At Burkina Faso’s so-called Écoles Bleues (“Blue Schools”), children learn a lot about the connections between hygiene and health. Then they tell their families what they have learned, thereby serving as happy health ambassadors.
Two out of three people in Burkina Faso now have access to clean drinking water. This encouriging statistic reflects progress in the country. So it is all the more surprising that, on the other hand, four out of five people there have no access to a latrine. They have to defecate in the fields or in the bushes and are often unaware that this jeopardizes the health of their own village community.
The problem is most acute in the Gnagna Province, where as many as nine in ten people have no latrine. To change that, Helvetas and local experts are turning kids into hygiene ambassadors. At school they see and use a latrine for the first time and learn to wash their hands regularly. When they get home, they talk about the newly built latrine, about washing hands, about soap, germs and how to keep water clean.
Helvetas supports these "Écoles Bleues" and their hygiene education. Their schoolchildren are ambassadors for a better future as well. After all, clean water and hygiene are a basic precondition for a society to develop. 89 out of 1000 children in Burkina die before the age of five. And then there are all the children whose development is impaired by diarrheic diseases, as well as adults who cannot do their jobs because they are sick. But many of the diseases could be prevented with sanitary facilities and hygiene education. In our Laafia project (Laafia means “health”) 1200 children and their families in 15 villages benefit annually from this improvement in basic living conditions.
As part of the project, the local authorities receive support on ways of planning and promoting the building of latrines, while private suppliers are sensitized to the need for good products at fair prices. In parallel, various administrations and development organizations are now taking an interest in "Écoles Bleues" and the idea of turning children into health ambassadors.