Washing Hands to Stay HealthyBy Lun Loeurt
“I had terrible diarrhoea when I was ten. I was immediately sent to a local health centre and missed the final exam,” recalls Sreynai. “After I recovered from diarrhoea, I got typhoid fever and had to undergo two weeks of treatment, but I chose to continue going to school during the treatment.”
The 12-year-old girl is a sponsored child of World Vision in Banteay Meanchey Province, Cambodia. Now in grade 6, Sreynai is very good at maths and Khmer. As her parents have been working in Thailand since she was young, she lives with her grandparents who also take care of her brother and her aunt’s family.
“The doctor told me that I should drink clean water and eat cooked food. I have reflected that the reason I got diarrhoea and typhoid was because I did not wash my hands and drink clean water,” says Sreynai.
According to a baseline survey for Community and School Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (CS-WASH) that World Vision conducted in 2016, 58% of all interviewed households reported that there were at least two critical times to wash their hands; before eating and after defecating. 66% of students also reported that they washed their hands.
In 2016, World Vision, through the support of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, started implementing Community and School WASH projects in Banteay Meanchey Province. World Vision partners with the provincial offices of education and rural development, as well as health centres and the commune committee for women and children to empower disadvantaged groups, such as children, people with disabilities, girls and women. This is not only so that they could benefit from water facilities, but also enable them to take leadership roles and manage the water resources themselves.
Hand washing, improved sanitation practices and safe drinking water are main indicators from the Ministry of Rural Development and one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Sreynai’s school is one of World Vision’s target schools in the province. “In 2017, there were 410 students in my school. 5% of them were absent because they got diarrhoea and typhoid. Most of the students absent were between 6 to 10 years old and came from poor families. We found that they lacked hygiene and drank unsafe water,” says Mr. In Sol, the school’s 44-year-old director.
Seeing the difficulties of the students, Mr. In Sol and his colleagues started taking action with the school’s support committee and local authorities to seek the support of World Vision to gain access to a piped water connection system. Next, the school committee decided to ask World Vision to build group hand washing stations, in order to promote hygiene and develop good hygiene habits among students.
“I found that the group hand washing stations were very helpful for improving students’ personal hygiene. In this academic year, the number of students who were absent because of diarrhoea and typhoid has reduced from 5% to 3%, as they now regularly wash their hands before eating and after defecation,” says Mr. In Sol. “However, the 3% is still our big concern because the teacher’s guidance is limited. We are committed to monitoring their health and helping them stay healthy,” he continues.
“Now I am healthy because I always wash my hands before eating and after getting out of the latrine, and I also drink clean water. This group hand washing station has helped me and my friends access hand washing everyday as a habit. When I play on the ground and my hands get dirty, I can freely go to wash my hands. In the future, I want to be a teacher because I hope to help more children to be a smart student like me,” expresses Sreynai.
“From my observation, the school has improved quite a lot. The students have more chances to practise hand washing through the new school curriculum set by the teachers. They can practise hand washing in class, because there is room at the group hand washing station for everyone and they are really enjoying washing with their friends,” says Mr. Sou Sam Ang, Senior Project Manager for CS-WASH project.