Helping Children Survive to 5 in Bolivia

 
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Oct 27, 2010

Safe Water and Healthy Practices

Yordi: Helping his Family through Safe Water and Healthy Practices

In 2008, Save the Children began implementing a health education program in the city of El Alto, Bolivia one of the poorest areas in La Paz Department as well as the country. In the Gran Poder neighborhood, for example, there is no easy access to basic sanitation services and as a result, intestinal infections are common in this unprotected population – especially in younger children. In Save the Children’s 2008 baseline study, we learned that 22 percent of children had giardiasis[1], a diarrheal infection largely associated with poor hygiene/sanitation and the consumption of contaminated water or food.

Yordi, a 9 year-old fourth grader, lives in Gran Poder and goes to the Santísima Trinidad School. Yordi’s family includes his mother, father, four-year-old brother in kindergarten, and a three-year-old sister named Milenka. With his classmates, Yordi participated in Save the Children’s Improving Our Lives (Mejorando Nuestra Vida). In this program, Yodi learned about the importance of better hygiene practices and safe water consumption. For example, he learned how to disinfect water and avoid diarrhea through the simple SODIS method.[2]

Yordi tells us, "Now I practice SODIS in my house." He also said that his little sister Milenka used to drink water from the sink and get sick with diarrhea: "Her tummy really hurt and I felt sorry to see her feel so bad." When he learned about SODIS in Improving Our Lives, he started making two bottles every day so that his family had safe water to drink.
Yordi's mother, Maria, says her son places two bottles every day in a small, outside hut. Yordi told her that he learned this in school and that if they drink SODIS water, his little sister will not have diarrhea. “Before this program, nobody was worried about children…but now, even little children say that they must wash their hands.” Rephrasing Yordi’s words, Maria tells us: “We can prevent sickness by just washing hands.”
In addition to safe water through SODIS, Yordi taught his mother how to prepare Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), how to drink it slowly and properly, and why ORS is important. Maria noted that when her daughter Milenka had diarrhea, she was so upset and nothing worked – Milenka kept vomiting and getting worse. “It was as if she had deflated like a balloon.” By attending parent workshops through Improving Our Lives as well as Yordi’s knowledge about ORS, Maria saw Milenka recover and get back to normal: “It was as if the balloon reinflated after taking ORS.” Escuchar

Yordi is one of 195,289 children in Bolivia who participated in Improving Our Lives and now shares vital health information with family members.

After three years of school health and nutrition programming, Save the Children saw demonstrated improvements in children’s knowledge and health practices:

  • The percentage of children that properly washed their hands before eating increased from 8.3% to 90%.
  • The percentage of children who could explain why and when it is important to take Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) increased from 5.5% to 38.7%.
  • The percentage of children who did not know how to prepare ORS decreased from 84.6% to 33.6%.

Save the Children implemented Improving Our Lives in four departments throughout Bolivia in both rural and urban settings.


[1] Giardiasis is also known as giardia, and for people with compromised immune systems it can be deadly. In children, giardia can lead to malnutrition and poor physical growth or “failure to thrive.”

[2] Through SODIS, children put water in clear plastic bottles – usually soda bottles – and set them out in the sun on a simple structure with a corrugated tin roof to disinfect the water. SODIS has proved to be particularly beneficial for children in rural areas with limited access to safe water.

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Megan McLain

Manager, Corporate Partnerships
Westport, CT United States

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