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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

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.


Key actions


Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)    


Guidance notes

1. Targeting priority hygiene risks and behaviours: The understanding gained through assessing hygiene risks, tasks and responsibilities of different groups should be used to plan and prioritise assistance, so that the information flow between humanitarian actors and the affected population is appropriately targeted, and misconceptions, where found, are addressed.

2. Reaching all sections of the population: In the early stages of a disaster, it may be necessary to rely on the mass media to ensure that as many people as possible receive important information about reducing health risks. Different groups should be targeted with different information, education and communication materials through relevant communication channels, so that information reaches all members of the population. This is especially important for those who are non-literate, have communication difficulties and/or do not have access to radio or television. Popular media (drama, songs, street theatre, dance, etc.) might also be effective in this instance. Coordination with the education cluster will be important to determine the opportunities for carrying out hygiene activities in schools.

3. Interactive methods: Participatory materials and methods that are culturally appropriate offer useful opportunities for affected people to plan and monitor their own hygiene improvements. It also gives them the opportunity to make suggestions or complaints about the programme, where necessary. The planning of hygiene promotion must be culturally appropriate. Hygiene promotion activities need to be carried out by facilitators who have the characteristics and skills to work with groups that might share beliefs and practices different from their own (for example, in some cultures it is not acceptable for women to speak to unknown men).

4. Overburdening: It is important to ensure that no one group (e.g. women) within the affected population is overburdened with the responsibility for hygiene promotion activities or the management of activities that promote hygiene. Benefits, such as training and employment opportunities, should be offered to women, men and marginalised groups.

5. Terms and conditions for community mobilisers: The use of outreach workers or home visitors provides a potentially more interactive way to access large numbers of people, but these workers will need support to develop facilitation skills. As a rough guide in a camp scenario, there should be two hygiene promoters/community mobilisers per 1,000 members of the affected population. Community mobilisers may also be employed as daily workers, on a contract or on a voluntary basis, and in accordance to national legislation. Whether workers have paid or volunteer status must be discussed with the affected population, implementing organisations and across clusters to avoid creating tension and disrupting the long-term sustainability of systems already in place.

6. Motivating different groups to take action: It is important to realise that health may not be the most important motivator for changes in behaviour. The need for privacy, safety, convenience, observation of religious and cultural norms, social status and esteem may be stronger driving forces than the promise of better health. These triggering factors need to be taken in to account when designing promotional activities and must be effectively incorporated into the design and siting of facilities in conjunction with the engineering team. The emphasis should not be solely on individual behavioural change but also on social mobilisation and working with groups.