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

SenFrist Final

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.