Making a Community-Wide Change

DSC00180

 Natalie Roschnik, School Health and Nutrition Advisor

Niankorobougou, Malawi

January 9, 2013

Part 1

Today I visited Niankorobougou, a village 45 km South of Sikasso town, which in February 2013 was officially certified a “clean” village in which open-air defecation has been eradicated.  It truly has been a radical transformation from a year earlier when human feces could be found all over the village. P8210035

How did this village change so much in less than a year? The answer is Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), an approach pioneered in Bangladesh that leads communities to feel disgust and commit to making important changes.

  1. Men, women and children led by Save the Children agents and trained community volunteers do the “walk of shame” around the village, noting the feces. Nothing is said but the person responsible feels shame.
  2. They map out the village in the dirt, using white chalk, sticks and leaves to mark the rivers, wells, school and maternity center, then putting little piles of ash to show where they found feces.
  3. The community volunteers lead a few simple activities that make them realize that by defecating in the open air, they are eating and drinking their own feces. The one which made them feel most disgust was when a plate of feces was placed next to a plate of rice. The flies immediately come and go from one to the other. The plate of rice was then offered around and everyone turned their head with disgust. They still made faces when telling me about it a year later!
  4. The community commits to eradicating open-air defecation and improving the hygiene situation in their village.

 

Part 2

 

In Niankorobougou, the community committed to building an additional 10 latrines (in addition to the 45 existing ones) and actually built 18. They also improved the 45 existing latrines to include soap or ash, a cover on the hole and a drain to let stagnating water out. Every well now has sticks planted around to hang the buckets (they used to leave them on the ground) and every Sunday the whole community cleans the village. The men remove grasses and rubbish and the women sweep.

 

Today in Niankorobougou, six months after the village was certified, all those I spoke to – the village elders, the women and sanitation committee members – still feel passionate about keeping their village clean. One woman says that when she visits other villages, she finds them really dirty. Everyone also says the village and children are healthier. There are fewer mosquitoes, fewer flies and fewer health problems, particularly malaria and diarrhea.

 

“Last year in July, we had at least 30 cases of malaria and this year, there have been fewer than 10,” they tell me. They are very proud of their village, and I was so impressed that all these changes came from the communities themselves with no external financial support.

 

Save the Children has implemented this approach in 20 communities realizing equal success in each one. In the next couple of years, the team hopes to scale it up to all 250 of the current sponsorship-supported communities.

Rebati’s Story

Junima headshotJunima Shakya, Sponsorship Manager

Pyuthan, Nepal

December 12, 2012


During my last visit to Chandreshwori Primary School in Pyuthan, a Sponsorship Impact Area in western Nepal, I met Rebati. With her welcoming smile, Rebati works at the school and is very popular among the teachers and students.

I was interested in talking with Rebati after learning that her son, Bikash, is enrolled in the sponsorship program and attend she schools Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Center. Rebati told me that Bikash has already received two letters from his sponsor and happily shares the sponsor’s name, though the foreign pronunciation was difficult for her, and what they had written. Blog_05.0.12_Rebati with school children

33 year-old Rebati left her studies while she was still in the 10th Grade.  She lives with her mother-in-law and two sons, while her husband of seven years works in India as a watchman. 

Her duties at the school include cleaning, serving tea and water to the teachers and students and ringing the bell for the lessons. She also often goes to the local Save the Children field office to collect sponsors letters, medicines and materials.

She has been trained by Save the Children in health and sanitation and is happy to see the changes in the school as a result of the sponsorship programs; better classroom management, an ECCD center and improvements in teachers from the trainings. Children also receive regular health care, stationery and study in a child friendly environment. 

Some of Rebati’s neighbors look down on her work at the school, but it has no impact on her. She proudly states, “I feel very happy when children call me aunty and I see them growing up with good education.” She says she wants to work in the school as long as her health allows her to.

Blog_05.0.12_Rebati ringing school bellWhen asked about her hopes for the future, she shares, “I want my boys to complete their schooling, study medicine, and become doctors or medical assistants. I always dreamt of becoming a nurse and serving sick people.” She is very grateful to Save the Children for our sponsorship program and for giving hope to many mothers like her.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.

