“67% flood-affected population of Assam lacks sanitation facilities”, says Caritas India KAP survey

A recent survey on the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) conducted in the flood-affected areas of Assam by Caritas India, revealed that 67% of the flood-affected population defecates in the open, due to lack of sanitation facilities and damages to existing sanitation structures in these areas after the flood.

Several risk behaviours were identified in these affected areas which can have severe implications on the health of the community. Of the existing latrines in the villages, there are no handwashing facilities available nearby, and therefore only 50% of the surveyed population wash their hands after defecation. These latrines are not suitable for the elderly, people living with disabilities and even children.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, something as simple as washing hands with soap can reduce diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the top two killers of children below the age of 5 across the globe. Thus, inculcation of good handwashing early in life may aid in the improvement of child development in some settings. Nearly 67% of the surveyed population reported that they only wash their hands when visibly dirty, therefore they are unaware of disease-causing bacteria that may be present on their hands as they are not visible to the naked eye. Thus, putting them at even higher risk of diseases which are transmitted through the faeco-oral route. 83% of the surveyed population does not use soap to wash their hands. Washing hands with water alone is not enough to get rid of microscopic bacteria. This puts more than half the population in the surveyed areas at risk of diarrheal diseases.

83% of girls and boys under the age of 5 are currently suffering from Diarrhoeal diseases in the affected areas of Karimganj in Assam. This is a clear indicator of poor hygiene and sanitation, which has been compromised as a result of the floods. Another shocking revelation from the survey was that 83% of the surveyed population do not treat water at the household level and therefore are highly susceptible to waterborne diseases as most of the water sources in the villages are either damaged or have been contaminated.

Caritas India is currently responding to the flood-affected population in Karimganj and Hailakandi districts in Assam, with WaSH support through the distribution of hygiene kits. These kits contain bucket, mug, antiseptic liquid soap, handwashing soap, detergent, markin cloth and chlorine tablets. The KAP survey is a part of the WaSH response and was conducted for the purpose of understanding the behaviour, knowledge and attitude of the community on WaSH related issues. These findings will guide the hygiene promotion process and also inform future programme planning in these areas.

KAP survey is a tool that uses standardised questionnaires that give both quantitative and qualitative information, which is used to understand any kind of misunderstanding or misconception that may hinder the activities of a programme that aims at behaviour change and also guide the activities aimed at behaviour change. The KAP survey can be done at different time periods like at the beginning of the programme or at the end.