The Story of a Doctor Who Changed Lives Through Poetry
Two billion people worldwide depend on health care facilities that do not have clean water, soap, nor toilets.*
Even when a health care facility has access to supplies and infrastructure, and staff know appropriate hand hygiene behaviours, some 61% of health workers still do not practise them.** This endangers not only health workers, but entire communities. “As health workers, we have a part to play in the battle for behaviour changes." -Dr Ouedraogo
For a group of health workers in Banfora, Burkina Faso, this had to change.
Hygiene and sanitation practices such as handwashing with water and soap, safe storage of drinking water, and latrine use and maintenance are at the heart of the One Drop Foundation’s Social Art for Behaviour Change (SABC) approach. In the commune of Banfora, Burkina Faso, slam poetry was one of the disciplines chosen by the Saniya So+ project to promote these hygiene and sanitation practices. Through a workshop facilitated by executing partner Espace Culturel Gambidi (ECG), 12 health workers embraced our social art approach and co-created slam poems to raise awareness for good practices within their health care facility and their community.
After learning the technique behind writing slam texts, participants collectively wrote two slam texts on handwashing with water and soap, as well as on the proper use and regular maintenance of sanitary facilities. Dr. Ouedraogo is a slam artist himself and provided technical support during this creative process. He reflects on the experience: “Social art enables us to share knowledge and ideas, and to see ourselves. You know that art has an important role to play in lives, and culture has an important role to play in lives, because a people without a culture is a people that is lost—and life without water is a life that is lost.”
Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services and information is not enough to shift human behaviour; people must be convinced that they have a critical role to play, and they require frequent reminders to stay motivated and maintain the behaviours that protect them and others against diseases.
Through social art, we can communicate messages that trigger a more emotional response, which is more powerful in influencing people’s decisions and promoting lasting behaviour change.
For health workers in Banfora, appropriating the One Drop Foundation’s social art techniques allowed them to raise awareness about the uses of water within health care facilities to improve hygiene practices, making a real difference in the health and well-being of their community.
*WHO and Unicef, JMP, WASH in health care facilities: Global baseline report, 2019. **WHO, Health care without avoidable infections. The critical role of infection prevention and control, 2016.