Haiti One Year On: Coordinating to Combat Cholera

Dr_Ribka_Amsalu

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.

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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. 

A Hands-On Approach to Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation in Schools.

Jessica headshotJessica Harris

Media Relations Intern, Save the Children

Washington, D.C.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blue skies and sunshine abounded as I walked down Connecticut Avenue yesterday morning on my way to the Academy for Educational Development’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene event. Birds were chirping, people were sharing a laugh on a street corner, and I even caught myself humming a tune as I approached the AED building.

This feeling of joy soon dissappeared as I began to tour the WASH exhibit.

Did you know that 50% of schools worldwide do not have access to clean water?  As I read the children’s stories from developing countries that are currently displayed in the AED exhibit, I chastised myself for being so naïve to the plights of others.

As the crowd found their seats, Jon Hamilton of NPR introduced us to Jack Downey of AED, Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and the three panelists who would be speaking.

In total, seven people addressed the audience. The message, however, was the same.  By implementing WASH programs in schools in developing countries, we are improving the quality of life for the students as well as their families.

Tippy station

A "Tippy Station", complete with water, soap, and hand towels, was available for attendees to take turns washing their hands during the event.

Denise Knight, Water Sustainability Manager for The Coca-Cola Co., shared a story that highlighted the importance of providing clean water to developing countries.

During one visit to a community in which WASH programs were just being introduced, one community member said that they had been getting their water from the nearby stream for as long as she could remember. It had never dawned on them that the water was contaminated. It was, though, and the community had had its fair share of loss because of the dirty water. At the time, there was only one child under the age of 5 still living in the town.

Stories like these make you stop and think about how lucky we are. I rarely question whether I will be able to wash my hands with soap and water when I use the restroom or sit down to eat. Even less common is my fear of contracting an illness like worms or hepatitis from tainted water. To take this one step further, and to be completely honest, I have never thought about dying from contracting a preventable illness like diarrhea.

This is a real fear, though, for many children across the globe: 1.5 million children die from diarrhea annually.

As I left the WASH event today I felt as though I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Here I had been enjoying listening to my iPod and drinking my $5 Starbucks coffee just two hours earlier, and now I could not stop thinking about the millions of children to whom contamination and severe illness are an everyday threat due to the lack of clean water.

The work done by organizations like Save the Children, UNICEF, AED, and others is commendable and, in reality, a lifesaver.

_______________________

Update:

Today, October 15,  is Global Handwashing Day. Bloggers around the world are raising awareness of the topic by posting about water as part of Blog Action Day, an annual event intended to spark global action. 

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.

WASH on The Hill

Jessica headshotJessica Harris

Media Relations Intern, Save the Children

Washington, D.C.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dr. Pamela Young's message was heard loud and clear Wednesday morning at the “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Schools in the Developing World” briefing on Capitol Hill, moderated by Save the Children's Seung Lee, head of our global school health and nutrition programs. If the issue at hand is affecting children, get the children involved.     

Dr. Young, the PLAN representative, spoke this morning about water and hygiene programs in developing countries, primarily in schools.     

PLAN, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, and many other groups are working across the globe to teach basic hygiene practices, provide clean water, and install latrines, for the students to use and to boost school enrollment.     

“The key challenges boil down to two things”, said Dr. Dennis Warner of Catholic Relief Services. “The first is getting the children into school.  The second is keeping them there.” He added that by improving sanitation, which in turn improves the health and well-being of children, more students will be able to attend school on a regular basis. 

Watch our "Dirty Words" video to find out how Save the Children improved sanitation conditions in Nepal    


 

Three high school students from H.B. Woodlawn Secondary Program in Arlington, Va., highlighted the need to improve conditions for children in developing countries. These high school juniors, along with other members of their class, are involved with H2O for LIFE, which stands for Help 2 Others, a school-to-school program that was founded by a group of teachers in Minnesota.

Water_Hygiene 001

Cecilia Allen, Delaney Steffan, Mary Shields of H.B. Woodlawn High School, and Seung Lee of Save the Children pose outside of the briefing room with the Washington Monument in the background.

The group’s mission is to make a difference; their plan is to take it one step at a time. Mary Shields, one of the students, emphasized this when she said “anything you do is at least something.” This fact, often lost in the theory that one person cannot create change, is vital to the cause. Every little bit helps.    

On a side note, this was my first Capitol Hill briefing and I have to say I was impressed with the attitude these students had about helping others. For people that age to focus on saving lives in countries they have never even visited is a testament to their understanding that they are citizens of a global community.      

