As we close out the work of 2016, I am writing to thank you for your support, which is making a lasting difference to the people of Nepal. We are pleased to provide an update on our work in the provinces of Dhading and Dolakha.
Since the 2015 earthquake, one of Concern’s key priorities has been on rebuilding schools and ensuring that students can return and pursue their education. Along with structural rebuilding of the school sites, Concern supported the construction of many temporary learning centers, all of which we have previously reported on. Most of the original school sites were not equipped with adequate water and sanitation facilities, resulting in many health and safety hazards for students and teachers. For example, the lack of clean drinking water and hand-washing facilities increased the risks of contracting diarrhea and various water borne diseases. In addition, students were also sometimes forced to resort to open defecation, further risking their health and safety.
In response to this problem, Concern has implemented services intended to increase access to improved water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in schools in the rebuilt school structures and the temporary learning centers. Concern’s long term goal is to ensure that both teachers and students from earthquake affected areas have access to proper drinking water and sanitation facilities.
Although work on WASH provisions for the schools has been ongoing, a few problems have become apparent and are now being addressed by Concern. First, given the remote location of both of our target districts, Dolakha and Dhading, access to labs that conduct water quality tests is limited. Therefore, Concern is procuring field testing kits for water quality, enabling water testing in the field. The water quality testing kits are of great importance, as the school must monitor the water quality in order to ensure a supply of safe water for students and faculty, especially during the monsoon period.
The water testing kits are affordable, easy to use, and conduct 11 essential tests, including tests for coliform, free residual chlorine, hardness, and color. Through the provision of two training sessions, community members will be trained to use the kits, establishing that they will regularly monitor the condition of the water even after Concern’s role in the project has ended.
A second issue has arisen through a widespread lack of hand-washing in schools. Concern’s sanitation initiatives ultimately aim to reduce the incidence of water borne diseases such as diarrhea, allowing our students to remain healthy and learn to their full potential. This outcome is not possible without the consistent practice of hand washing. In the various field visits undertaken by Concern program staff, it was noted that while Concern had installed hand-washing stations in all targeted schools, the hand-washing stations lacked soap, rendering them ineffective. At the same time, we realized that there is a need to strongly emphasize the importance of hand-washing and hygiene behavior in all the schools, as it is of paramount importance to the health of both the students and the teachers.
In order to promote proper hygiene, both of Concern’s local NGO partners, Action Nepal and Deepjyoti, had previously designed a general hygiene promotion package that focuses on personal hygiene, hand-washing with soap, menstrual hygiene management, and water purification. However, Concern feels that there is a need for a strong campaign focusing exclusively on hand-washing, as it will reinforce the importance of hand-washing at critical moments, the lack of which has been an ongoing problem.
As a part of this campaign, Concern will paint murals focusing on hand-washing with soap in all schools involved in the project, in order to serve as a reminder for students and teachers to always wash their hands with soap and water. This method has been proven to be a successful, popular and cost effective method in Nepal for promoting hand washing. Additionally, each student club will be given a box of hand soap as motivation to wash their hands, and Concern will also encourage the clubs to work with the School Management Committees to manage soap at the school conclusion of the program. A leaflet explaining the importance of hand-washing, also containing the methodology for properly washing hands, will also be distributed to each school.
Concern is looking forward to working to ensure that Nepalese students affected by the earthquake continue to learn in a healthy and positive environment and are able to achieve their full potential. Without your support, our work would not be possible. Thank you!