When the Rain Comes

Marie photo Marie Dahl, Save the Children protection advisor

Man, Ivory Coast

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


It has been a long day of work and I am finally home. As I sit outside, the pitch black sky is lit up by a distant lightning, revealing the silhouette of the belt of mountains that surrounds Man, the town I’m now living in, in western Ivory Coast. There is no thunder, just lightning, and as soon as it’s gone, the sky returns to darkness. Normally, I would have just enjoyed the beauty of this moment, but this time it’s different. I know that later tonight, when the rain catches up with the lightning, there will be children and families unable to sleep because they have no shelter.

Hundreds of thousands of families were forced to flee their homes in the Ivory Coast after disputed elections in November sparked a major crisis. Now, almost six months after the elections, children are still suffering the devastating consequences. Their homes have been burnt down, schools destroyed, hospitals looted and family members killed.

Right now, 150,000 people are still displaced in the West alone. Thousands of children are without a home, some staying with host families who don’t have the resources to support everyone. Others live in overcrowded camps, struggling to find free space to lay their heads at night, which, for many, still means sleeping under the stars.

Today I visited one of the camps where about 25,000 people are crowded together on the grounds of a local church. The conditions are atrocious. Apart from the need for adequate shelter, there is also a massive shortage of food, clean water, mosquito nets and medical supplies.

As I walked through the busy and narrow alleys of the camp, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of children – they were everywhere. Many of them showed signs of malnutrition and stomach diseases. Some of them would not stop crying.

The amount of need was palpable at the camp, and I was glad that we were there to take action.

While my colleagues work flat out to provide the basic needs of these children, I work to protect children from abuse, violence and exploitation. Despite the disheartening conditions I had witnessed on my visit, I left the camp with a sense of accomplishment. My visit resulted in a successful negotiation for a free space to set up a temporary school and a supervised playground. Children will soon have an opportunity to learn, play, express themselves and have fun together. In the midst of their daily struggles in the camp, children will have a space to leave their hardships aside and just be children.  

Knowing the space was secured; I had completed my mission of the day and our team returned to our base in Man.

Following a sudden brisk wind and a marked temperature drop, the rain arrived to Man, heavy and merciless. I get myself ready for bed and, knowing that this is only the beginning of the rainy season, I can’t stop thinking of the needs of families spending the night outdoors.

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Witnessing Decimated Sendai

Iwoolverton Ian Woolverton, Save the Children Media Manager

Sendai, Japan

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The clock in the vehicle says it's 5:44am, as we pass through a police road block approximately 25 miles from Sendai, the city of more than one million people affected by the tsunami and earthquake.

Even though the roads were empty, it took ten hours to drive this far north from Toyko.

We're in a two vehicle convoy stuffed to the gills with basic essentials such as water, food and toilet paper as well as one van brimming with enough gear to set up a child friendly space.

As the sun starts its slow rise, I make out mountainous silhouettes on either side of the road. The outside temperature is close to freezing and there is thick grey fog. Apart from the cold it is a beautiful place.

I wonder though what unsettling sites await us in the coastal areas of Sendai?

Fact is this is my first experience of a disaster in a developed country, and I can't quiet get to grips with the fact that there is mass devastation ahead.

I'm even more perplexed as we pull into the city. Apart from a large group of Japanese engineers in dark blue uniforms and white hard hats congregated in one ultra-modern office block, there are no clues that a major earthquake occurred here last week.

It's not until you leave the city limits and head north-east that the extent of the tsunami damage, triggered by the earthquake, becomes clear.

Entire fields are full of debris including corrugated iron, furniture, toys, up-turned cars as well as a bewildering array of bits and pieces. It's possible too that human bodies are buried somewhere beneath the rubble.

SENDAI_012_85101Save the Children team leader Stephen McDonald surveys the aftermath of the the earthquake triggered tsunami which devastated Sendai, Japan.
(Photo by Jensen Walker/ Getty Images for Save the Children)
 

The scenes of devastation here remind me of what I witnessed all over Aceh Province following the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

It's horrible to think that children might have been killed in the tsunami, or that some of them might have become separated from their families during the earthquake and disaster.

Over the coming weeks and months in Japan, Save the Children will provide psycho-social support to children in the form of child friendly spaces.

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

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Haiti One Year On: Safer Construction

Paul%20Neale Paul Neale, Program Manager for Safer Construction and Disaster Risk Reduction in Port-au-Prince, Save the Children 

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I have been in Haiti since the end of January 2010 working as the Program Manager for Safer Construction and Disaster Risk Reduction in Port-au-Prince. I came out here with another international NGO as a shelter coordinator, but after their initial distribution of emergency shelter they switched focus to WASH – NGO parlance for water and sanitation health – and job creation for people affected by the earthquake.

