Exposure to Livestock Feces and Water Quality, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Conditions among Caregivers and Young Children: Formative Research in Rural Burkina Faso
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Livestock farming is common in low-income settings as a source of income and animal-sourced food. However, there is growing evidence of the harmful health effects of proximity of animals to infants and young children, especially through exposure to zoonotic pathogens. Poultry ownership is almost universal in rural Burkina Faso. Poultry feces are a significant risk factor for enteric diseases that are associated with child undernutrition. To investigate the extent of exposure to livestock feces among young children and caregivers, we conducted direct observations of 20 caregiver-child dyads for a total of 80 hours (4 hours per dyad) and recorded water quality, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related behaviors. We also undertook in-depth interviews with these caregivers and focus group discussions with separate groups of men and women who were poultry farmers. Poultry and other livestock feces were visible in all 20 and 19 households, respectively, in both kitchen areas and in the household courtyards where children frequently sit or crawl. Direct soil ingestion by young children was observed in almost half of the households (45%). Poor handwashing practices were also common among caregivers and children. Although latrines were available in almost all households, child feces disposal practices were inadequate. This body of research suggests an urgent need to adapt conventional WASH and livestock interventions to reduce the exposure of infants and young children to livestock feces.
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