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Knowledge, awareness and practice of the importance of hand-washing amongst children attending state run primary schools in rural Malawi

Grimason, Anthony and Masangwi, Salule Joseph and Morse, Tracy and Jabu, George Christopher and Beattie, Tara and Taulo, Steven E. and Lungu, Kingsley (2014) Knowledge, awareness and practice of the importance of hand-washing amongst children attending state run primary schools in rural Malawi. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 24 (1). pp. 31-43. ISSN 0960-3123

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A study was undertaken to determine the efficacy of hygiene practices in 2 primary schools in Malawi. The study determined: (1) presence of Escherichia coli on the hands of 126 primary school pupils, (2) knowledge, awareness and hygiene practices amongst pupils and teachers and (3) the school environment through observation. Pupil appreciation of hygiene issues was reasonable; however, the high percentage presence of E. coli on hands (71%) and the evidence of large-scale open defaecation in school grounds revealed that apparent knowledge was not put into practice. The standard of facilities for sanitation and hygiene did not significantly impact on the level of knowledge or percentage of school children's hands harbouring faecal bacteria. Evidence from pupils and teachers indicated a poor understanding of principles of disease transmission. Latrines and hand-washing facilities constructed were not child friendly. This study identifies a multidisciplinary approach to improve sanitation and hygiene practices within schools.