So, I joined Save the Children at the end of April – the children’s charity I worked for in Aceh, Indonesia following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004/5.

Our safer construction team in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince consists of six engineers, an assistant and me. Since April we have been strengthening temporary schools, building child friendly spaces and health clinics. Recently our focus has been on constructing cholera treatment units – CTUs.  

In total we have built four CTUs in partnership with Save the Children’s health and WASH teams.  It is my first experience of working in a cholera epidemic, which has so far claimed the lives of 3,600 people in Haiti.

CTU___7_80759Paul works alongside a camp resident to construct the cholera treatment unit in Gaston Magron
Photo Credit: Megan Savage

But what surprised me most is how incredibly easy it is to prevent and treat cholera – simple rehydration solutions will reverse the devastating effects of cholera on the body within one to three days. Obviously the earlier someone gets access to rehydration treatment the quicker they can make a full and speedy recovery.

I remember the first cholera case we had at our cholera treatment unit based at a place called Gaston Margron, where approximately 6,000 people are living in tent camps. It was a nine-year old boy. He was very sick when he arrived, but the next day he sat up looking for something to do – healthy again with the aid of an IV drip and rehydration!

In Haiti safer construction was originally simply called reconstruction. But we wanted to emphasise that Haiti had to build back safer and better. Already we are planning to build ten transitional schools in Port-au-Prince as well as more in Leogane and Jacmel. We hope these schools will act as a model of safer construction methodologies that will be replicated in shelters and other construction projects in the neighbouring communities.  

I’m also involved in managing the final stages of a tender process to appoint a local building contractor to construct schools in all three locations. It has taken time to get to this stage since we had to get our school design approved by the Haitian Ministry of Education. I am looking forward to getting contractors finalised and the start of school construction. It has been an arduous process, and I feel very sorry for the children studying in tent schools.

We also have to ensure the school authorities own the land where we plan to build – a crucial factor since we don’t want to end up in the awful predicament of having to tear down a school because of contested land ownership. And that’s a potential problem here in Haiti since pre-earthquake many of the schools were on rented land.

There are other problems too. There is limited capacity and skills for construction in Haiti. So, whilst we are completing construction projects we have to build the capacity of local tradesman, and monitor their progress carefully to ensure the highest possible building standards.

Port-au-Prince is not a large city, but because of poor road conditions and traffic it can take at least two hours to get to some of our sites. This limits what is possible to achieve each day. Also, most quality construction materials like timber have to be imported from places like the Dominican Republic, which takes time to arrive in country and clear customs. As a result of the cholera outbreak as well as election violence late last year it has been difficult to undertake ‘normal’ activities.

Before signing off I must mention how amazed I am by the resilience and good humour of the Haitian people. They have been through so much in the last year, and yet they always have time and a smile for you. They deserve a break and some luck in 2011. 

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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.

 

Haiti One Year On: Our Work in Pictures

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, Internet Marketing and Communications Specialist

Westport, CT

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

 

2010 was a busy year for Save the Children in Haiti. From the onset of the disaster our Voices from the Field blog kept readers informed about on-the-ground efforts in Haiti. We’ve created four Flickr slideshows that recap the progress we have made in providing relief to Haitians and look ahead at the work remaining to build back Haiti better. 

Miracle Baby Winnie

One of the early glimmers of hope was the rescuing of a baby named Winnie. She was pulled from the rubble by an Australian television crew and quickly treated for dehydration by Save the Children medical staff. In May and October our staff caught up with Winnie who is now a healthy and lively 2 1/2-year-old. Check out the album below to see the newest photos of this “Miracle Baby”.



Livelihoods Project

Cash for work, cash grants and asset recovery vouchers are among the programs that Save the Children supports, specifically targeting the most vulnerable families as identified by their own communities

The most vulnerable include female-headed households and families with one or members who are more chronically ill or living with disabilities. Some cash-for-work projects also reduce future disaster risks – for example, stabilizing river embankments in Jacmel and protecting families’ assets from flooding by cleaning canals in Léogâne. 

Through our support for farmers, fishermen and other small traders, Save the Children is contributing to economic recovery in Port-au-Prince, Léogâne and Jacmel.

These programs will ensure that families can provide food for their children, rebuild their homes and send their children to school.



