Haiti One Year On: Coordinating to Combat Cholera

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Dr. Ribka Amsalu Tessera, Emergency Health Advisor, Save the Children

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Friday, January 7, 2011

I’ve been in Haiti since December 20 to provide cover for staff enjoying the festive season with loved ones. On Christmas Day I had time to relax – for an afternoon at least – as we enjoyed a turkey lunch. Later we visited three of our cholera treatment units and gave cakes as gifts to our staff working around the clock to prevent the spread of the virus and to save lives. We wanted to show our appreciation. It was a nice thing to do.

Angeline washes her hands to protect against cholera

Angeline washes her hands to protect against cholera.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Today I’ve been in a meeting of the health cluster including WHO – World Health Organization – since we have to prioritize where we are going to focus efforts on combating cholera. With so many cases of cholera now reported across Haiti it really is very important that we coordinate between all the agencies working on containing the cholera spread. It can take a lot of my time in coordination meetings but it is important to ensure we cover all the gaps.

It now looks like the cholera outbreak will last at least another three months, especially in the mountainous regions of Haiti. We’re now working on how we can reach people in these remote areas – another reason why coordination of all the agencies is important.

Educating camp residents about cholera

Hygiene promoter Arcliffe Laguerre leads a discussion on cholera prevention for residents of a Save the Children camp.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Earlier today we had some great news. Medical supplies needed to combat cholera arrived from Europe. We’d been waiting on these supplies for a while. Due to the scale of the cholera crisis in Haiti they’d been in short supply. So it is good they have arrived. But first we must work with our loggies – logisticians – whose job it is to have the supplies clear customs as quickly as possible. Then we can work together to get the supplies to clinics to help people affected by cholera. Hopefully we will get the supplies out and into the clinics very soon.

Today has been a good day.

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Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

 

Malawian Grandmother Takes on the Role of a Lifetime

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Eileen Burke, Save the Children, Director of Media & Communications

Westport, CT

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

 

This post originally appeared on the Healthy Newborn Network

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I read this week that the Associated Press named 88-year-old Betty White 2010 Entertainer of the Year, another honor to add to her long list of accolades as chief comedian. Approaching her ninth decade of life, the beloved Betty shows no signs of slowing down.

I was reminded of a similarly spry octogenarian whom I met in September 2009 during a visit to Save the Children’s health programs in Ekwendeni District in Malawi. Faida Simeza, age 89 (according to voter registration records in her possession), decided late in life to take on a new role as caretaker to moms and newborn babies in her village. It all began one day four years prior when a health worker came to her village to enlist grandmothers and grandfathers (known locally as agogos) in a new training program to help mothers and babies survive pregnancy and childbirth. “I had lived here long enough and had seen so many problems with mothers and newborns. I decided I had to go and find out more,” she told me.

Through the program, agogos are trained to counsel mothers through home visits on proper care during pregnancy and before and after childbirth. They also learn how to alter cultural practices that may be carried out with good intentions but are harmful. Sitting on straw mats under a canopy of trees, Faida and a group of agogos shared some of the changes they had made since the training. “Don’t feed ashes to a woman to speed up labor.” “Don’t apply rat feces to a child’s cord.” and “Don’t place a newborn baby on a banana leaf on the ground – he will get hypothermia.”

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In her role as an agogo, Faida (above) visits Lucy and her one-day-old baby at home.

Faida, though illiterate, works with the local public health officer to meticulously record her visits with women and babies in a book that is kept by the village chief. Since she finished her training, she has helped with the delivery and care of 10 healthy newborn babies in her village.

She will never get Hollywood awards for her role as an “agogo” in her village. But for Faida, walking around her village and seeing babies alive today because of her training is reward enough.

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Eileen Burke visited Ekwendeni last year to help film the Living Proof Agogo VideoRead the recent report on the Ekwendeni Agogo Approach, which includes the training manual and qualitative assessment report.

An Appetite for Change: 2011 Hunger Report on Ending Hunger and Malnutrition

Jessica headshot Jessica Harris

Media Relations Intern, Save the Children

Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

 

The 2011 Hunger Report is a “200 page hooray” for U.S. leadership and focus on global food security, said Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann.  Nodding in agreement were Mr. Beckmann’s fellow panelists, Dr. Rajiv Shah of USAID, Roger Thurow of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Inger Andersen of The World Bank, and Carolyn Miles of Save the Children.

Each night, 925 million people go to bed hungry.  This number, which has increased in past years due to a spike in food prices in 2007-2008, is unacceptable.  In a world of plenty, how is it that so many have to suffer through malnutrition and hunger pains on a daily basis? 

