Hygiene and clean water improve schoolchildren's health

For quite some time now, Ethiopia has been investing heavily in education, so today, many young people are able to attend school. However, the infrastructure of the buildings often leaves much to be desired. Caritas installs sanitation in selected schools and provides a basic water infrastructure. In addition, using playful learning methods, it teaches the schoolchildren about hygiene. This hinders the spread of diseases such as trachoma infection, which often lead to blindness.


Country / Region / Place
Ethiopia, Oromia Region (East Hararghe zone)

Target group
Direct beneficiaries: 69 225 schoolchildren 
Indirect beneficiaries: 410 000 members of project region communities

Funding requirement
approx. 686'000 per year

Project duration
01.07.2017 to 31.08.2019

Project number

Project objectives
Comprehensive hygiene training plus access to clean water and sanitary infrastructure at schools in the East Hararghe zone will improve the health situation of the 69 225 schoolchildren.

Project coordinator
Noemi Grossen, Tel: 041 419 23 27,


Background information

For several years now, and in particular since the adoption of the UN Millennium Development Goals, Ethiopia has been investing heavily in school education. Over the past 15 years, spending on education has been increased from 8.2% to 23.6% of the state budget. Thanks to these developments, Ethiopia today has a very high rate of school enrolment. However, there is much room for improvement in the school buildings' infrastructure. Many schools do not have adequate access to clean water or sanitary installations. Moreover, the schoolchildren lack even basic knowledge about the elementary hygiene behaviour that is particularly important for the prevention of diseases. In addition to diarrhoeal diseases, polluted water also triggers trachoma infection, a specific form of conjunctivitis and a major cause of infection-related blindness. In Ethiopia, trachoma affects about 40 percent of all children aged one to nine. The improvement of the water and hygiene situation is essential for combating the disease. It is also part of the 2012 Ethiopian Government Action Plan to combat trachoma infection.

An improved hygiene situation can best be achieved through a combination of improved infra-structure and hygiene training. However, getting people to change their habits is a difficult task which requires time and a long-term approach. It is best to begin by teaching children behavioural changes. The children then pass on what they have learned to their families and village communities, thus enabling many of the directly concerned beneficiaries to be reached.

This project uses the "Children's Hygiene and Sanitation Training" (CHAST) approach. Caritas Switzerland developed the CHAST approach based upon existing training and approach methods for a better understanding of hygiene, and has constantly adapted and further developed it using the latest findings. The CHAST approach is specifically designed for schools and children aged five to fifteen years, and includes playful and interactive elements that foster and fix the pupils' hygiene knowledge and practice. In addition, the CHAST approach promotes open discussions among pupils and between teachers and pupils on these specific topics. The associated CHAST manual and toolkit have already been translated into local Ethiopian languages, including Oro-miffa, as part of previous projects. Moreover, the CHAST approach is also one of the approaches officially recognized by the Ethiopian Ministry of Education to improve the hygiene training of the population.


What are we doing?

The aim of this project is the sustainable improvement of schoolchildren's health through comprehensive hygiene training and by providing access to clean water and sanitary infrastructure in the schools.

The project is being implemented by Caritas Switzerland together with its long-time partner Caritas Harar (HCS) in 14 of 19 woredas (administrative districts) in the East Hararghe Zone. The project aims to reach eight to nine schools per woreda and a total of 120 primary schools, totalling some 69  225 pupils as direct beneficiaries. In addition, 300 teachers and local health officers are being trained as CHAST instructors. Through the spreading of the acquired knowledge, a total of approximately 410 000 residents of the communities in the project region will benefit indirectly from the measures.

The project compromises the following activities: by means of the CHAST approach, pupils and teachers from the 120 selected primary schools will be taught improved hygiene practice. In order to ensure the sustainability of this measure, from the beginning of the project, besides the teachers, some 240 health representatives of the communities will also be trained in the CHAST method. Continued training and regular monitoring will ensure that their knowledge remains up to date and that they implement the training in a proper way. The activities for the improvement of hygiene practice will be continued after the end of the project.

For an effective and sustainable implementation of the CHAST approach, it is essential that the schools have a basic water infrastructure and sanitary installations, without which many of the imparted hygiene aspects cannot be put into practice. Therefore, at the beginning of the project, a comprehensive assessment of the existing infrastructure for water and basic sanitation will be carried out at the schools envisaged for project implementation. In accordance with the preliminary assessment, improvements to, or the installation of toilet blocks and water facilities will be carried out at some 17 selected schools, which until now have had insufficient or no sanitary installations. Especially important are the gender-separated toilets and the installation of hand-washing facilities. The existing infrastructure will be integrated into the communicating of the CHAST approach, in which it will be directly explained and discussed. The link between good hygiene practice and the spread of disease will be a focal point of the training. Thus, the activities not only contribute to the fight against trachoma infection, but also address the general spread of diseases.

Furthermore, to complete the WASH activities the Blue School concept will be implemented at three selected schools. The Blue School approach includes, in addition to the above-mentioned hygiene topics, training for efficient and sustainable use of water for irrigation of agricultural crops, plus land management. In addition, in each of the three schools a vegetable garden will be laid out, which will not only improve food security but also sensibilise children to the importance of a balanced diet.


Project video: Hygiene and clean water improve schoolchildren's health

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