Better health and hygiene practices improve health and lives in Pakistan

“I used to scavenge through the heaps of trash bare footed to collect scrap to fetch some extra money for myself but after becoming aware about health and hygiene practices, I do not do so, to stay clean and protected from germs and disease,” said Basit Ali,11, a fifth grader from Abbass Kalley in Charsada.

Years of insecurity, disasters and limited access to basic health services in the Khyber PakhtunKhwa province has left the area vulnerable to disease. World Vision is working with partners to strengthen health and hygiene and Water and Sanitation Health (WASH) services in the 30 most vulnerable villages in Charsadda and Nowshera districts, targeting 13,972 households with a total population of 105,716, consisting of Afghan Refugees/IDPs and host community families.

To reduce the risk of disease and increase awareness of the importance of good hygiene, World Vision through its implementing partner Pakistan Community Development Programme (Pak-CDP), trained 22,715 men and women on personal, domestic, community and environmental hygiene, sanitation and home-based management of child illnesses through a female doctor and Community Project Officers.

The trainees learned about how diseases are transmitted and how hand-washing, safe food preparation and proper waste disposal all help to prevent disease.

Children’s lives can be much healthier through social mobilization, widespread health and hygiene awareness, increased access to clean drinking water, attention to keeping a clean environment and by other simple, low cost interventions, said Sahibzada Amir Kamal Bacha, World Vision’s Project Coordinator for Environment Health and Sanitation Reforms (EHSAR) project.

This EU-funded waste management project will contribute to better environmental hygiene in the village. Through social mobilization, the project has enthused villagers and religious, political and traditional leaders around water, sanitation and hygiene transformation.

Sher Zaman, a school teacher at Government Primary School, Abbass Kalley, and an Imam (clergy) in the village mosque said, “Women folks now come and ask us who has made our children aware of health and hygiene practices, who now, not only stay clean themselves but also stress upon us to adopt good hygiene practices at home as well.”

As a result of trainings, many children now observe hygiene practices like hand and teeth washing, hair care, bathing, etc. They also encourage their teachers, families and communities to adopt correct hygiene practices, for example hygienic cooking and proper waste management. A village level health and hygiene movement has been initiated through 204 “peer to peer” sessions led by children to spread hygiene messages in schools, households and the wider community. Boys and girls also participated in the ‘keep our communities clean’ activities.

“Cleanliness awareness came to us for the first time. Our women were not aware of health and hygiene practices and did not even know about the use of tooth paste, they have come out of the dark because of Health and Hygiene awareness,” remarked Abdul Ghaffar, from Behram Kalley in Nowshera.

“We used to draw water from the open wells and the water pumps which were only 20 to 25 feet deep, the water quality from these pumps was not good, causing various waterborne diseases among people, especially the children (stomach, teeth diseases, fever and diarrhea). But the water pumps installed by World Vision and Pak-CDP under EHSAR project are at least 120 feet deep. The water from these hand pumps is clean and tested to be good from the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research laboratories. This has considerably reduced the instances of illnesses in our village, thanks to World Vision and Pak-CDP,” continued Abdul Ghaffar.

“The hygiene promoters came to our school and we learned about hand washing, the importance of using toilets, and keeping safe from diseases. Previously I used to go home from school and start eating with dirty hands; now I ensure washing my hands before sitting to eat,” said 13 year old, fourth grade student, Faizur Rehman. “We also wash the cricket ball if it falls into a dirty open drain, before playing with it again,” he continued.

“I wash my hands with soap thoroughly before eating and using bathroom, take bath regularly, brush my teeth with a tooth paste and cut my nails as they cause diseases,” said Syed Noor, 11, a student of class five.

These project initiatives will result in improved child well-being through health and hygiene programs and bring a healthy change in the lives of the villagers. 510 hygiene kits were distributed among the poor and vulnerable families to improve the existing health care, water and sanitation programmes.

The material assistance provided, which included wheel barrows, spades, sprinklers, Tractors and Tractor Trolleys, will assist local level solid waste management in the target villages, consisting of some 12,000 households.

“We used to throw garbage on the streets, which would lay scattered everywhere, now we dispose of garbage only at the designated dustbins instead of spreading it in streets,” said Naamdar Khan, 60, from Behram Kalley.

This assistance, provided through the European Union funded EHSAR project, will further support the same villages and people to access clean water through 262 water hand pumps, construction of 197 waste bins for solid waste management, construction of 30 communal water and bathing places (currently being constructed), and provision of 500 household level latrines by World Vision, in partnership with Pak-CDP.

“Communal bathing place is yet another remarkable facility by the project when completed, which can be used by our women folks for washing, bathing and drinking purposes in privacy,” said Akhtar Shah, 54, from Khan Mai village in district Charsada. “We have constructed it next to our girls Madrassa (religious school for girls) so that both can benefit from the facility,” he further said.

The situation however remains complex and fluid. Continued support will be required to serve vulnerable families, not only in the existing areas but also with education, Health and Nutrition camps and host communities.