Child’s play: Harnessing play and curiosity motives to improve child handwashing in a humanitarian setting

March 2019

In humanitarian emergency settings there is need for low cost and rapidly deployable interventions to protect vulnerable children, in- and out-of-school, from diarrhoeal diseases. Handwashing with soap can greatly reduce diarrhoea but interventions specifically targeting children’s handwashing behaviour in humanitarian settings have not been tested. Traditional children’s handwashing promotion interventions have been school-focused, resource-intensive and reliant on health-based messaging. However, recent research from non-humanitarian settings and targeting adults suggests that behaviour change interventions targeting specific motives may be more effective. This paper demonstrates that distributing soaps with toys embedded inside, in a rapidly deployable intervention, can improve child handwashing behaviour in a humanitarian emergency context.

Who is it for? Practitioners/specialists designing or implementing handwashing programmes

Why is it important? It presents a novel evidence-based intervention that has been proven successful in increasing rates of handwashing amongst children in a humanitarian setting. It fills a gap in the literature on handwashing initiatives that target children though households (rather than schools), and on handwashing in humanitarian contexts. Although an academic paper, the idea it presents is simple (and simply written about) making the paper more accessible to non-academic or specialist readers than some other academic papers.

Additional details

PublisherInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
ThemesBehaviour change, Design, nudges and cues, Handwashing, Hygiene
LanguageEnglish

Learn more about SLH Research

We use a range of research approaches, which aim to draw attention to urgent knowledge gaps, blind spots and emerging questions, often at a critical point in time, to support policy-makers, practitioners and partners in navigating and responding swiftly.

SLH Research and Learning