ORBIS Provides Training in Schools on Personal Hygiene
The remote mountainous region of Bonke Woreda in Gamo Gofa southern Ethiopia is a lot more lush and green than you would expect. There is significant rainfall here each year during the two rainy seasons; March to June and September to November. However, as this region is very poor and extremely difficult to access, particularly during the rainy seasons, there is no proper infrastructure in place to collect this rain water. Therefore, clean water can be very difficult to access and mothers and children often have to walk up to 10km to the closest well.
Bonke has a population of 167,000 with families living in clusters and in very modest huts. With clean water difficult to collect, there is often an emphasis on using this water for cooking rather than personal hygiene. This creates an environment where disease such as the blinding eye disease - trachoma - can spread easily from person to person.
ORBIS provides training to teachers on the SAFE strategy which has been adopted by ORBIS in the fight against avoidable blindness. The SAFE strategy includes surgery to correct the blinding effects of trachoma, antibiotics to fight the bacterial infection, education on the importance of face washing and personal hygiene and improving the environment by building latrines and providing access to clean water. The teachers educate the children on all facets of the SAFE strategy including the importance of hand and face washing. As the children’s habits change in school, they then in turn influence their families and the broader community.
During a recent visit to Bonke, we visited Tsekele School nestled in the hills in the most beautiful setting. As all the kids gathered in the central area between the buildings, we were shown signs around the school on how to wash your hands properly, how to wash your face and how with clean hands and clean faces we can fight avoidable blindness together. We were also shown the newly built latrine which was funded by ORBIS, and the signs encouraging the kids to use the latrine and wash their hands afterwards. Outside the latrine was a very basic but effective plastic container with a tap allowing the kids access to clean water to wash their hands. Every day this container is taken to a well by some of the children where it is filled and brought back to the school to ensure that all of the kids have access to clean water with which to wash their hands.
After our tour of the school we were brought back to the central area where the children treated us to singing and dancing. Their songs included one about the importance of washing your hands and face. Without this vital education, these children would not have the knowledge to help themselves and would be stuck in a cycle of re-infection of trachoma which would lead eventually to visual impairment and subsequent blindness. Giving these children the knowledge of the importance of personal hygiene empowers them to change their own future. With your help they can be the first generation of children to grow up without the threat of avoidable blindness.
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