Indonesia, Nias: It's all about behaviour change

News and Press Release
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The Red Cross Red Crescent is working hard to provide clean water and sanitation advice on a tsunami-affected island.

By Ahmad Husein, IFRC communications coordinator, in Indonesia

Mother-of-three Iberia Lase says that life is much better now in Afia, sub-district Lahewa, Nias Island. She has built her family latrine and improved her knowledge and behaviour on family sanitation and hygiene, thanks to support from the Red Cross Red Crescent.

"We keep the latrine clean every day, so we can use it comfortably," she says, smiling.

In the past, as other people did in the village, Iberia and her family made a natural latrine by digging a hole in the back yard or just sitting at the riverbank. Keeping the house and neighbourhood area clean was also not part of their daily practice.


As a result, it was not surprising that the village was susceptible to diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and dengue fever. "We were living in a very unhealthy life," Iberia admits.

Changing people's old behaviour in Lahewa was truly a challenge. Moreover, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), with support from Canadian Red Cross, works alone to provide water and sanitation assistance in this area.

The water and sanitation team must arrange intensive promotion and campaign activities to convince the villagers to improve their daily sanitation practices gradually. Almost 7,000 people have been reached by these programmes to date.


"We engage the local community to keep them familiar with practical sanitation and hygiene topics," says Biserka Pop Stefanija, the IFRC's water and sanitation delegate in Lahewa.

In Lahewa, the community has been involved from the outset, with villagers voluntarily contributing materials during the construction phase. The Red Cross Red Crescent also provides them with training on operation and maintenance skills, so the community can maintain their new facilities.

"In the past, people in Lahewa knew nothing about family sanitation, but now they start to recognise its urgency," says Yamo Arota Hulu, the secretary of Lahewa Head of Sub-District.

The IFRC has been working on water and sanitation in Lahewa, Nias since 2005. According to United Nations data, approximately 2.6 billion people in the world have no access to clean water and proper sanitation.