For two years now, a passionate team in Papua New Guinea has been trialing a new, innovative campaign to raise awareness about health and sanitation and the importance of washing hands with soap. In rural PNG, water and sanitation levels are low, open defecation is common practice, and women and girls and people with disability are particularly vulnerable to water‐borne diseases. Therefore, in the participatory design of the project, handwashing with soap by mothers was selected as the main behaviour change to focus on. Community enablers based within three communities across the province have been trained to conduct a 4‐week campaign in their village. The campaign involves awareness about health and hygiene practices, a call to action, motivational posters emphasising the qualities of a “Rait Mama” and “Rait times” to wash hands, and fun drama activities to reinforce the learning. The campaign promotes behaviour change at the personal, household, community and institutional level. One woman from East Paneati proudly showed us the new handwashing bowl that her husband had made for them both to use. When the announcement was made in church, about everyone having a handwashing facility at their home, she and her husband were immediately on board. “I felt that this thing is very important as I was one of the victims to this diarrhoea once. So, I almost died, anyway, but luckily they rushed me to the hospital. So, it’s important that we have to do this. When she came and told us, we said ‘yes, we must do it’”. The project has also made an effort to include people with disabilities in community decision making, and in the practical training. Josephine Kombul, Behaviour Change Coordinator for the “Rait Mama” campaign, told us that dysentery and water‐borne diseases are decreasing, as reported by the local nurse.
December 15, 2017