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T.6 Community Drama, Cinema and Puppet Theatre

Community entertainments such as Drama, Puppet Theatre or Cinema are lively entertaining methods that can be used in WASH programmes to share information and promote healthy hygienic behaviour. Used with other hygiene promotion (HP) methods, these entertainments can be very effective for all ages, especially children.

Community Drama can be done by professional actors, hygiene promoters or community members with some training and basic props, e.g. relevant local costumes and hygiene items such as soap. Puppets can be made easily from locally available materials and they can be animals or human characters. A sheet or curtain can be used for the performers to hide behind. Community cinema can involve the showing of locally produced films shot on mobile phones T.30 and projected onto a building wall or, with appropriate permission, commercially produced films. Shows should have simple context-based easily-followed plots, a few actors or puppets and lots of action using a few simple key messages. Frequent repetition of the messages using loud and slow speech is useful. Puppets should be as active as possible, e.g. nodding and moving when talking. The dramas can include comic stereotypes, with exaggerated characterisation and local references to keep the audience interested. When showing a film it is sometimes useful to stop the action at key points and discuss it with the audience. Films can be made engaging with music and Songs T.47. All shows should be short (about 15 minutes) to keep the audience engaged. They can take time to prepare and rehearse. Community members can be involved in the plot and prop decisions and as well as acting. Discussion following the show is encouraged to ensure that the audience has grasped the main points; key actions can also be agreed upon.


Community entertainment is appropriate in many contexts - camps, towns and villages. Shows can be performed in the street or at a specific venue. They can be used at any time in the programme after the initial assessment. Shows can also be used as a learning tool for training hygiene promoters. Unlike Role Plays T.41 which can be done quickly, shows take time to prepare and rehearse. Care must be taken that they are not only fun, but effective at promoting healthy hygiene behaviour.


  • Encourage audience participation

  • Focus on a few simple messages, with short plots that are relevant to the context

  • Use comic sound effects, e.g. a young child going to the toilet


  • Do not talk too quickly or use complicated terms – keep it simple and easy to understand

  • Do not have several characters talking at the same time

Practical Example

Puppet Shows were popular as part of an HP programme in a camp in Greece. Two Syrians in the camps were given some cloth and thread and they made a variety of puppets – some animals and some depicting themselves and the HP volunteers. The team of volunteers from the camp made up stories based on relevant topics such as rubbish disposal and handwashing. They then performed the puppet shows with small groups of children and followed up with them afterwards to reinforce appropriate behaviour change.

Key Decision Critria

Response Phase
Acute Response
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Protracted Crisis
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HP Component
Preconditions and Enabling Environment
Community Engagement and Participation
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Assessment, Analysis and Planning
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Social and Behaviour Change
Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
Target Group
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Older People
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Persons with Disabilities
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Local Leaders
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Society as a whole
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Application Level
Individual / Household
Community / Municipality
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Guidance on how to do street theatre and puppet shows

GWC (2009): Training for Hygiene Promoters and HP Coordinators. Part 2 of 3. Useful to Know

Ferron, S., Morgan, J. et al. (2007): Hygiene Promotion. A Practical Manual for Relief and Development, Practical Action Publishing. ISBN: 978-1853396410

IOM (2020): Puppetry and Animation Used to Educate Children about COVID-19 in Ethiopia

Oxfam (undated): Working with Children in Humanitarian WASH Programmes

SSWM (undated): Child Hygiene and Sanitation Training (CHAST)

World Vision (2017): Sesame Street. World Vision Partnership Expands to 11 Countries with Lifesaving Hygiene Lessons

Sesame Street International Social Impact (2017): WASH UP! How Raya is Helping Syrian Refugee Children Stay Healthy