WASHing hands, preventing illnesses
The help2kids Health Project has officially passed its one year anniversary, and the project and team have done excellent work creating an organized, productive, and impactful project. This year, the Health Project strived even harder to increase its effectiveness and took on one of it’s longest workshops. After hours of careful research and scheduled meetings with partners, the health project decided to hold WASH seminars, concentrating efforts on educating not only students, but teachers and caretakers on the importance of maintaining adequate hygienic practices.
The help2kids Health Project is responsible for the medical care of nearly 600 Orphans and Vulnerable Children. They aid in monitoring the diagnoses of children from their doctor visits. Last year, the Health Project identified that various Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) related illnesses were among the most commonly reoccurring, including UTI, various skin infections and gastrointestinal infections causing diarrhea. Since most of these illnesses are easily preventable, yet can become potentially critical, it became a priority of the Health Project to address this issue through WASH Education.
From January to March, the Health Project team--Melisa Yorgancioglu and Imerine Lyakurwa-- partnered with trainers from WAHECO to deliver a series of WASH seminars to the children and their caregivers and teachers at 4 orphanages and 1 primary school in Dar es Salaam--- reaching 175 children and 10 caregivers, and amounting to over 50 hours of WASH training in total!
WAHECO, or (Water, Health, Education and Community Development), is a government mobilization team within the Temeke Municipality of Dar es Salaam that consists of staff from multiple departments to deliver capacity building and community outreach in the area of WASH. help2kids partnered with 3 expert facilitators from WAHECO to deliver the WASH trainings.
According to UNICEF, a majority of Tanzanians (87%) have no access to improved sanitation, while less than half (46%) have access to safe drinking water. In 2009 it was found that a minority of Tanzanians (20%) wash their hands with soap before food preparation and that most schools (84%) have no hand-washing facilities, while nearly none had soap. Strikingly, around 1/3rd of the under-five child mortalities in Tanzania are linked to inadequate hygiene, including deaths caused by preventable diarrhea and respiratory illness.
When children become ill, it poses both a health hazard and negatively affects their attendance and performance in school. Worms, diarrhea and respiratory infections are just some of the diseases related to unhygienic behavior and poor sanitation and water, which can be reduced most greatly by proper handwashing practices, as well as drinking safe water and using sanitary toilets.
With this important information in mind, the help2kids Health Project strived to help address this issue by training the children and their caregivers on WASH concepts and practices. By igniting positive behavioural change among the children to create healthy habits and choices, then the transmission of dangerous bacteria, parasites and viruses can be prevented. Ultimately, this can reduce the incidence of illnesses related to poor WASH practices, thus helping keep the children healthy, in-school and performing well.
After much research and speaking to partners on health issues that were most concerning, the Health Project came up with a long-term WASH education process that included implementing SWASH clubs and training selected teachers and caregivers at each project site through WASH seminars.
SWASH clubs, or School WASH, are globally being formed as a peer education model for promoting WASH awareness and driving behavioral change among school children. They consist of enthusiastic children and youth, or “champions,” who are trained on delivering WASH messages to their peers through child-friendly approaches, such as musical or theatrical performances. They are also given the responsibility of monitoring their peers to help improve and reinforce healthy WASH behavior. While SWASH clubs are normally applied to school settings, we transferred this model to several orphanages, as well as to our primary school.
The workshop seminars were divided into 3 phases:
- First, we delivered a “Training of Trainers” session to build the capacity of the caregivers and teachers to deliver WASH training to their children. The adults were taught how to form SWASH Clubs, deliver WASH messages and teach their children about healthy WASH practices.
- Secondly, after a SWASH club was created at each centre, we trained these motivated, young champions on how to educate their peers on WASH through the Child to Child approach, and how to change, improve and monitor the WASH behaviours of their peers.
- Last, we focused on a final training session of the SWASH clubs, where the WAHECO trainers observed the clubs as they delivered presentations to their peers through song, dance, stories and drama! The clubs also learned the Tippy Tap method of hand-washing and environmental cleaning through practical demonstrations.
A key element in the seminars was covering the 5 Principles to be Healthy:
- Water – Water management, purification/treatment for drinking, safe storage
- Sanitation – Environment cleanliness, storing and managing solid and liquid waste, transforming waste into productive resources, composting, diseases caused by poor sanitation, modes of transmission of diseases
- Food – Storage, preparation and hygiene
- Fecal Waste Management – Proper disposal, latrine use, latrine cleanliness
- Hygiene – Personal hygiene, proper hand-washing, dental hygiene, body washing, cleaning/drying clothing, Menstrual Hygiene Management.
By focusing on these five principles, help2kids aimed to cover all aspects of poor sanitation related illnesses, hoping to increase the effectiveness of the seminars.
Although the long-term effects of the project have yet to be determined, the overall enthusiasm for the projects was positive, with students actively participating through creative means to reiterate the lessons taught to their peers. Through several dances and even rap songs, the students and SWASH clubs were a successful and fun learning experience.
The Health team hopes that the trained children have been equipped with health messages and skills to keep themselves, their schools and their orphanages healthy and clean spaces. Help2kids also hope that they become role models of healthy behavior to transfer this knowledge to their households and wider communities.
help2kids aim to continue training the SWASH clubs annually to ensure that they remain active and capable of delivering peer education. The Health Project also intend on monitoring the quality of their presentations to their peers to ensure their effectiveness. Finally, help2kids envision organizing a cross-centre learning session or competition by inviting all 6 SWASH Clubs to one venue to present to one another and exchange ideas and best practices, or by arranging for one SWASH Club to visit another at its respective centre.
Children should not have to face barriers to attending school or attaining their right to health, and especially not those caused by easily preventable diseases. WASH education is an important step in promoting safe and hygienic practices to help children take control of their health, remain in school and ultimately fulfil their potential.