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Burkina Faso: Women mobilize to improve the hygiene of local health centre

It’s 11 a.m. in the small village of Lebda, a hundred kilometres north of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. The sun is almost at its peak. It’s very hot for August, although it’s the rainy season. The women of Lebda are sweating and exhausted after a day of cleaning the local health and social promotion centre.

Lebda’s women clean the local health centre to prevent diseases related to poor hygiene.

Salamata Ouédraogo is one of the group of village women who clean the centre. She describes the sanitation issues at the health centre in Lebda: “[it] was dirty, even filthy. There was a bad smell that bothered the patients.”

The village women divide their maintenance of the health centre among different groups. Every Saturday, a group of seven cleans the toilets and the courtyard. On the last Saturday of the month, a large group of 30 women clean the hospital wards, treatment rooms, and maternity wards. Mrs. Ouédraogo says, “This is our contribution to the development of the village. We understand that dirt can cause diseases.”

The Lebda women’s initiative grew out of an awareness-raising program on Kaya’s Zama FM radio station. Lebda is about 15 kilometres from Kaya. In partnership with Farm Radio International, the station broadcast a series of radio programs called It’s Hygiene and Sanitation, every Friday at 9 p.m., with a repeat broadcast on Sundays at 9 p.m.

Mrs. Ouédraogo says that, after the episode on sanitation, local women organized themselves into listening clubs to follow the programs and make the most of them. By listening to the hygiene and sanitation programs, they realized they could prevent diseases through cleanliness and hygiene.

Mrs. Ouédraogo says: “Today, in Lebda, our children no longer relieve themselves in the open air. The surroundings of our huts are clean, and we have seen a decline in diseases such as diarrhea and malaria.”

Lassané Sawadogo is a health worker responsible for hygiene at the Lebda community health centre. He says it’s the first time in his career that the women of a village have organized themselves to keep a health centre clean.

He says that, before the women got organized to clean the centre, the garbage cans were overflowing with dirt. Patients and visitors refused to use the toilets because they were so dirty. He adds: “Women were abandoning the health centre to seek care elsewhere. There was a risk of patients contracting other diseases at the centre. Now, patients and visitors use the toilets without worry. The hospital and treatment rooms are sparkling clean. “

Mr. Sawadogo admits that the centre does not have enough cleaning supplies. He says, “The women bring their own brooms [and] they wear used nursing gloves.”

But these difficulties do not dampen the determination of Lebda’s women. They are proud of what they are doing for themselves and the community. To encourage them, the village chief visited to congratulate them and built a meeting room in the centre.

Every Saturday, as soon as the work is done, the women say goodbye to each other, and promise to meet again the following Saturday in the same happy atmosphere to continue their work. 

Mrs. Ouédraogo concludes by saying: “Thanks to the Zama FM awareness-raising program in Kaya, we now know that the cleanliness of the centre contributes to our health and we are determined to keep it that way.”

This resource was supported by ViMPlus. ViMPlus, or the Victory Against Malnutrition Plus Activity, is part of USAID’s RISE II program (Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced II) program, which helps vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso and Niger to prepare for and manage recurrent crises and to find sustainable ways out of poverty. ViMPlus is managed and implemented by ACDI/VOCA.