This is the question the panelists addressed today as they discussed the key focus points of the Hunger Report and the programs that will help to reduce the number of malnourished children.  According to Inger Andersen, one in five children worldwide is malnourished.  Save the Children’s Carolyn Miles emphasized that child malnutrition creates lifelong and generational impacts:  growth is stunted, immune systems are compromised, and cognitive function is negatively affected.  The first 1,000 days – from pregnancy to age two – is the critical time for child development.

 


     

In an effort to eradicate hunger, the 2011 report has outlined various programs that focus on linking agricultural practices with good nutrition.  Dr. Shah highlighted ways to introduce farmers to crops such as drought-resistant corn and more nutritional grains, increasing family income as well as improving health.  Carolyn Miles recommended that these programs happen on the ground in an integrated way to ensure that families grow foods packed with nutrition, citing the example of a family in Guatemala that she recently visited.  The family has two sons with a three year age difference, yet both children are the same height and weight because the younger son had the benefit of a Save the Children integrated agriculture, nutrition, and livestock project.

During the question and answer session, one reporter asked Dr. Shah how participating organizations will measure the success of these anti-hunger programs.  Dr. Shah responded by expressing that hunger will not be eradicated in five years.  This is just not feasible. However, the main goal right now is to target five to ten countries, decrease the number of people who go hungry every day, and use those examples to prove that this can be done on a larger scale.  

As the discussion came to a close, the panelists highlighted the most important points to take away from the well received report.  According to Carolyn Miles, it is “critical that we focus on the most vulnerable families.”  In perhaps one of the most powerful statements made Monday morning, Dr. Shah concluded the discussion by calling the fight against hunger the “challenge of our time.”


Sarita’s Story: Helping Students Stay Healthy in Nepal

Sanjana_profile_picture Sanjana Shrestha

Nepal Information Coordinator, Save the Children

Kahtmandu, Nepal 

Friday, November 19, 2010

For Sarita, 15, going to the bathroom during school used to bring fears of being bitten by a snake or embarrassment of having people see her going out in the open.

“The surrounding area of the school has poor sanitation,” explained Surya Prasad Bhatta, a teacher at Chaudyal Lower Secondary School in Kailali District of Nepal, where Sarita is a student. “The students would usually have to go on the river bank or in the jungle due to lack of toilets. It was difficult for them.”

Sartia “It used to take a long time to go to the jungle and come back to school,” added Sarita.

 But two years ago through a Save the Children-supported program the school built four new toilets for boys and four new toilets for girls. 

 “Things are different now,” said Sarita. “We use the toilet, and we don’t have to stand in long lines because we have enough of them. There is privacy, and it is less time-consuming.”

 To keep the restrooms clean, each student contributes two rupees (3 cents) to buy supplies like hand soap, detergent and buckets.  (The money also helps restock the school’s first-aid kit with medicines.)

 The school has set up a daily schedule, assigning each class and the School Health Management Committee to clean the toilets on different days. Inside toilet

Handwashing Helps Prevent Illnesses

 After going to the bathroom at school, children used to crowd around the one hand pump – the only source of water near the school – to wet their hands.  “We didn’t have soap before,” says Sarita.

 Save the Children installed two handwashing stations near the new toilets at school. These stations include pumps that you push by hand to get clean water, a large jug with a spout for pouring the water and soap. Students were taught about the importance of washing their hands to prevent bacteria and viruses, which can cause illnesses, and the proper technique for handwashing.

 “We learned that we should always wash our hands using soap and water before eating, after using the toilet and after touching human waste with your hands,” said Sarita.

 Since the handwashing stations were built, Sarita says fewer of her friends are getting sick, especially from diarrhea.

And, her teacher is seeing changes in the community as well as at school.  “Students have also developed a habit of washing their hands with soap at home,” said Bhatta.

 Outside toitletsThe new restrooms and handwashing stations are part of Save the Children’s School Health and Nutrition program that aims to help children stay healthy and stay in school.  The program includes providing children with access to safe and child-friendly water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and education.  Over the past two years, Save the Children has helped put 355 toilets in schools and preschools in Nepal. And, in 2009 alone, Save the Children installed 489 handwashing stations at Nepali schools.

 

Santosh Mahato,  Save the Children’s Nepal Health Programme Coordinator, contributed reporting. 

The Unknown Killer

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Dr. Bill Frist, Save the Children's Newborn and Child Survival campaign chairman

Nashville, Tenn.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Even some physicians I know are amazed when they hear that the leading killer of children under age 5 in the developing world is pneumonia. Not malaria. Not AIDS. A highly preventable and treatable illness is claiming 1.5 million young lives every year.

