Rohingya Refugee Camp: Some High Notes for Hygiene Promotion

Promotion of hygiene through music Action Against Hunger

 Photo: Sébastien Duijndam for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

A Musical Message on Hygiene

Habibur Rhaman plucks some fugitive notes out of his worn-out mandolin. Sitting cross-legged on a wooden bench, this frail 45-year-old man begins to sing, accompanied by a percussionist. A crowd begins to gathers in the small tearoom. Habibur Rahman sings to a familiar local tune, but the words are not what you would expect. They speak of hygiene practices, such as handwashing, to help prevent diseases. They state precautions and address the difficulty of finding medicines if someone falls ill, and the cost of the treatment that can be avoided if these simple rules are respected.
Habibur Rahman is a Rohingya himself, he fled his country in 2008. “The government forced me to work with no pay. I crossed the border with my instrument and in 2009 I started to work with Action Against Hunger. I learnt how to play the mandolin at the age of 15 years old in my village. Here, I write lyrics about hygiene promotion and compose music”.
The impact has been immediate; the tearoom owner has changed his hygiene practices and invites his customers to do the same. Located on a busy roadside, the public health awareness grows. Mohammad Belal Uddin, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Project Manager, leads meetings with the camp residents, supported by community volunteers and Habibur Rhaman’s singing. Managing the session, he ensure that people understand the concepts and distributes a basic hygiene kit containing a towel, nail-clipper and soap to the participants.

“A year ago, we began to work with new arrivals. The conditions were terrible: no access to water, no latrines, and no waste management. The people threw their rubbish and faeces into the canals. This was the perfect situation for the development of water-related diseases such as diarrhoea that can lead to malnutrition. Now, even though the shelters are makeshift, there is more access to basic services. Knowledge and behaviour have also improved.”
-Mohammad Belal, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Project Manager

With 23,337 Hygiene and Menstrual Hygiene kits distributed, and 1,155 Hygiene Sessions undertaken the knowledge is spreading; Selim Khan, a community volunteer for Action Against Hunger ensured these changes were implemented by his own family. He and his wife now know to wash their hands with soap before each meal, not just with water, and make sure their four year old son does so as well.

 Photo: Sébastien Duijndam for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

Learning through Play

A few alleys away, another type of hygiene promotion session is taking place. Far from the serious atmosphere of the tea room, around fifteen children are gathered under a bamboo-covered patio. Between fits of laughter, the community volunteers have a hard time disciplining everyone. Gradually, the boys and girls start to settle. The session can begin: a role play to explain how germs are transmitted from one person to another, by touch. Taking turns, the children repeat the seven stages for washing their hands.

360 Video of the Hygiene Promotion Course with Children

 Photo: Sébastien Duijndam for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

What You Can Do

If you’d like to get involved, consider donating towards our #Brownbagit campaign. Donate what you normally would spend on ordering lunch to Action Against Hunger, and support our teams in the field to deliver much needed aid and support.



Our work in Bangladesh is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC).