Good hygiene practices are integral to bringing about lasting change at community and national level. In order for communities to demand and achieve their rights to water and sanitation, they must be able to understand and practice positive hygiene behaviours.

Unless the benefits of good hygiene are fully understood and ingrained as a social norm, toilets may not be used, water and food will continue to be polluted and dignity will be compromised.

Hygiene behaviour change is a systematic approach to encourage the widespread adoption of safe hygiene practices, in order to keep people and their environments clean. Furthermore, improved hygiene behaviour reduces stigma, prevents spread of diseases, reduces malnutrition and maintains health, thereby enhancing dignity and improving the well-being of children and adults alike.

Whilst water and sanitation infrastructure provide the physical conditions for hygiene, good hygiene behaviours through workshops, media campaigns and education help prevent the transmission of pathogens and diseases, and benefit the treatment of existing medical conditions.



Hygiene interventions are proven to be an effective use of financial investment, not only in the context of sustainable water and sanitation services but also in education, nutrition and preventive health programming.

Effective hygiene promotion at scale is paramount to improving behaviours, preventing diseases, maintaining health, and greatly improving the full benefits of water and sanitation programmes.

The wrong way?

Many approaches used in health/hygiene promotion programmes tend to focus on improving knowledge only – educating people about health, germs and diseases.

Image: WaterAid/Dennis Lupenga

Such approaches have rarely resulted in sustained behaviour change, as they fail to account for the fundamental role of broader structural determinants (such as cultural norms).

We are working on developing hygiene promotion approaches that are shown to be more effective in encouraging sustained hygiene behaviour change and increasing knowledge using community participation, social marketing, motivational factors (addressing emotional drivers), and change in behavioural settings

The target Hygiene Behaviours include:

  1. Handwashing with soap at critical moments

  2. Safe Water Management (household treatment and storage)

  3. Faecal management and disposal (including child faces disposal and latrine cleanliness)

  4. Menstrual hygiene management

  5. Food hygiene (specifically children’s food)



Globally, Malawi has the highest maternal and neonatal mortality rates, with approximately 20% of those deaths attributed to sepsis.

Lessons from Ghana

Having a toilet but not practising good hygiene defeats the purpose of having a toilet in the first place – so how do we use a behaviour change approach to improve that?

Sector strengthening

We aim to create an enabling environment and encourage an engaged and well-coordinated sector that promotes everyone's right to water, sanitation and hygiene.