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Scaling up handwashing and rural sanitation : findings from a baseline survey in Tanzania

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Abstract Since 2007, the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) has provided technical assistance to local and national governments implementing large rural sanitation and handwashing promotion programs in various countries. In Tanzania, handwashing with soap and sanitation programs were phased into 10 rural districts in the second half of 2009. This report presents summary descriptive statistics for key demographic, socioeconomic, hygiene, health, and child development variables based on a survey of approximately 1,500 households. It offers a glimpse at the general status of sanitation and hygiene practices in some of the program's target areas before the beginning of implementation activities. In the targeted areas in rural Tanzania, the typical household is headed by a male and comprises five members. Most houses are single detached dwellings with mud or brick walls and clay floors. Households typically use kerosene for lighting and wood for cooking, and about half of households own a few animals and a bicycle. Handwashing behavior is known to be difficult to assess. In this study, we relied on two sources: self-reported handwashing at critical times and, as a proxy measure, spot-check observations of whether the household had a designated place for handwashing with both soap and water. An additional measure assessed the cleanliness of the caretaker's hands through direct observation again to serve as a proxy indicator of handwashing with soap behavior. The survey revealed that there was limited baseline knowledge of the critical handwashing times among the target households prior to the program, indicating room to improve handwashing behavior. Likewise, the survey indicated limited access to improved water sources, a scarcity of pit latrines with slabs, and a non-negligible percentage of open defecation practice in the studied households. Underlying challenges also included unsafe facilities for small children and poor practices related to disposal of child feces. The data presented in this technical report provides a snapshot of the conditions of the target population prior to the start of the sanitation and handwashing programs. An impact evaluation of the programs, which will rely exclusively on post-intervention data, will be carried out during 2012; a full report will be published in 2013. The study hopes to enable a close examination of the links between poor sanitation, handwashing behavior, and health, and provide evidence for future projects in rural Tanzania.

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