Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Namankesu: Using Partnerships in WASH Education

The past two weeks have been a blur of meetings, educations sessions, and activities for the WASH team. Our first community-wide WASH sensitization saw a crowd of over 60 community members. As the majority of our village residents are Muslim, we decided to have our sensitization at the largest mosque in Namunkesu with an ideal location in the center of the village and next to the community health center. After a heartfelt speech from the Local Council 1 Chairperson, we proceeded to address the main issues of water, sanitation and hygiene in the village: the spread of germs, the safe water chain, and the components of a healthy home: a pit latrine, kitchen, trash pit, washroom, plate stand, and tippy tap. We did our best to use a combination of methods including posters, visual demonstrations, skits, and storytelling to relay our message in a fun and engaging way. The skit, which was written by one of our Ugandan team members, was a particular hit among the attendees and drew giggles. As the sensitization went on, it was evident that community members were knowledgeable about WASH issues and understood the consequences of unhygienic practices. Lastly, we wrapped up the sensitization with a raffle where one community member won a free tippy tap which would be constructed by our team the following week.

A tippy tap is a device constructed from local materials that simplifies and encourages handwashing at critical times throughout the day. With a few stout pieces of wood, a small jerry can, nails, and string, anyone can construct a tippy tap within a few hours. The winner of our raffle provided her own wood and jerry can while we provided the string, nails, and labor. With the help of Michael, a VHT, and a local neighbor, we were able to construct a sturdy and aesthetically pleasing tippy tap which was constructed next to the kitchen; our hope is that the placement of the tippy tap will promote handwashing before cooking and eating food.

Here is a picture of the proud team, laborers, and the winner of the tippy tap.

The following week we began working in our second village, Nawansega, about a 3 mile distance from our house in Namunkesu. We met the VHT's of the village, nine extremely hardworking women, who showed us around the community. The village is so large that it had recently been split into two sides A and B, each with its own local council. To complete the village tour in one day we had to split into two groups, each paired with VHTs. One of our main priorities as WASH team was to observe where community members drew their water and the condition of existing water sources. we had a particularly interesting experience at one such water source which was a large pond. When we approached the water source there were about 30 people surrounding the pond performing a ritual. Those gathered around the pond believed that the water source was inhabited by a demon who made the water dirty and unfit for drinking. A local further explained to use that they were burning herbs and preparing to sacrifice a chicken to please the demon and make the water clean.

A woman drawing water from the filthy pond
Such instances show the challenges we face as a WASH team and the misconceptions of contaminated water that can exist in communities.

Based on what we discovered during the Nawansega village tour, we organized a community-wide WASH sensitization which was held the following week. Titus, a UVP employee, connected us to another organization called H4HD (Hope for Health and Development) which also focuses on WASH and specializes in building protected springs in Iganga. With the added firepower of our partnership, we were able to successfully advertise our sensitization to the entire community. Our partnership with H4HD is indicative of the relationships which UVP seeks to foster with the local government, community and other organizations to improve health efficiently and extend its reach to other communities. The subsequent WASH sensitization in Nawansega attracted 96 community members, all of whom were actively engaged throughout the meeting.

Our WASH sensitization in Nawansega

We also held our first school sensitization at Nabikoote Primary School. With a student population of 630, our team of six was faced with the daunting task of spreading knowledge of hygiene to the pupils while keeping order. We held this sensitization with high priority since children are generally more receptive to new ideas and susceptible to behavior change than adults. With grades 1-3, we sang songs about washing hands and keeping the body clean with added motions to keep the pupils entertained while using illustrative games and demonstrations with grades 4-7 to instill knowledge of proper hygiene. Our hopes are that the pupils of Nabikoote Primary School were able to digest the topics discussed and take them back home to their parents, families, and friends.

Through the multiple health sensitizations and interactions with the communities, we were able to see the resiliency of residents and the desire to live healthier lives. It has been particularly encouraging working with the Village Health Team members who are extremely dedicated to the residents of the community and to the cause of improved water, sanitation and hygiene. Challenges remain in Namunkesu and Nawansega, especially lack of access to safe water. In the coming weeks, we will be engaging in the more technical aspects of our work, conducting shallow well needs assessments for communities that have applied for water sources. In one zone of Namunkesu particularly, there is great need for water but the community was unwilling to show commitment for the addition of a well, evident by the low turn-out for their well application meeting. It is UVP policy that communities applying for a well must show collective interest and the desire to take ownership of the water source once it is constructed. This is to encourage local ownership of the water source so that community members can sustain and maintain their shallow well even after UVP has left the village.

We are excited for what the next couple of weeks will have in store for our villages and looking forward to working with the community and local partners to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live healthy lives. WASH team, out.

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