Since October 16th 2015 YWCA Rwanda has been implementing the Improved Services for Vulnerable Populations (ISVP) program in Rwanda locally known as USAID-TWIYUBAKE Program in partnership with Global Communities in Kayonza District. The goal of the program is to identify and assist 4350 vulnerable households per year (children, youth & adults) by reducing economic vulnerability and empowering parents to make investments to meet the unique needs of young children and adolescents. The program also aims at increasing capacity, improving care practices and increasing access to services. It resolves around improving the vulnerable households through economic strengthening, food security, Early Childhood Development (ECD), TVET as well as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

Having access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation are associated with better health outcomes. Although 74% of the population in Rwanda has access to an improved water source, continued efforts are still needed to increase access to clean water and sensitization of the citizens to enhance good hygiene practices. In Kayonza, only 33% of the households have hand washing stations, 89.6% households drink safe water and 88.4% households have improved latrines. It’s therefore against that background that YWCA Rwanda in partnership with Global Communities and the Kayoza district organized a six months campaign to sensitize the citizens more about WASH. The campaign began in November and this was closed on 9th May 2017. The main theme of the campaign was “Ubuzima Bwawe Burakureba: Tunywe Amazi meza, Dukarabe Intoki Kandi Dukoreshe Imisarani” The major aim of the campaign was to raise awareness of the beneficiaries about drinking safe water, use of proper latrines and hand washing at four critical times that is after visiting the latrine, before preparing the babies meals, when going to breast feed and after cleaning the baby. The final ceremony was organised in Mwiri sector, Nyamugari cell and Gasarabyayi village and this brought together over 300 participants among them were the different stakeholders including delegates from USAID, the Kayonza district officials, officials from Ministry of health, Global Communities, as well as the organizations that do implement USAID funded projects in Kayonza district (CHAIN platform members).

In every 10 people that are admitted in health centers, 6 out of those, their sickness is related to poor hygiene and children are the most vulnerable, said MR. RUGIRA Jean Baptist the Kayonza district official in charge of WASH during his remarks at the ceremony. The official used the ceremony as a platform to orient all the participants about WASH and its importance to the people’s health. MR. SIBOMANA Jean Pierre the YWCA program manager during his remarks also asserted that, as the USAID Twiyubake program implementers in Kayonza, we’ve always maintained a close collaboration with the local authorities during the program implementation. Therefore, we consulted the Kayonza district officials about the situation of WASH in the district and they selected Mwiri for the event. Mwiri sector, Nyamugari cell in particular, was selected for the closing ceremony because of its current situation of being a cell that was mostly faced with many problems of poor hygiene. The Nyamugari cell was also identified as having many people without latrines and this increased the citizen’s chances of getting infected with diseases related to poor hygiene. It’s therefore, in light of the above that the Kayonza district officials requested YWCA together with Global Communities to organize the WASH campaign in that cell to sensitize more of these citizens about the importance of WASH.

He further stressed that “When empowering the volunareble people it’s better to also focus on the changing of their mindsets. USAID Twiyubake program in particular, hygiene promotion activities have been so central that more than 3000 beneficiaries have been transformed. These efforts have been further enhanced by the distribution of WASH materials like the locally known kandagira ukarabe in all the Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDs), WASH material posters were also distributed and these were used to disseminate messages on good hygiene and sanitation practices like proper hand washing, safe water drinking, improved sanitation all which has helped to mitigate the contraction of diseases related to poor hygiene as well as improving health among the vulnerable communities.

Madam Jean D’Arc a representative from Global Communities and the one in charge of WASH under the USAID Twiyubake, asserted that on average Kayonza is one of the districts that are still facing more problems of poor feeding and at national level, Kayonza is at 42% of the districts that are faced with poor feeding and stunted growth. Some of the driving factors for this is lack of food as well as diseases and most of these diseases are caused by poor hygiene practices. Therefore if there is sensitization on WASH, all these diseases can be eliminated. She also stressed that the campaign was a wakeup call for the sensitization activity of the communities for the period of six months however, this will not stop, it will rather be a continuous process especially during the USAID Twiyubake program activity implementation. For instance the program gives household grants to the program most vulnerable beneficiaries and these are obliged to sign the household goals among them is to mend their latrines from this grant, this will help in improving on the hygiene of their households. She finalized by encouraging all the participants to continue promoting good hygiene because hygiene is the source of good health.

A representative from Kayonza district and also the director of health at the district, in his remarks stressed that as it is in the district’s mandate to identify the areas with the most need, Nyamugari therefore, had a problem of poor mindset, limited latrines and that’s why the district sent YWCA and Global communities to finalize the ceremony from there to ensure that there would be change of the mind set. The officer asserted that this campaign made a tremendous improvement in the change of the people’s mindset, as at the start of the campaign in November Kayonza was at 72.4% and by May they had reached 86% which was a great achievement. He had high hopes that with the partnership, with all the stakeholders as well as the creation of the WASH clubs a lot will be achieved as time goes on.

In his remarks the Ministry of Health representative appreciated all the stakeholders for the great work done in the promotion of good health in the district. He asserted that according to the research made in 2007, 47% of the children in the country were facing a problem of stunted growth and this comes with a lot of side effects like, having brain damage and lose of weight. Therefore, most of this is brought about by poor feeding practices, poor hygiene inclusive. He therefore, encouraged all the parents to continue paying maximum attention to their children’s health. He used this platform together with a representative from USAID to appreciate in a special way SULFO Rwanda Industries with a certificate of recognition as a partner who has contributed greatly in the promotion and sensitization of the Rwandan communities on good hygiene.

The six months campaign led to the following achievements.
• The campaign helped over 13.6% people change their mindsets towards hygiene practices that is from 72.4% were they were at the start to 86% at the close of the campaign.
• There was a great collaboration between partners. For instance, SULFO Rwanda Industries donated water drums, soap and drinking water to be used as demonstration materials during the closing ceremony. The water drums were also to be installed to all the ECDs to be used after the campaign to promote hygiene practices and healthy behavior for the young children within these ECDs.
• The event was a platform through which different people were identified without latrines and these were to be assisted with Iron sheets to help them in the construction and mending of their latrines.
• It was through the event that people learnt more about hand washing and this was through the hand washing demonstration.
• The event also acted as a safe space for the participants to testify how they managed to promote hygiene within their households.
In conclusion therefore, the WASH campaign was such a great activity that should always be conducted if there’s need to reduce the number of diseases that are brought about due to poor hygiene within our communities.