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close this bookA Guide to the Development of on-site Sanitation (WHO; 1992; 246 pages)
View the documentPreface
close this folderPart I. Foundations of sanitary practice
open this folder and view contentsChapter 1. The need for on-site sanitation
open this folder and view contentsChapter 2. Sanitation and disease transmission
close this folderChapter 3. Social and cultural considerations
View the documentSocial structure
View the documentCultural beliefs and practices
View the documentConcepts of hygiene
View the documentBeliefs about sanitation and disease
View the documentForces for change
View the documentResponses to change
View the documentConclusion
open this folder and view contentsChapter 4. Technical options
open this folder and view contentsPart II. Detailed design, construction, operation and maintenance
open this folder and view contentsPart III. Planning and development of on-site sanitation projects
View the documentReferences
View the documentSelected further reading
View the documentGlossary of terms used in this book
View the documentAnnex 1. Reuse of excreta
View the documentAnnex 2. Sullage
View the documentAnnex 3. Reviewers
View the documentSelected WHO publications of related interest
View the documentBack Cover
 

Concepts of hygiene

Although communities may lack knowledge of modern medical explanations of disease, they often have concepts of what is pure and polluting. Of the water resources available to particular households for domestic purposes, running water may be most acceptable for drinking because it is exposed to the sunlight; it is considered to be "alive" and therefore "pure", while water in shallow wells, which does not have these attributes, is deemed suitable only for washing and cooking. Communities have been observed to use the environmental resources available to them, such as bamboo, to bring fast-flowing river water to their villages in preference to more convenient well water that is unacceptable in taste, colour and smell.

Concepts of clean and dirty, pure and polluting, are well developed in the major world religions, and have a ritual and spiritual significance as well as referring to a physical state. When people are told that new sanitation facilities will make their environment "cleaner", it is their own interpretation of this concept that will be used. "Clean" may have quite different meanings to project promoters and recipients. Thus "it is essential to look into traditional categories of cleanliness and dirtiness, purity and pollution before embarking on a campaign to motivate people to accept a project in improved ... sanitation or to change their behaviour to comply with new standards of 'cleanliness'" (Simpson-Hebert, 1984).

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