More than half of all illnesses and death among young children is caused by germs that get into the body through the food they eat and the water they drink.
Older children can be involved in promoting and practising healthy habits that work in their own family and community. The correct use of latrines, safe drinking water and safe refuse disposal help prevent the spread of germs.
Scroll down to read our Top Ten messages on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for children to learn and share, plus ideas on what children can do to understand, find out more, take action and reflect on this topic.
Download our PDF for your copy of all the messages and how to get children started with learning and sharing.
To wash hands properly: use water, a little soap. Rub for 10 seconds, rinse & air-dry or dry with a clean cloth/paper, not on dirty clothes.
We wash our hands with soap and water to get rid of dirt and germs. Soap sticks to germs and water does not. When we wash our hands in a hurry, or without soap, we leave germs on our hands and these germs can make us ill. When our hands, face and fingernails are clean, we protect ourselves against germs that make us ill.
Wash your hands properly before touching the T-zone on your face (eyes, nose and mouth) as this is where germs enter the body. Avoid touching the T-zone when you can.
Our eyes, nose and mouth are the places where germs can enter and leave our bodies. Germs make us ill. We can’t see germs but they are everywhere: on animals, in the ground, in the air, in dirty water and in our poo and animal poo. Some germs make us very ill – they can give us diarrhoea, coughs, colds and flu, fever and some can make our eyes weak and sore. When we touch our face, wipe our nose, or use the toilet, we move germs onto our hands. Our hands quickly pass the germs to someone or something else. Germs travel easily. Our hands are like buses for germs unless we keep them clean! Flies are buses too! They pick up germs on their six legs and then leave them on our food or on our face. Read more about flies in messages five and ten. Washing our hands and face with soap and water keeps us clean, keeps germs away and stops germs spreading. We don’t need much water – just a cupful is enough. We dry our face in the sunshine and air, because towels and clothes may all carry germs.
Wash your hands BEFORE preparing food, eating or giving food to babies, AFTER pee or poo or cleaning baby or helping someone who is ill.
Wash your hands BEFORE preparing food, eating or giving food to babies and AFTER peeing or pooing, cleaning baby, helping someone who is ill, cleaning up after animals or moving refuse. We can learn when to wash our hands to stop germs getting into us and making us ill. Sometimes we must wash our hands before we do something, other times we need to wash our hands after we do something.
We need to wash our hands BEFORE we…
- Prepare food to cook
- Feed a baby
- Touch our eyes
- Milk the cows or goats
- Go to school
We need to wash our hands AFTER we…
- Go to the toilet
- Clean up a baby’s pee or poo
- Clean a baby’s or a young child’s eyes when they are sticky
- Clean our nose or a baby’s nose
- Clean up after someone has been sick
- Looking after someone who is ill
- Play outside
- Work in the vegetable garden
- Work with the animals and get eggs from the chicken
Keep your body and clothes fresh and clean. Keep your nails & toes, teeth & ears, face & hair CLEAN. Shoes/flip-flops protect against worms.
We need to wash every day – our hands, our faces and our bodies. Every day our bodies sweat, make oils that keep our skin soft and shed old skin. Our skin gets sticky and we get covered in germs. Germs can make us ill if they get into our bodies. We wash our clothes to stop germs on our clothes being moved to to our mouth, nose and eyes by our hands. Washing our clothes helps them last longer and smell nice!
Germs like to find places to hide. In between our toes, under our nails, in our ears are all excellent hiding places for germs! We can make sure germs don’t hide by washing our feet and toes, keeping our nails short and remembering to clean our ears when we wash our face.
We need to keep our teeth clean to keep our gums and teeth healthy. We should brush our teeth every day with a toothbrush or special stick.
As well as germs that make us ill, there are worms that live in the soil that can burrow into our feet. When they get into our body they can make us very poorly and weak. We need to protect our feet by wearing flip flops or shoes to stop worms getting into our body. We always need to wear flip flops or shoes when we go to the toilet.
Keep human & animal poo & pee away from flies that spread germs. Use latrines and afterwards, wash your hands & body well.
Flies are expert transporters of germs! They are very good at picking up germs on their six legs, as they have grooves in their legs where dirt can stick. They can carry over 60 different diseases including dysentery, typhoid, cholera and diarrhoea. They pick up bacteria from poo and refuse on their feet and move it to anything they land on. This can be our face, hands and most often – our food.
