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Changing community behaviour: experience from three African countries

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In the developing world, more than 1 billion people lack access to safe water. To address this problem, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the Safe Water System (SWS), a household-based intervention with three elements: water disinfection, safe storage and behaviour change techniques, and tested these in three countries. In Zambia, social marketing (SM) was used to implement the SWS, and 100 randomly selected households also received motivational interviewing (MI). In Madagascar, the SWS was implemented using SM and community mobilisation (CM). In rural Western Kenya, the SWS was also implemented with SM and CM. In Zambia, 3 months after the SM project launch, 14% of households in the SM-only group had adopted the disinfectant compared with 78% of households in the SM plus MI group. Through SM, over 1 million bottles of disinfectant were sold in 3 years in Zambia. In Antananarivo, Madagascar, 6 months after launch of the water disinfectant, 8% of households in an early stage of the CM process were using the disinfectant compared with 20% in households at a late stage of the CM process. In 1 year, over 500,000 bottles of disinfectant were sold in Madagascar. In Kenya, adoption of the water disinfectant exceeded 60% in intervention households and diarrhoea rates decreased by 58% in children < 5 years. Social marketing permits widespread dissemination of interventions, but may have limited penetration into economically disadvantaged communities. Additional, targeted interventions, such as MI and CM, can increase product adoption. A combination of behaviour change interventions can increase project impact.

Keywords: Safe Water System; behaviour change; community mobilisation; diarrhoea; disinfectant; motivational interviewing; social marketing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2003

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