Case Study

Children's Hygiene and Sanitation Training in Somalia

Publication Year:
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation

This case study describes the CHAST methodology, which is part of an integrated approach working on different but parallel levels for greater impact.


The challenge: education for behaviours

Children need to do things—to participate—and not only memorize facts if they are to develop consistent hygiene habits. There are well-known participatory learning approaches, which could be adapted to SSHE but have thus far remained untapped resources. This case study provides an example of how existing methodologies were transformed for young children at school in Somalia and it provides some examples of these teaching-learning interactions. The methodology is called CHAST, meaning Children’s Hygiene and Sanitation Training. By 2005 CHAST, which was developed with the support of Caritas Switzerland/Luxembourg in collaboration with the European Commission, had been used with about 5,000 children.

CHAST is part of an integrated approach working on different but parallel levels for greater impact. Caritas Switzerland implements the CHAST approach in the rural areas of Somalia at the same time as construction of school buildings and water and sanitation facilities. When CHAST comes to the schools, community facilitators also take up PHAST activities with the adults in the community. It has usually been these field workers who have facilitated CHAST in the classroom.

CHAST grew out of a series of sessions with schoolchildren in Northwest Somalia (Somaliland) in the latter half of 2002, during which the exercises and lessons of two other programs were reviewed and adapted to suit the needs and natural understanding of young Somali children in primary school. The resulting exercises seek to deliver basic hygiene lessons and information in a fun and memorable way – and a way that supports hygiene-conscious practices of daily Somali life and traditional Islamic culture. By giving children practical lessons and tips on improving their own cleanliness and hygiene, CHAST also aims to create a channel for delivering these messages directly into local homes.


Adapting Child-to-Child and PHAST

The CHAST program is based on two earlier experiences. The first of these is the ‘child-to-child’ approach which encourages children to actively participate in open discussions and, wherever possible, to share their experiences and ideas with their peers.

The second source for CHAST is the similarly-named PHAST program. PHAST (Participatory Hygiene And Sanitation Transformation) was developed in the 1990s with support from WHO and the UNDP/World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme. The approach involves specific participatory activities meant to help community groups discover for themselves the faecal-oral contamination routes of disease. They can then analyze their own hygiene behavior in the light of this information and plan how to block these ‘disease routes’. Caritas’s experiences have shown that, with a few key modifications, the PHAST methodology can be adapted for rural Somali communities. However, because the PHAST approach was designed for adults and is based on principles of adult learning, it had to be adapted to suit the needs of young children. Children have less experience; they have a different concept of time and the future and they are also naturally inquisitive and eager to learn. The CHAST approach builds on these natural attributes. CHAST is not learning by the book, but through exercises, educational games, and discussions. Many of the seven steps of PHAST find their counterparts in CHAST. However, the CHAST approach replaces PHAST activities with methods such as coloring drawings, playing games and hygiene activities more suitable to children.

In the CHAST approach, children are encouraged to work independently in pairs or in small groups, before presenting their thoughts and findings to the larger group. Three characters – Aisha, Jama and Ali – have been created to encourage the children to speak out on specific (often sensitive) subjects, while a puppet called Luuf is passed around to encourage young or shy children to take part in these discussions. Above all else, CHAST tools are meant to be fun – with games, exercises and role-plays that prompt the children to discuss and genuinely understand key issues related to cleanliness and hygiene.

The framework for CHAST

CHAST is organized in four blocks or steps. For each of these there are specific exercises and materials.

The framework for CHAST


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