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Originally produced for UNICEF

Colour my house

After the houses were coloured, each family pinned their house onto the data board. When he looked at his house filled with all the colours, one man said, “We are looking at ourselves in the mirror.”

The “Colour My House” template has 19 windows containing indicators that collectively define a healthy start in life including immunization, sleeping under a mosquito net, having a kitchen garden, using iodized salt, going for pre-and post-natal check-ups, taking the baby for growth monitoring and so on.

The indicators were selected based on analysis of causes and factors affecting child nutrition, and the potential for action in the family and community. The whole village participates in the “Colour My House” activity. Husband and wife sit together and following discussion of every window they begin to colour their own house: Green if the desired behaviour is being practiced, red if it is not and blue if the issue is irrelevant.

The 20th window is purposely left blank to stimulate the question of what else the community wants to monitor. In Esa’ala, one community health worker Samwel Samwel added “Children aged 5 to 10 years attending school” because he saw “many many children of that age in the villages who should have been in school.”

The whole community goes through the colour my house exercise together. It takes all day to discuss each of the windows of the house. The husband and wife sit together and colour the windows of their house using green for success, red for more work needed, and blue for neutral.

Afterwards, the coloured houses are pinned on a wall or board, and then the problems are counted and discussed. People are encouraged to find their own answers. Often they say that they didn’t take their child for an immunization because they were too busy in the garden, or because they didn’t know when the nurse was coming.

Sometimes people are critical of health workers and the service: “They are never there when they are supposed to be,” one will say. “They never have the vaccines anyway,” says another. This stage of the process can be difficult for health workers who may become defensive. Instead they are encouraged to ask the villagers why the vaccines are not available. The discussion will often turn towards the high costs of transportation and the difficult communications, and the community health worker often explains the problem of the cold chain, and the need to keep vaccines at a certain temperature.

The discussion then turns from the cause of the problem to what will happen if nothing is done about it. “The child may die” someone often says. Whenever anyone dies in the village, everything stops. For a whole week no one does anything. It is therefore not only tragic to lose someone, it can have a very negative economic impact on the community as a whole.

And so the question of action arises. What can we do about this? Do we just accept this as the way things are? Among the points that often emerge is the idea that children living in the village have as much right to immunization as children living in the city, and parents, health workers and community leaders have a duty to demand immunization on their behalf.

The health worker explains the power of having a list of all the children and women in the village who need immunization. The Ward Member promises to raise the issue of the poor supply of vaccines at the next meeting of the Local Level Government.

So the process continues, until every “window” of the house has been analysed and discussed. When the process is finished everyone is asked to sign a paper promising that they will help to improve the situation. There is never any hesitation about this. Those who cannot write, they make their mark.

Colour My House Priorities


  1. Immunization 0-11 months
  2. Immunization 12-59 months
  3. Nutritional status 0-59 months
  4. Growth curve 0-59 months
  5. Development Milestones 0-24 months
  6. Exclusive Breastfeeding 0-6 months
  7. Complementary food 4-6 months
  8. Birth registration 0-59 months
  9. Use treated bed-nets

Pregnant Women

  1. Attend Pre-post natal clinic
  2. Tetanus ImmunizationIron Supplement
  3. Malaria prevention
  4. Reduced workload
  5. Treated bed nets


  1. Birth spacing
  2. Uses Iodized sale
  3. Home garden/livestock
  4. Use potable water
  5. Use sanitary latrine
  6. Wash hands with soap