SANITATION / HYGIENE:
Sanitation is the effective use of measures which will create and maintain healthful environmental conditions and personal hygiene is how illness is spread. It is important for us to have an understanding of all the different ways in which waterborne diseases / bacteria from human waste / feces may enter our bodies through our mouths and cause illness. Feces, also known as excrement, is a waste product from a human’s or animal’s digestive tract expelled through the anus or cloaca during the process of defecation.
Bacteria from our human waste can get into our water supplies by rain washing it to the local waterway, which is used for drinking water and washing our food. Flies can carry these bacteria from feces and then land on a plate of food that we eat. Unwashed
hands after passing feces will carry bacteria into our mouths or onto food.
Survey your community to find out how many people know about good hygiene
• How many people have close access to a latrine? Do they use it regularly?
• How many people are not using a latrine?
• How many people are touching feces?
• How do people dispose of feces from babies and children?
• When and how do people wash their hands? Do they use soap?
• Is food always protected from flies?
• Are cooking utensils and dishes stored off the ground?
• People usually have good reasons for their behaviour. How can we understand the reasons why people might prefer to use open ground to using a latrine, for example? Do men, women and children have different practices?
Are your hands clean after relieving yourself? They may look clean but still can be covered by many thousands of tiny bacteria that cannot be seen. Touching feces, either from cleaning ourselves after defecating, or cleaning a child or baby, will always cause our hands to become covered with bacteria from the feces. Touching the door of the latrine, or working in soil containing feces, will also contaminate our hands.
Careful hand washing with soap and water will remove these bacteria. This can be done with very little water. If soap is not available, ash, tree bark or soil can be used instead. It is very important to always wash our hands after touching feces, before preparing or handling food, and after handling raw meat. This simple action is the most important thing we can do to reduce the risk of diarrhea and many other diseases.
People with diarrhea, can lose a lot of water and salts from their body very quickly. Babies and the young suffer most. It is important to replace the lost water and salts or the child will become seriously ill and could die. Children and adults can be taken to a medical facilityfor treatment. However, unless they are very sick, they can be cared for at home using a drink called Oral Rehydration Salts. Packets of ORS can be bought and mixed with one liter of safe drinking water. The drink can also be made in the home and is effective as long as the quantities are correct. Add a 1/2 level teaspoon of salt and eight level teaspoons of sugar to one liter of safe drinking. Mix them together and give a few sips every five minutes. If available, add some fresh lime, lemon or orange juice.
FOOD AND CLEAN WATER:
The microbes that cause diarrhea and other diseases can be spread through both food and water. Food can collect microbes in several ways. A person with unwashed hands who touches food will make it dirty. Flies often feed on feces. They carry feces and microbes on their feet then they fly to any open food source. Just one fly landing on a plate of food can be enough to spread diarrhea to the people who eat the food. Wash fruit and vegetables well before using. Cover food once it is cooked.
Harmful microbes can also be spread when people handle raw meat and then don’t wash their hands before touching cooked food. Raw meat contains microbes that are killed during cooking. Take care to keep all pests away from food, including flies, mice, rats and cockroaches, and other household animals such as chickens, dogs and cats. All of these can spread microbes onto food.
It is important to use clean dishes and utensils for serving food. Dishes and utensils that are washed in dirty, greasy water will be covered with many microbes / bacteria. If they are dried with dirty clothes they will collect more microbes / bacteria. Use soap for washing dishes and utensils. If water supplies are limited, washing water does not have to be drinking water quality. But you must rinse dishes and utensils with safe water after washing. Ado not dry them with cloths. It is much better to make a simple drying rack so that dishes dry in the sun. Not only is this more hygienic but it saves time! Wooden, plastic and clay dishes and utensils need particular care in washing. Microbes / bacteria can remain in cracks and rough surfaces. Enamel and metal containers are easier to clean. Utensils that are clean and dry should be stored where pests and flies will not spread microbes / bacteria on them. They can be stored on a drying rack and covered with a clean cloth. If there is a cupboard available, store them upside-down to stop cockroaches, mice and other pests from crawling onto them.
All households produce some waste including food waste, paper, plastics, tins, and cans. Paper can be recycled or used for lighting fires. Old cans or plastic bottles can be used for growing tree seedlings. Vegetable waste can be placed in compost heaps or pits and turned regularly to produce good compost for use in gardens. Some waste can be burned but avoid burning plastics, aerosols or batteries. They can release poisonous chemicals and aerosol cans may explode. Dispose of other waste at a convenient distance from the home.
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