Flies help germs get around – even when we have washed our hands. When flies land on us they pass the germs they are carrying on their feet on to us. We can help stop flies spreading germs by clearing up rubbish and poo and keeping our food covered. We can help stop flies by:
- clearing poo away from the house
- keeping flies away from our food
- covering any food and drink
- keeping the place we prepare food clean
- keeping a lid on the toilet to keep the flies away
- keeping the toilet clean
- keeping our refuse away from the house
- digging a hole for poo and keeping it away from little children
- keeping the yard clean and clear of animal poo
Flies like poo more than anything else. Using the latrine, or digging a hole for poo away from the house can help keep flies away. It is important to use a latrine and not pee and poo outside. We must always wash our hands after having a pee or a poo.
Keep your face fresh and clean. Wash well with a little clean water and soap in the morning and in the evening, plus if flies buzz near sticky eyes.
When we wash our face every day, we help reduce the chance of eye infections. Our face can get sticky when we sweat, and dirt and germs can stick to us. We can put germs onto our face with our hands when we touch it. If we have a runny nose or sticky eyes, flies can buzz around us and leave germs on our skin. Washing our face keeps us healthy.
If we have sticky eyes we need to wash our face more often to keep them clean. This will help keep flies away and will help them get better. If we are helping a younger child with sticky eyes get washed, we must remember to wash our hands after we have helped them.
Don’t touch clean, safe water with dirty hands or cups. Keep it safe and free from germs.
When we have filtered and boiled water for drinking, we must keep it clean. We must cover the pot it is stored in and only use a dipper to take water from the pot. If we touch the water with our hands or with a dirty cup, then germs will get into the water. If we want to take clean water to cook or drink, we must make sure we use a clean container to put our drinking water in. When we collect water from the well or pump we must make sure we use a clean container and cover it as we carry it home. To keep water clean we must always cover it to stop dust or anything falling into the water and we must not let anything touch the water.
Sunlight makes water safer. Filter it into a plastic bottles and leave for 6 hours in the sun until it’s safer to drink.
We can all make our drinking water safer if we have an empty plastic drinks bottle and sunlight. First, filter the dirty water through a clean cloth into the bottle, to take out any dirt, insects and leaves. Don’t fill the bottle, but leave about four fingers depth of the bottle empty. Then, shake the bottle hard about twenty times. This puts oxygen into the water and makes it taste good. Then, take the bottle and put it in full sunlight on a reflective surface, like a tin roof, or somewhere painted white, for 6 hours or more. This will kill most germs in the water and make it safer to drink.
We can see how people did this in Sri Lanka after their homes were destroyed by the sea in this video.
When you can, use the sun to dry and destroy germs on plates and utensils after washing.
Every day we cook and eat. We use pots and pans to make our food and plates and cups to eat our meals. We need to keep all these things clean and free from germs. We need to clean them and get rid of any germs we can’t see. We can do this by washing them in hot soapy water and drying them in sunlight to kill the germs. When there is enough strong sunlight (and for long enough) this can kill germs.
Kill or reduce flies by keeping the home and community free from rubbish and dirt. Store rubbish safely until it’s collected, burned or buried.
Flies love rubbish and dirt! They make their homes in rubbish, poo and food waste. This is where they breed. When it’s dirty around our homes flies multiply and get everywhere. When we clean rubbish, dirt and poo away from our homes and communities, we can stop flies making their homes near to us. Flies are germs’ best friend. They give germs the chance to move quickly from place to place and person to person. Their favourite food is poo and when they land on poo little bits of poo get onto their legs. Then they carry the poo with them and when they stop again they leave poo on whatever they land on and crawl over. Poo is full of germs, so with a flies’ help, germs spread easily and quickly everywhere they go. We can make the area around our homes clean to keep flies away by:
- Storing rubbish in a covered tub until we are ready to remove it
- Digging a hole for rubbish, so that animals or children can’t dig it up, or burning it safely
- Keep animals – goats, cattle, chickens, dogs – away from our homes
- Clearing up poo from the bush, and always using a toilet
- Putting dirty rags and babies poo in the toilet and not in with the rubbish.
WHAT CAN CHILDREN
ALL 10 MESSAGES…
WATER, SANITATION & HYGIENE