Working with Children in Humanitarian WASH Programmes

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  1 Working with Children in Humanitarian WASH Programmes Introduction Children under five years can represent up to 20% of the population. In some cases children under 18 1  years may represent over 50% of the population. They are thus major stakeholders in all humanitarian programmes. This briefing paper describes the practical issues that need to be considered when involving children in humanitarian WASH programmes. Why work with children?  Apart from the fact that children are often major stakeholders, there are numerous other reasons why programmes should endeavour to work with them: o Oxfamsupports a rights-based approach, which includes the rights of children o Children under five years areespecially vulnerable to water andsanitation related diseases o Children will have specific WASHneeds e.g. child friendly toilets andhandwashing facilities o Children in many countries are oftenresponsible for caring for their younger siblings o Working with children can contribute totheir psychosocial recovery o Families and communities benefit from the diversion provided by children‟s activities (i.e. drama, song, or other cultural performances staged bychildren) 1    According to the UN Rights of the Child, a „child‟ is defined as being less than 18 years old. o Children learn quickly and are moreadaptable than adults and this makesthem powerful change agents in their community o Children who learn good hygienebehaviours are very likely to continuethese into adulthood Principles of intervention Recognising children’s feelings   Children‟s lives will  often be disrupted by emergencies and despite their parents intentions to protect them, they may have experienced significant trauma. They may suffer: o  An increased risk of disease andaccidents, in an unfamiliar environment o The loss of home and familiar routines o The loss of loved ones o Exposure to violenceIt is important to recognise that children will need time to grieve for their loved ones. They will also need the support of understanding adults who will acknowledge their feelings of sadness. Engaging in play can help to provide a supportive environment that makes it easier to adapt to loss. Public Health Promotion Peru earthquake response (urban context) It was noticed that children loved making and flying their own kites as well as playing Monopoly. A competition of kites displaying hygiene items and messages was organized.  A board game similar to Monopoly was also developed. This required participants to identify positive and negative hygiene  practices.  2 Children are not ‘little adults’ Children behave differently to adults. There may be different constraints for children using latrines for instance, and they may resort to open defecation if their specific needs are not addressed. Talking to children and listening to their concerns will ensure that their specific viewpoints are heard and integrated into the programme. Do not overburden children Children may have a variety of roles. They may be caregivers for their siblings, or responsible for family hygiene, food preparation, and water collection. Programmes should be careful not to inadvertently increase the burden on children by insisting on their participation without consultation. Link the hardware and software Joint planning between the public health promotion (PHP) and engineering teams will ensure the development of complementary WASH activities. Special adaptations in the design of facilities may be required for children. Hygiene promotion should also focus on helping children understand how to use the available facilities. Children may often be tempted to play on tapstands or water bladders and hygiene promotion efforts need to be directed at preventing breakages and the misuse of facilities. Not all staff may have experience in working with children and may need briefing or training on why it is relevant and how they can be child- focused. Protecting children The protection of children is of the utmost importance and precautions will need to be taken to ensure their safety. Adults must never act in ways that may be abusive or may place a child at risk of abuse. They must never shame, humilate, belittle or degrade children or use language that is inappropriate or offensive. Some countries may require criminal records checks before undertaking work with children. (See: for further information.)   Co-ordination with others It will be vital to co-ordinate and liaise with government authorities, the education sector and parents when initiating activities with children. You will need to find out what existing provision (resources, groups, organisations) there is and what plans other agencies including the government have for working with or supporting children. National staff can usually provide information on the school system and which government authorities you will need to consult with. There may be child protection legislation and checks in place and you may only be able to work with staff who have been vetted such as teachers, youth workers or health staff. In some settings there may be an existing government health-promotion programme targeting children. Rather than duplicating initiatives, assess if it is possible to integrate or reinforce existing hygiene information. Involving parents from the beginning increases their acceptance of programme activities and may make them more likely to support children‟s suggestions for changes in hygiene practices at home. In El Salvador clowns are a commonly used form of entertainment for children. Clowns were thus hired to promote hygiene messages to children following the earthquake.   3 Other NGOs may be implementing their own child-focused programmes and there may be opportunities to integrate WASH messages. At the coordination level, advocacy with other agencies regarding child-focused services and activities is essential. For example, Oxfam latrines may be child- friendly but others‟ latrines may not be, and children may continue to defecate in the open in some areas. Coordination with government increases the likelihood of sustainability and is also an opportunity to advocate for child ren‟s rights. There may also be opportunities to bring Oxfam child-focused programming to scale through sharing best practice and through advocacy at provincial and national levels. Gender Interventions can also integrate gender issues by challenging and exploring gender roles and stereotypes that are related to hygiene. For example water collection or caring for younger siblings is often the responsibility of girls and this may interfere with school attendance. Menstrual hygiene management should not be neglected. A lack of facilities for this purpose can also have a negative effect on school attendance for girls and mean that they miss out on other activities and opportunities. Bear in mind the seasonal threats to children‟s health and plan activities accordingly. Dysentery may be more common during the dry season whereas an emphasis on malaria may be more important during the wet season, when the incidence is higher. Rotating activities by season can also have the benefit of reducing apathy or fatigue from repeating the same messages. Disability Provision must also be made for children with various disabilities and various ages and an assessment of the context specific issues must be made. Collaboration with a disability-focused NGO such as Handicap-International can provide an entry point for working with children with disabilities and much can be learnt from their expertise. Programme design There are various possible models and approaches that could be employed when working with children. The programme could recruit specific children‟s facilitators or could train school teachers or youth leaders to facilitate activities. Support could also be given to schools or youth centres to initiate children‟s health clubs. The Child to child and CHAST materials provide useful models and ideas for activities. Child to Child The Child-to-Child approach encourages children to participate actively in the process of learning and to put into practice the information that they learn (see appendix). Children are encouraged to identify their own needs, design and plan their own solutions, apply their knowledge within their family and community, and get involved in monitoring and evaluation of the activities. CHAST CHAST is a children‟s version of PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation for Transformation). The steps are described in the appendix and more information is available from:  Facilitation Training children's facilitators Choose facilitators who enjoy working with children and have experience of encouraging children‟s participation. In the case of PHP staff, one or two members could be appointed to focus on working with children. In the case of community members, selection of facilitators will also take into account previous experience,   Pakistan earthquake response  A decision was made to implement children’s activities through PHP staf  f as the  project was short term and there was not enough time to train community volunteers. Some PHP staff had experience of working with children and were happy to carry out the activities themselves. However, they actively involved community volunteers in the imlementation.   4 creativity, time available, and community acceptance. Important topics that should be included in the training are: children‟s WASH related needs, specific activities that children can take to prevent diarrhoea or care for facilities, involvement of community members, planning interactive activities, use of child focused materials and monitoring and evaluation. Training children as facilitators Child-to-Child and CHAST both suggest training children as facilitators who can then work with other children  –  either their peers or their younger siblings. It will be important to identify children who are responsible, committed, flexible, honest and enthusiastic and who work well with others. They should also be interested in health issues and should be able to represent different children‟s groups or geographical areas. Parents‟ approval and support is essential from the beginning, as well as their understanding on what is expected from their children. Encouragement, praise, support and understanding of their roles as facilitators are also vitally important. Assessment and analysis The collection of data related to both children‟s WASH practices, and carers‟ practices (in the case of children under 5 years), old is very important. This will identify the main risks, the barriers to change and feasible and realistic changes in practice. Assessment should also try and identify the methods of communication that children of different ages are most likely to use and trust.  A practical way to collect this information is through observation, exploratory walks, picture games (such as two and three pile sorting) and semi-structured interviews with carers. Also try to denti fy children‟s preferences for games and activities through informal discussions with children and by observing them at play. Where possible, involve older children in the assessment process by asking them to observe e.g. if their friends or younger siblings are washing their hands. Their data can be cross-checked with epidemiological data that can validate the relevance of proposed activities.  Assessment data is meaningless without subsequent analysis of the information and the setting of priorities. The response should be targeting the major problems and focus on the most significant risk factors . Planning and objective setting It is important to establish specific objectives and behavioural outcomes even for simple activities with children. Remember to keep focused on the objectives of encouraging hygiene action rather than just having fun Depending of the length of the project short and long term objectives may be required. Involve children in the identification of needs and solutions where possible. Location Consider the location(s) where the activities could be implemented: In schools, temporary or pre-existing? Child friendly spaces (within camps)? In camps or resettlement areas? In youth centres or clubs? (Note that during an emergency, many schools are closed or may be occupied by displaced people.) Action and implementation T here is a wide choice of children‟s activities and tools available. Base your choice on the information collected during
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