – a water point put together using a five litre jerrycan, a rope, four pieces of wood, a nail, a hammer, a hoe and small stones. All these are materials commonly found in a regular up-country household. By teaching the sanitation champions how to construct a Tippy Tap, we equipped them with skills to create an economical water point from items easily available to them. As well as being affordable and easy to construct, it is economical in regards to water usage.

Musisi, inmate, Nakifuma Prison

“The Sanitation Champions have done a great job because they taught us how to wash our hands properly with water, soap or ash, which has improved on our health as well. Since water is in plenty, we now bath at least three times a day which had never happened in Nakifuma prison!”

Other training sessions included practical demonstrations on proper hand washing, soap substitutes, modes of making water safe for drinking, personal hygiene practices and water source maintenance. The Sanitation Champions have been conducting sanitation and hygiene campaigns since been using the activities and material used during the training. This has resulted in a cleaner and healthier prison community as they continue to adopt proper hygiene and sanitation practices, most of which require a clean water source, which is now readily available to all of them.

Celebrating success

Records from the prison health facility have shown a progressive reduction in WASH related disease incidence. The incidence of diarrhoeal disease dropped from 15% at the beginning of the year to 0% in the two months following project completion.

Nsubuga Ephraim, trained Community Sanitation Champion.

“I am a teacher by profession, I own Dali Kids academy. The water project has really done good to our community. I am forever grateful because my school has benefited from the borehole. Children no longer come to school late; the children are always smart, our sanitation has tremendously improved!”

The 2016 Global Handwashing day theme is “Making Handwashing a Habit!” Through the ““Water for Improved Health and Hygiene” project, the prison community in Nakifuma will have this theme fulfilled.