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W.A.S.H Those Germs Away...
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December 7, 2009

In addition to building physical infrastructure, such as water distribution pipelines and septic systems, hygiene promotion is also a central pillar of American Red Cross water and sanitation programs. Through hygiene promotion programs and activities, families take responsibility for identifying hygiene issues affecting their community and interventions that can enhance their well being, like composting and home gardening.

germ play
A drama group demonstrates the need for healthy-hygienic practices to avoid the spread of disease.
Kelvin Shingles/American Red Cross

Between August and October 2009, American Red Cross Water and Sanitation staff in Sri Lanka partnered with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and other stakeholders to conduct Health and Hygiene Fairs. The two- day hygiene fairs engaged community members through mini-lectures, hands-on learning experiences and participatory activities. Additionally, the fair had several stalls run by expert groups, which focused on important health and hygiene messages.

The fairs re-emphasized good hygiene practices, which are already part of the WASH (Water and Sanitation, Hygiene) program implemented by the American Red Cross. The WASH program educates communities about proper hand-washing, drinking clean water, barriers to the spread of diseases, vector control and septic system operation and maintenance (for systems built by the American Red Cross).

In collaboration with Environmental Foundation Limited and World Wildlife Fund, the program also promoted environmentally-friendly solid waste management techniques, such as composting and home gardening, which help community members earn extra income and puts nutritious food on their tables.

Both beneficiaries and local stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Health and local schools, attended the fairs, demonstrating that they recognize the continual need to educate, encourage and raise awareness of health related issues at the grassroots level.

A man from Paranakade village in Matara, Sri Lanka, expressed appreciation for the Water and Sanitation project, saying, "One kind heart is better than a thousand sweet faces." He explained that people in his village vividly remember the damage caused by the tsunami and how many people it displaced. He was grateful to the American Red Crossfor choosing to improve water and sanitation facilities and increase hygiene knowledge in his community, which had lost so much in the tsunami.

As we approach the completion of water and sanitation programs in Sri Lanka, the American Red Cross can be proud of the support it has provided to rebuild communities impacted by the tsunami. 

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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