Getting Schools Back on Track

Education is key to building a better future for Haiti’s children, and it remains one of Save the Children’s top priorities. We have provided tents, furniture and supplies so schools could reopen as quickly as possible, allowing children to learn in safe surroundings and regain a sense of normalcy. In addition, Save the Children has trained 2,300 teachers in disaster risk reduction so they’re prepared in the event of another earthquake and we have distributed school kits which include a backpack, notebooks, pencils and other essential supplies to more than 38,500 children.
 



Cholera Prevention and Treatment

Cholera first struck Haiti in October 2010 for the first time in decades. The global support Save the Children received, allowed us to respond quickly to the outbreak, which had not been seen in Haiti for decades. As cholera continues its deadly spread, Save the Children is intensifying efforts to prevent and treat additional cases in the areas where our health and hygiene teams already have a presence and have relationships with communities. Our health workers — reinforcing an intensive education campaign spearheaded by the government of Haiti and other international organizations — are broadening prevention and education activities to provide families with information about the importance of washing hands with soap, boiling water and seeking medical support at the first sign of illness.We aim to reach 600,000 people in six months with these activities.



On this one-year anniversary, of the earthquake, Save the Children and others have made a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of Haitians who have lost so much. But it is clear that the needs remain great and vast amounts of work lie ahead. The country’s children are both the most vulnerable, and the most resilient of its citizens. Investing in them offers the best chance for a better future for the nation as a whole. The global community must seize the opportunity to support a new Haitian government in creating meaningful change in the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Save the Children is committed to Haiti for the long-term, and the promises that the international community has made to Haiti and its children must be kept.

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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.

Haiti One Year On: Change That Makes A Difference

Shaye Gary Shaye, Haiti Country Director, Save the Children

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I’ve been working in Haiti since April and I’ve seen quite a bit of progress, especially over the past few months. 

But first before I share with you what we’ve doing to help Haiti’s children, let’s take a moment to reflect on the events of January 12, 2010.

As most people know at least 230,000 people died in the earthquake in a country that was tremendously poor even before the disaster. Indeed before the quake only about a third of Haiti’s population had access to safe drinking water, and half of Haiti’s children weren’t in school. 

The quake occurred here in Port-au-Prince – Haiti’s capital – the nerve centre of the heavily centralized country. Not only did the earthquake impact people in Port-au-Prince but also in places like Leogane, and along the south coast. Much of Haiti’s essential infrastructure was damaged, but I was especially shocked to learn that 4,000 schools were destroyed. It was a catastrophic event.

IMGP0268_64470A three-story building reduced to rubble.
Photo Credit: Kate Conradt 

Save the Children immediately responded to the earthquake. Because we’ve had a presence in Haiti for over thirty years we were able to mobilize staff both here and from around the world to mount one of the largest humanitarian responses in the agency’s 91-year history.  

Following the disaster, Save the Children focused on child protection, health, education, and livelihoods. We expanded our programs, and began work in Léogâne, as well as Jacmel, which is located along the southern coast where we had not previously operated.

Until recently there were 1.3 million people, about sixteen per cent of Haitians, living in tents. When I say tents we’re really speaking of plastic sheets and poles. These are not tents that people would take camping anywhere in the world. These are tents that are more like kite plastic held up by a few wooden poles. To believe it you really have to see the situation in which people are living. It is a standard below what I would say is sub-human.

HAITI-8552_71137Residents outside their tents at the Camp de Fraternite shelter camp.
Photo Credit: Lee Celano/Getty Images for Save the Children

During a strong hurricane there is absolutely no way that these plastic sheets and poles will withstand the wind and rain.

Beyond that another 500,000 people relocated to live with family and friends in rural areas. They’re part of the hidden earthquake-affected population that are not visible. They place a huge burden on their families in the rural areas who already had a hard time feeding themselves before the earthquake. Now these families have permanent houseguests who didn’t just come for a meal or a visit, but for the unforeseeable future.

The challenges that we face are multiple. The government, which was not strong before the earthquake, was further weakened since the disaster took the lives of many government workers as well as destroyed much of the existing infrastructure. Although NGOs have some successful partnerships with the government, more often than not the NGOs themselves either provide the service like, say, a health service, or it does not exist. All of us would certainly prefer that this was not the case, but this our reality.  

An example of that would be the fact that 80 per cent of the schools are privately owned in Haiti. These are not private schools like in Europe, the United States, Canada or Australia. These are schools whose owners operate them in the community as a service or small business. Many of these schools were destroyed last January, and many of the families whose children attended these schools can no longer afford the annual school fees of a few hundred dollars. As a result too many children are missing out on the chance of an education.

