Child handwashing in an internally displaced persons camp in Northern Iraq: A qualitative multi-method exploration of motivational drivers and other handwashing determinants.
BACKGROUND: Children in humanitarian situations are particularly vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhoea. Handwashing with soap can greatly reduce transmission but handwashing rates are often low and traditional interventions ineffective. To aid future intervention design, this study aims to understand the determinants of child handwashing and the key motivational drivers of children's behaviour within a specific humanitarian setting.
METHODS: In an internally displaced persons camp in Northern Iraq we conducted a series of 36 friendship-paired interviews with children aged 7-12 years, six semi-structured caregiver interviews, and three semi-structured hygiene promoter interviews. Perceived determinants of child handwashing were explored qualitatively, and motivational drivers were explored quantitatively with children in a rating exercise. Qualitative data were analysed thematically, using an inductive approach, and logistic regression analyses of motive rating data were performed to determine the predicted probabilities of motives being rated as important.
RESULTS: Access to soap and water was perceived to be high across all participant groups. Children, caregivers and hygiene promoters all perceive the determinants of child handwashing to be associated with familial role, environmental factors pertaining to location and quality of handwashing materials and facilities, and level of exposure to hygiene promotion, and children also attribute their handwashing to social norms. We find that children in this context are motived most by play and nurture.
CONCLUSIONS: Provision of soap and water alone is not sufficient to encourage children to practice handwashing with soap in a humanitarian context. Our findings suggest that equal consideration should be given to the quality and location of handwashing materials and facilities and social norms could be leveraged to promote and enhance child handwashing. Motive-based interventions targeting play or nurture may be a promising approach and are likely most effective when used in conjunction, along with other motivational drivers such as affiliation and love.