The International Water Centre

Research focus: Promoting safe infant faeces management: behaviour change interventions that leverage local ways of knowing and address inequitable WASH gender roles in Solomon Islands

Location: Solomon Islands

Research Theme: Safely managed water and sanitation

Partners: Griffith University, Solomon Islands National University and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Key Research Questions:

Can an intervention based on psycho-social, technological and epistemological constructs improve infant faeces management (IFM) by Solomon Islanders and challenge inequitable IFM gender norms? 

(i)            How do locals create knowledge relating to new ideas about WASH and gender?

(ii)           Which psycho-social drivers can be leveraged to improve IFM?

(iii)          What infrastructure/objects facilitate safe IFM?

(iv)          How can men be involved to improve inequitable IFM gender norms, in a do no harm way?

(v)           Will an intervention based on these insights improve IFM?

Research Description:

The lack of safe infant faeces management (IFM) is a critical issue in Solomon Islands, as it is in many countries. Unsafe IFM, or the failure to separate and contain infants’ faeces, causes significant human health risks to Solomon Islanders, because of a confluence of situational factors. These include the belief that infant faeces are not harmful although they have higher pathogenic loads than adult faeces; the higher potential for transmission of pathogens from infant faeces to children because they play on the ground, and to everyone because of the inequitable gender responsibilities for domestic duties meaning women are responsible for both IFM and food/water handling.

Recent advances in designing behaviour change intentions for sanitation and hygiene have replaced or complemented educational approaches with a systematic consideration of technological, psychosocial and contextual determinants. But the lack of consideration of epistemologies, or local ways of knowing, and the missed opportunity to disrupt gender inequitable IFM roles, through IFM interventions, has been criticised.

This research aims to answer the question: How can an intervention based on psycho-social, technological and epistemological determinants improve safe IFM by Solomon Islanders and change inequitable IFM gender norms?

This will be answered through:

(i)            Formative research to develop and IFM behaviour change intervention, and

(ii)           Piloting of IFM intervention using a randomised control trial to assess outcomes and process and inform                   refinement of the intervention. 

If successful, this intervention can be incorporated into national guidelines for WASH promotion, as well as adoption by UNICEF Solomon Islands and local CSOs. Large-scale roll-out of an effective IFM behaviour intervention would have significant impacts to human health, in particular, infants and children of Solomon Islands who currently suffer high rates of WASH-related diarrhoea, mortality and morbidity.

“This is an extremely important project addressing an issue or topic of great magnitude, culturally, environmentally and otherwise, in Solomon Islands. As such, to collect data needed to construct greater understanding of the strategies or techniques by which infant faecal matter was managed in Solomon Islands society traditionally and today, especially in rural areas, will require the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of researchers. The strength of engaging an interdisciplinary research team in the project is that the collection of field data and, hence, construction of knowledge about the topic will be approached from both a Solomon Islands indigenous as well as metro-centrist or Western methodologies and epistemologies.”

Dr David Welchman Gegeo, Associate Professor & Director, Office of Research and Postgraduate Studies, Solomon Islands National University

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