This paper focuses on water meanings, sanitation practices and hygiene behaviours from a cultural perspective in southern Nigeria. Attention was directed on how cultural understanding of water influences sanitation practices as well as the challenges such a relationship poses on public health and sanitation programmes in rural Nigeria. A wide range of meanings, beliefs, values and taboos surrounded local notions and ideas of water and sanitation which were noted to determine available responsive practices and norms. Socio-economic characteristics, physical location and cultural factors were used in explaining the degrees, scale and impact of observed practices and norms across space and time. The paper argues that it will make more practical sense if water and sanitation problems are addressed within the cultural foundation, to understand the realities of local circumstances of beliefs and values, than applying the logic of pure science. This is very important in designing interventions to reduce risks in deeply cultural communities.

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