South Sudan has a high burden – among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa – of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). This adversely affects the health and social and economic well-being of people in the country. The prevention, control and eventual elimination of many NTDs depend heavily on improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and, once there is access, on sound sanitation and hygiene practices. This is especially the case in NTD endemic communities.
The main NTDs prevalent in South Sudan include lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), soiltransmitted helminths (STH), onchocerciasis, trachoma, leishmaniasis and Guinea-worm disease. While the Ministry of Health (MoH) of South Sudan, through its NTD programme, had prioritized NTD/WASH partnerships and collaboration to improve the national NTD response, the programme lacked resources, capacity and a technical framework to lead the development of a harmonized NTD/WASH communication strategy.
In 2019, the NTD team reviewed the existing behaviour change communication (BCC) NTD strategies and materials in South Sudan, which revealed a lack of focus on WASH as an NTD prevention approach. In addition, all BCC materials targeted a specific disease or behaviour, which is against evidence that shows that NTD messages integrated with sound WASH practices can reduce the burden of various NTDs that affect the country. In addition to the lack of WASH and NTD integration, previous BCC materials were developed without consulting the communities – the beneficiaries.
In consultation with the main WASH and NTD actors in South Sudan, the MoH, supported by Ascend, initiated an interactive process to develop an integrated NTD/WASH communication strategy focusing on multiple NTDs and to revise the related BCC materials. Furthermore, in line with best practices, the Ascend team worked with the MoH to develop new tailor-made NTD communication material based on the needs community members expressed during a comprehensive pre-testing process with representatives in the target communities, and supported the development of a Guide for pre-testing NTD/WASH communication messages and materials to facilitate this process. Ascend aimed to (re)activate new and existing coordination mechanisms between WASH and NTD stakeholders in South Sudan to build on existing policies and strategies, and to develop a harmonized approach to fight against NTDs in the country.
This learning brief based on stakeholder interviews documents the interactive process undertaken to develop the communication strategy and related communication material in South Sudan. Information provided in this brief can guide other organizations aiming to develop a comprehensive and integrated NTD communication strategy and relevant BCC materials for communities in a similar setting.
Download the full learning brief: Strengthening Communication and Integration with WASH to Eliminate NTDs Lessons from South Sudan as well as the South Sudan MoH Guide for pre-testing NTD/WASH communication messages and materials below.
The South Sudan MoH BCC materials (including communication education flipcharts, a community leaders fact sheet, a teachers guide and a suite of 19 posters) are available upon request from the SS MoH or through Ascend_Enquiries@ascend.crownagents.com