An ingenious way to promote facial cleanliness

10 May 2017

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A new way of encouraging mothers to wash their children’s faces has been launched in Kenya, using printed fabric to explain that hygiene prevents disease.

A health message has been printed on traditional ‘kangas’ – long pieces of fabric worn around the waist to form a sarong or skirt. The design reminds the wearer, along with those in the community, to keep their face clean.

The initiative is part of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s work to eliminate trachoma, an infectious eye disease that causes the eyelashes to turn inwards and scrape against the eye. Poor hygiene in developing countries can spread the trachoma infection, which can eventually cause blindness.

Kangas, or ‘lesos’, as they are known locally, were identified as an ideal way to communicate the importance of face washing as they are worn every day.

This type of approach, known as behaviour change communication, is often used in communities as a way to influence behaviour and it helps to control the spread of trachoma.

Kenya’s Ministry of Education is also promoting face washing through a health programme in primary schools. Badges are awarded to children that join the programme, and those that consistently wash their face after two weeks of participation are rewarded with another badge. It is hoped the badges will influence other pupils to wash their faces, as well as encouraging them to spread the message among their families and the wider community.

One of the badges given to children who wash their face. It's yellow with the image of a smiling face, alongside the message: "I wash my face with clean running water everyday. No more trachoma."

The badges are given to children who consistently wash their face.