How UNICEF Ghana’s Talking Book program impacted hygiene and sanitation knowledge in rural communities

Amplio and and its affiliate Literacy Bridge Ghana (LBG) partnered with UNICEF Ghana to promote key family practices for child health and development, including hygiene and sanitation knowledge and behaviors. UNICEF selected the Talking Book as a digital social and behavior change communication (SBCC) strategy for its Communication for Development initiative in Upper West Region. With the Talking Book, they shared targeted messages and information with low-literate adults and youth in rural communities. 

Launched in 2013, UNICEF’s Talking Book program was extended twice (in 2017 and 2019) to reach communities in Jirapa District in Upper West Region and Karaga and Tolon districts in Northern region. In a coordinated effort with UNICEF and key implementing partners, LBG updated Talking Book content to include hygiene and sanitation messages in 2017. The project came to a close in December 2019.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene challenges in Ghana

According to UNICEF, 76% of households in Ghana are at risk of drinking water contaminated with fecal matter. In addition, open defecation, lack of clean water and cleansing agents, and inadequate hand washing often lead to diarrheal illnesses, which can be deadly, especially for children. Many rural families lack access to critical information about water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) due to barriers such as low-literacy levels and lack of mass media.

UNICEF’s Talking Book program

For UNICEF’s Talking Book program, LBG distributed Talking Books to established groups like Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and through a household rotation model. Content was produced in the form of songs, dramas, interviews, and endorsements in four local dialects (Dagaare, Lambussie Sissali, Funsi Sissali, and Dagbani). Hygiene and sanitation topics included messages on open defecation, hand washing, and menstrual hygiene, as well as latrine construction, how to build a tippy tap, and how to make soap from ash.

Participants listened to Talking Book messages in VSLA meetings, individually, and with their families. LBG also used Talking Books to facilitate multi-stakeholder community dialogues and debate. Adults and youth came together to discuss new information, find solutions to hygiene and sanitation challenges, and commit to healthy behaviors.

Because Amplio’s technology collects usage data and user feedback, LBG could monitor community engagement, identify issues and trends, share insights with UNICEF, and continually update and improve content for greater impact.

Yusif Dokurugu inspects a toilet facility he built for his household after being informed about the importance of hygiene and sanitation. Karaga District, Northern Region.

Program impact on WASH knowledge and behaviors

Usage data and user feedback helped UNICEF and key stakeholders understand and address community concerns, such as challenges with building latrines when the ground was too hard and sharing water sources with animals. In the close-out survey, respondents cited the Talking Book as the top source of WASH-related information and reported adopting healthy behaviors such as increased hand washing and the use of tippy taps and latrines. 

Washing hands with soap and water

Significantly more participants reported always washing their hands before eating.

A top source of WASH information

In the endline survey, the Amplio Talking Book was identified as the top source of information on WASH-related illness.

Usage data and user feedback 

“Your campaign for us to practice good hygiene is yielding results. Now few cases of diarrhea are recorded.” —user feedback message from a woman in Gbanjoglo

Talking Book usage data and user feedback allows organizations to see which messages are listened to and commented on the most (or least), as well as information such as the number of message completions by sector and district.  For example, UNICEF Ghana’s Talking Book usage data showed that Jirapa District had  61, 587 completions of WASH sector messages compared to 52,691 completions in Karaga, where the program was smaller. 

Listeners also used the Talking Book’s built-in microphone to record their questions, comments, and complaints about hygiene and sanitation. User feedback is anonymous, but the messages are linked to the community where the device is used, which helps Amplio’s partners understand and address any district-level or community-specific issues. 

AMPLIFY YOUR IMPACT

Contact Amplio for a consultation on how you can use Talking Books to share information on health and hygiene.

Literacy Bridge Ghana, an Amplio affiliate, provides Talking Book program services, including technology training and support, social and behavior change communication consulting, content production, and more. Visit LBG’s website.

 

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