I look forward to attending more briefings and am honored to be a part of Save the Children…at least until December!

45,000 Children and Families Hardest Hit by the Sumatra Earthquake Get Life-saving Relief from Save the Children

Ed. note: Two-and-a-half weeks after a magnitude-7.9 earthquake shattered West Sumatra, Save the Children has provided critical shelter and relief items to 8,676 households, or 44,380 people, 60 percent of them children.

Ingrid Lund, Save the Children, communications officer, Padang, Indonesia

Ingrid_web The village Batu Basa lies in the hills in Aur Malintang district in West Sumatra. This area was hard hit by the earthquake. Here 90–95 percent of the population can no longer live in their houses, which are completely destroyed or in danger of collapsing.

Today, Save the Children is distributing hygiene kits in Batu Basa. The rain is pouring down. Therefore, the distribution is taking place inside a large, green tent the government has erected next to the narrow road that passes through the village. The tent has no floor. Four men sits on plastic chairs. In a corner are three younger men and a boy relaxing and leaning against some cardboard boxes from Save the Children containing the hygiene items.

 

"This is a very difficult situation for all of us. My house was completely destroyed in the earthquake. Now 15 peopl, me included, are sleeping in thhis tent. We have nowhere else to go. When it rains like this, everything inside the tent gets soaking wet," Says Hari.

 

Save the Children staff are working round the clock to deliver relief to the most vulnerable children and their families.

 

The agency plans to reach 150,000 people — among them 90,000 children — with shelter, household and hygiene kits. These kits include plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, a cook stove, pots, pans, cutlery, soap, toothbrush, detergent and other hygiene items. 

 

(Pictured below, more than 8,400 shelter kits being unloaded from the first of three airplanes bringing supplies.)

 

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Save the Children has been able to quickly deliver vital supplies to the worst-hit areas because we had items stored in warehouses in Indonesia before the earthquake. Indonesia is prone to natural disasters, and we know that advance preparation is the key to saving lives and mitigating the effects of a crisis,” said Peter Sykes, Save the Children’s team leader in West Sumatra.

Save the Children has worked in Indonesia for over three decades. In recent years, it has responded to nearly all minor, medium-sized and major natural disasters in the country.

In addition to providing immediate relief to children and families after a disaster, the agency helps communities prepare for emergencies and develop the capacity to reduce risks posted by disasters in the future.

Learn more about Save the Children's emergency response in the Asia-Pacific region.

Save the Children Provides Supplies to Crowds in Indonesia

Allison Zelkowitz, program manager

Padang, Indonesia

Allison's blog appears on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 blog page.

October 11, 2009, 11:26 PM

Allison Zelkowitzrszd10.12.doc Our distribution teams had a packed day – with just 14 people, we managed to provide nearly 1,500 families with hygiene kits and household items such as a small gas stove, cooking pots and utensils, mosquito nets and blankets.

Before I arrived in Padang eight days ago, I never knew how much planning, organizing and effort goes into providing needed supplies, or “NFIs,” as they’re called in humanitarian aid lingo. NFIs stands for non-food items.

Besides selecting, procuring, storing, shipping and transporting NFIs, distributing them requires an intensive process. First, Save the Children staff members meet with community leaders, assess the damage in each community, determine each community’s need and help community leaders develop a list of recipients — the people who most need them.

The actual distribution of NFIs usually begins the next day, and that’s when it can get tricky. The goal is to make sure the right goods get to the right families, while maintaining a secure environment for those who are receiving items, as well as for those who are distributing them. Crowds are sometimes unpredictable. 

This evening, as my team began our final distribution of the day, I worried a bit since the crowd seemed more eager than usual, pushing against the tape barrier and repeatedly venturing into the distribution area. But once the distribution process began, the tension somehow turned into festivity.

NFIsindonesia One community member stationed himself at the distribution area exit and blew a shrill whistle at anyone who tried to cross the line. He did this with such zeal and humor that every time he warned someone away, the crowd broke into laughter. Children raced around the perimeter, and neighbors teased each other as they hefted the large boxes away.

At one point, I looked around at the more than 100 faces around me, and realized how impressed I was with the resiliency of people here. About 90 percent of them – children, women and men – no longer have a home. And yet there they were, just one week later, smiling, joking and truly enjoying the moment. 

Learn more about Save the Children's emergency response in the Asia-Pacific region.