Each year 1.4 million children around the world die as a result of diarrhea, according to the World Health Organization. Many of those children struggle with diarrhea due to polluted water and poor sanitation facilities.
At ChildFund, we believe that the availability of clean water brings about stability in communities. With a stable water supply, communities then have the opportunity to benefit from our other programs, such as health, education and food security.
Otherwise, many mothers must spend hours of their day walking to a well and waiting in long lines, just to get clean, safe water for their families. Alternatively, mothers send their children to get the water for the family, which often causes children to miss school.
And when water comes from a distant source, communities have little control over its purity.
In the spring of 2009, ChildFund Zambia pilot tested the “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Improvement Training Package for the Prevention of Diarrheal Disease” developed by USAID.
WASH was developed to provide information to outreach workers in organizations worldwide about how to augment current programs or begin new initiatives focused on diarrhea reduction.
“We drill bore holes for the communities without access to water, but we don’t teach them how to make sure that the water they’re gathering is safe for their children,” says Sadia Parveen, reproductive health specialist for ChildFund.
“With these posters, leaflets and brochures that come in the packet, community workers can now educate people on water safety and sanitation practices.”
Included in the three-part training package are knowledge assessments, activities and instructions on the following topics:
- Making Water Safe to Drink: discussing different methods of turning dirty water into safe, drinkable water for different communities.
- Hand Washing: explaining how hands carry germs and encouraging correct hand-washing procedures.
- Handling Feces: explaining how improper disposal leads to contamination and offering suggestions for improving specific community conditions.
- Interpersonal Communication: identifying the need for better communication between families and community members on water, health and sanitation issues.
The main objective of the pilot test in Zambia was not focused on behavior change, but rather to see if the program could be easily adapted across cultural boundaries, as well as if semi-standard messaging translated across diverse communities.
“Mothers in the community told us they felt better knowing how to make sure their water is safe for their families to drink,” says Parveen.
“[The WASH program] is classic ‘evidence-based, best practice’ that we want our projects to adopt and use worldwide,” says David Shanklin, senior health specialist for ChildFund.
Diarrhea in young children is treatable, but also preventable.