 Vaccines exist which can prevent the leading causes of pneumonia and cost-effective antibiotics can treat most cases.  If developing countries had these vaccines and medicines, more than a million children could be saved each year.

 That’s why Save the Children and more than 100 health and humanitarian organizations have joined forces to promote World Pneumonia Day this November 12th. We know if Americans understand that children are dying needlessly, they will take action to help.  

 This is a problem with a proven solution. And few causes can offer a better return on investment.  A course of antibiotics can treat most cases for less than $1. Other low-cost prevention measures include exclusive breastfeeding for six months, ensuring good nutrition, reducing air pollution, washing hands and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. No other interventions currently available have the potential to save children’s lives at this scale.

 So why are we still losing this battle?  Many children who contract pneumonia simply do not get the care they need. Though it is common, it is rarely diagnosed, as few caregivers can recognize the symptoms and begin treatment in time.

 The current critical shortage of 4.3 million health care workers is another reason more children do not receive prompt diagnosis and care. Community health care workers can fill this gap, learning in just a few months of training how to use a simple timer to measure breaths and providing lifesaving care to children in the hardest-to-reach places, where most deaths occur. 

 We need more pneumonia fighters on the front lines. Join the World Pneumonia Day movement and see how breathtakingly easy it can be to save a child’s life.   

Former Republican Senate majority leader Bill Frist, a physician, is chairman of Save the Children’s Newborn and Child Survival campaign.

Save the Children Loves Dirty Words

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, internet marketing and communications specialist

Westport, CT

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

 

For the past two weeks Save the Children has been promoting "dirty words" in a new YouTube series. No, not the dirty words that George Carlin talked about, that's a whole different thing. OUR dirty words are germs, toilets, worms and dirty water.

What's the point?

Our "Dirty Word" series is bringing light to the water, sanitation and hygiene conditions at schools in developing countries, and sharing the simple, inexpensive solutions that are helping children stay healthy so they can stay in school and learn.

We've installed toilets, hand-washing stations and hand pumps, and provided de-worming medicines in about 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America as are part of our School Health and Nutrition programs

Watch our "Dirty Words" YouTube series to learn how simple things, including sanitation and hygiene measures, have benefited school children in Nepal

Fast Facts

  • Each year, children miss 272 million school days because of diarrhea 
  • Two out of three schools in poor countries do not have decent toilets.
  • About 400 million school-age children in the developing world have worms- think about that next time you have a stomach ache.
  • Almost 1 billion people lack clean drinking water globally

Global Handwashing Day is October 15. Help raise awareness by taking part in Global Handwashing Day and sharing our “Dirty Words” YouTube videos.

While the name may sound trivial, our friends from GlobalHandWashingDay.org  explain the impact that the day can have:

"Handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. Together, they are responsible for the majority of all child deaths."

A word from our friends

"The neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of 13 parasitic and bacterial infections [like worms] that affect over 1.4 billion people, but, as their name suggests, they have traditionally received little attention from the international community."

-The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases 

"Water and sanitation are human rights, vital to reducing poverty around the world. Together with good hygiene these essential services are the building blocks for all other development – improving health, education and livelihoods."

-Water Aid

Join Us for Global Handwashing Day on October 15

Handwashing cropped By Save the Children's Manager of School Health and Nutrition in Pakistan

Pakistan

October 8, 2010


Have you washed your hands today?

What may seem to be a common practice to you is not so common in other parts of the world. 

Next week, Pakistan will join countries around the globe to promote “Global Handwashing Day” on October 15. 

Why the need for a Global Handwashing Day? 

Each year, children worldwide miss 272 million school days because of diarrhea. One of the easiest ways to help prevent the spread of diarrhea and other diseases is by washing your hands.  But many school children, including children here in Pakistan, have no access to clean water or soap at their schools.

Last year, on the night before Global Handwashing Day, I received a text message.  It said, “Washing hands with soap can reduce 30% of diarrheal deaths in children.”  Several more text messages rapidly followed, each highlighting the benefits of handwashing.

One of Save the Children’s education officers in Khyber PakhtunKhwa Province (KPK) came up with the idea for the texting campaign as a way to spread the message to a lot of people in a short time.  And, the best part — it cost almost nothing.  He estimates that up to 3,000 teachers, community members and parent-teacher council members at the 150 schools where Save the Children works participated in the texting campaign, sending messages to their family and friends. 

This year, we have lots of fun school activities planned, from poster competitions to skits to street walks with public officials, teachers, community members and children.  

We will be posting photos of some of our activities and others from around the globe here on our blog, so we hope you’ll check back on October 15.  Let us know what you are planning for that day, too.

Looking for a way to get involved?  Why not share Save the Children’s new “dirty word” video on germs and the importance of handwashing.