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Poor hygiene practices have a significant effect on the overall health of families in this region. Improvements are needed in hygiene when collecting, storing and using water, washing hands, and in menstrual and community hygiene. 80-90% of families in the region do not always follow appropriate cleaning and washing practices (which include storage and use of water, washing hands before eating and cooking or after defecating).

Improper hygiene practices and disposal of child faeces directly affect the nutritional status of children under five. 60% of the children in the region are suffering from some form of malnutrition. The discussion of menstrual hygiene is still considered taboo in the region, and women follow unhygienic traditional practices which often result in ill health.


Community hygiene practices are also very poor in relation to the management of street waste, household waste disposal and improper drainage from water outlets in the village. Solid and liquid waste from homes are emerging as a further problem with the introduction of toilets and behavioural change in lifestyles.

Seva Mandir uses a threefold approach to promote better hygiene practices at the household, institution and community level. We work through community institutions, women’s groups (SHGs) and our community-based staff (eg Balsakhis and those who work in our Balwadis, Shiksha Kendras) at all these levels. These groups and individuals are trained to become resource persons on WASH behavioural change in their community.

To promote better hygiene practices at household level, Seva Mandir promotes a cadre of trained community resource persons, particularly women, (eg Balsakhis), who sensitise, educate through informative material, and advise individual family members on water handling, hand washing and toilet hygiene.

At the institutional level, those running children’s day-care centres (Balwadis and Anganwadis) and Seva Mandir’s bridge schools (Shiksha Kendras) teach children about WASH practices and personal cleanliness. To achieve a long-term impact, it is important to instil appropriate WASH behaviour at an early age. Children also go home and teach their parents what they have learned.

Since the 1990s, as well as designing and developing educational material appropriate to the social and cultural norms of the people in the region, Seva Mandir has been working on community hygiene with a campaign called ‘Baarah Sutri’ or ‘12-point programme’. This campaign has proved very effective in enabling a generation of people in our region to realise the importance of health and hygiene. At present, to promote better hygiene practices at the community level, WASH awareness campaigns are conducted using local folk artists to communicate the message of WASH through songs and street theatre. A WASH caravan conveying visual and audio messages visits the communities. A cleaning drive is conducted in each locality with the participation of all community members. Communities are also taught about the importance of appropriate disposal of household waste, farm waste and livestock faeces.

In two peri-urban areas, where the lack of waste-disposal facilities is particularly acute, Seva Mandir is working with the communities to devise and implement solid-waste disposal systems. (See Peri-Urban Governance.)


11,000 families have been reached through our WASH behavioural interventions, and we are currently working with nearly 80,000 children in Balwadis, Anganwadis, Shiksha Kendras and our various educational institutions to promote good WASH practices. In 2015-17 we saw a 22% decrease in malnutrition rates amongst children attending child day-care centres with which we are associated in 78 communities. We have also reached around 82,000 women who have been taught about menstrual hygiene.

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