But when our team and I talk to Haitians, education is always the highest priority. It’s where they want to invest in their children’s future. It’s critical to them that these private schools open as soon as possible. That’s why in 2011 Save the Children will partner with 154 schools through teacher training and resource materials, enabling 45,000 children to get an education.

DSC_6683_74579Students file into a Save the Children school in Port-au-Prince.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

On top of the quake in late October cholera came to Haiti starting in the Central Plateau, and has now expanded throughout the country. As of today, there have been 3,600 deaths as well as over 150,000 confirmed cholera cases.  

But these are just the reported cases. Many people living in rural areas don’t have access to cholera treatment centres, where literally within one to three days a person who has cholera can walk out healthy. 

The tragedy though is that we can save lives from cholera, but then people walk back into the conditions which are breeding grounds for the potentially deadly bacteria – dirty water, poor sanitation, and crowded conditions – all of which contribute to the rapid spread of cholera, and if left unchecked, can be deadly, especially to young children.

R10-HA___2021_81255Will, 3-years-old, washes his hands at a Save the Children health clinic.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Nevertheless Save the Children is saving lives through our tensoon to be sixteen cholera treatment units, and also through our water and sanitation community outreach programs where we promote safe hand washing, and basic sanitation practices. While these are simple practices we need to reinforce the messages and repeat them over and over, while also addressing basic sanitation issues. 

However, in a country where only half the people have completed fifth grade, it’s a challenge to get our message out about safe sanitation practices.

One year since the earthquake we understand why some people would be disappointed with the slow pace of recovery in Haiti, and why things are not better.  All of us working here would very much like to accomplish more. But it’s important to remember that things were bad in Haiti – the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation – long before the quake.

Nevertheless we see progress. These past weeks I have visited programs together with some of our Save the Children supporters from around the world. I was in Leogane – the epicentre of the earthquake – where one could see rubble clearance, evidence of rebuilding, people restoring family assets, and refurnishing their houses. There is definitely a commitment and steps being taken here to help rebuild lives. 

That said the process has been slow.  All of us would admit to that – all of us who work cooperatively within Haiti’s NGO community. Indeed after I finish writing this blog I will attend the weekly meeting of NGOs where we share what’s working, what’s not working, and what type of support we need. We ask ourselves what we can do collectively to improve the situation. 

I’m proud to say that since January 12, 2010, Save the Children has extended a lifeline to over 870,000 Haitians – more than half of them children. Today we continue to work with local partners, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and others to bring basic services to the Haitian population.

I believe in our work in Haiti. I believe we do make a difference. On Wednesday I visited the Eddie Pascal School – a school that was destroyed during the quake. Now children study in tents. In schools like these, where we provide assistance like teacher training, it is a delight to see Haiti’s children receive an education. And with all of the constraints that we face, I am pleased when I see one more child in school, and another child receiving quality medical care as well as lives being saved at one of our cholera treatment units. While seeing progress on a one-by-one basis may seem slow, it is precisely the kind of change that does make a difference.

R10-HA___1759_80097Rose, 10-years-old, attends a Save the Children school in Leogane.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

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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.

 

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.

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

 

Cyber Monday Gift Ideas

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, Internet Marketing and Communications Specialist

Westport, CT

Friday, November 26, 2010

 In 2005 some cooky marketing wiz came up with the idea that by combining two American staples, shopping and the internet, people could avoid the torturous, chaotic Black Friday experience, cut down on emissions (since you don’t have to drive anywhere!) and still get great bargains for the holidays. We call this wonderful day, Cyber Monday. 

Last year on Cyber Monday consumers spent nearly $890 million dollars online.

Well here at Save the Children we can’t help but imagine the difference we could make if just a fraction of that money was spent on responsible, meaningful holiday gifts.

On Cyber Monday (or anytime between now and the end of the year) we encourage you to forfeit the commuting and the crowds and go green with a gift from the Save the Children Gift Catalog.

Here are a bunch of great eco-themed gifts that people of all ages are sure to love! 

Sheep

Cute cuddly animals like sheep, goats and cows are a valuable source of food and protein-rich dairy AND much-need source of income

 

Corn-credit needed

Veggie gardens grow food AND healthy bodies & minds. Help another garden grow this holiday season

 

Water pump

One billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water. Your gift to our Clean Water Fund helps provide safe, clean, life-giving water to children families who currently have access to life’s most vital resource.

Still unsure? Check out the catalog or donate to our Global Action Fund

Happy Shopping!

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.