Village HopeCore staff members were witnessing high morbidity in school-age children and infants from preventable childhood illnesses, particularly respiratory infections and diarrhea related diseases. The plan was to pair schools and Village HopeCore’s mobile health clinics with key programs that promoted health and prevented illness among school children. The program includes hand washing stations with soap and clean drinking water tanks for schools.
To date, with funding from Children’s Hunger Relief Fund (USA) and Giving Hands/Gebende Haende (Germany), HopeCore has installed water purification systems and hand washing facilities with soap in all 180 schools of the equivalent of a United States school district, the Maara Sub-County – an accomplishment never before heard of in Eastern Africa! These critical services currently help over 45,000 school children and their teachers.
We started by selecting the closest schools, with the greatest need, and a stable water source to be the first recipients of small tanks for hand washing and larger tanks for storing treated drinking water. Within 3 months of implementing the project, the teachers and clinical team at HopeCore noticed a reduction in diarrheal disease and a significant improvement in students’ health. Children are missing fewer days of school and are able to concentrate on the pursuit of education rather than dealing with recurrent intestinal illnesses.
Our dedicated staff continue to restock, monitor, and maintain these tanks by visiting all schools at least once a month. When visiting the schools, the team ensures that tanks are in working order, there is soap present at the hand washing stations, and the water has been treated. Learn more about the WASH monitoring process from Dave Mwandiki, WASH Program Monitor, by reading his blog.
Another component of our WASH program involves students in the schools’ health clubs. Still in its pilot phase, the school-to-community program is currently being run by HopeCore’s Junior Global Public Health Fellow who visits health clubs to give them detailed lectures about hygiene and encourage them to spread this knowledge to their families, neighbors, and communities as Junior Community Health Workers. Over 250 students are currently participating in this still-expanding program.
Looking towards the future, HopeCore is currently in the planning stages of kicking off a large component of our hygiene program: a soap enterprise. Upon visits to schools to monitor their tanks, our workers have observed difficulties in always providing important hand washing soap at our hand washing stations due to the cost of soap. We hope to alleviate this difficulty by producing soap at HopeCore and selling it to schools, and the communities in general, at a very low cost. We are very thankful to have the support of our partners from the Ministry of Education, Sub-County Education Officer Mr. Karati, and the Ministry of Health, Sub-County Public Health Officer Mr. Kamwalio for this new project.
On 15 October 2014, HopeCore was proud to be recognized by the Tharaka Nithi County Government with a certificate for contributing greatly to the hygiene of its school children with our WASH Program. HopeCore was invited to be an honored guest at the county’s Global Hand Washing Day celebration. Read more about this recognition here.