water

 {Photo credit: Cindy Shiner/MSH}A mother waits for the nurse to vaccinate her baby during an immunization clinic at Phebe Hospital in central Liberia.Photo credit: Cindy Shiner/MSH

Stronger health systems are critical to preventing outbreaks from becoming epidemics. In fragile states, systems already weakened by conflict, disaster, or instability can crumble under the weight of an outbreak -- devastating access, availability, and quality of basic health for women and their families.

{Photo credit: MSH staff, Afghanistan}Photo credit: MSH staff, Afghanistan

In 2013 diarrhea killed 578,000 children under the age of five, 9 percent of all deaths in this age group globally. The tragedy of these deaths is that they are avoidable at many levels. The risk of contracting diarrhea can be drastically decreased through basic hygiene measures, such as consistent and exclusive use of a latrine and washing one’s hands with soap. Once a child becomes ill with diarrhea, most cases can be managed with oral rehydration salts and zinc. But the gap between what is known in the public health community regarding prevention and treatment of diarrhea, and what is practiced in many settings, is wide and deadly.

In Afghanistan, diarrhea killed 13,000 children under the age of five in 2013 and was the third most frequent cause of mortality (after neonatal conditions and pneumonia) in the age group. Many organizations, including Management Sciences for Health (MSH), have worked to improve access to treatment for children with diarrhea, but less attention has been paid to prevention.

 {Photo credit: Alison Corbacio.}A child in Rajasthan, India drinks from a public water source.Photo credit: Alison Corbacio.

Have you ever thought about water? I mean, really thought about the quality of the water you drink or use for your personal hygiene? Clean water is something many of us take for granted, but billions of people around the world lack access to a dependable source of fresh water and acceptable sanitation facilities.

This year, I joined a coalition of advocates from dozens of organizations to support HR 2901, otherwise known as The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in August 2013 by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It has broad bipartisan support. This bill does not ask for any new funding from Congress; instead, it seeks to use existing funds to improve monitoring and evaluation of WASH projects, increase communication between agencies, and promote partnerships and cooperation among stakeholders.

In Moen Kas, one of the villages where the project introduced community-led total sanitation, officials and villagers celebrate Open Defecation Free (ODF) certification. {Photo credit: Noorgha CLTS Supervisor/Afghanistan.}Photo credit: Noorgha CLTS Supervisor/Afghanistan.

A new report from the USAID-funded Afghan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) Project, led by Tetra Tech ARD, describes the methodology and results from the Sustainable Health Outcomes component, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH). The SWSS project worked to improve the health and infrastructure of rural Afghans, with an emphasis on providing water supply and sanitation facilities and improving community hygiene behaviors (read stories).

SWSS was the first project in Afghanistan to implement community-led total sanitation (CLTS) on a broad scale. While challenges for ongoing hygiene and sanitation remain, the project’s success led the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development to include CLTS as part of its national water and sanitation policy and strategy.

Moen Kas, Afghanistan {Photo credit: Noorgha CLTS Supervisor.}Photo credit: Noorgha CLTS Supervisor.

Moen Kas, a hilly remote Afghan village absent of latrines or even a functioning water well, became an Open Defecation-Free (ODF) community within 24 days of arduous commitment from its leaders and people.

Moen Kas’ remarkable milestone makes it the first village in Afghanistan to reach ODF status in less than one month--inspired entirely from personal stories that are spreading across the country regarding the benefits of living in ODF communities.

The quick transformation was the direct result of a man from Moen Kas who had attended an ODF certification ceremony in the nearby, yet secluded, village of Ghalani.

As he watched the ceremony and learned of ODF’s benefits, he asked to speak on behalf of his village. During his speech, he praised Ghalani’s achievements within the past two months and publicly vowed that his own village would achieve ODF status in under a month.

Recognizing that this ambitious goal could not be achieved through him alone, he urged the other Moen Kas’ villagers who were also present at the ceremony to stand with him and work together.

So determined was the man in his vision to transform his village, that he invited the audience to visit Moen Kas in one week to verify it as an ODF community.

Global Handwashing Day. {Image credit: MSH.}Image credit: MSH.

Today, October 15, children, schools, and communities around the world mark Global Handwashing Day.

Washing hands with soap is the "most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year." In addition to handwashing with soap, proper sanitation and safe drinking water are key to preventing disease.

"Most of what we need to do to bring down the rate of child deaths is inexpensive & straightforward," USAID Administrator Raj Shah said today on Twitter. In addition to handwashing with soap, "add a bednet, vaccines, nutrition, rehydration, newborn care; we know how to drastically reduce child deaths."

A new hand-washing station in Toghak, Afghanistan. {Photo credit: Nikmohammad CLTS Facilitator/MSH.}Photo credit: Nikmohammad CLTS Facilitator/MSH.

In the small Afghan village of Toghak, where open defecation affected the sanitation and health of the community, two women took the initiative to mobilize themselves and others into transforming Toghak.

Ms. Fatima and Ms. Rukhsar attended a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) workshop in the neighboring village of Gheyas Said Abd and learned life-saving lessons they wanted to take back to their village. They learned that flies tend to breed in bacteria infested places, particularly human feces, and then transport the fecal matter to food meant for human consumption.

Knowing that this knowledge would motivate their community to improve their sanitation efforts, the women did not waste any time.

When the women returned from the workshop, they recruited twenty women from Toghak willing to help them improve the latrines. They also requested the assistance of CLTS facilitators to come to Toghak and map the high frequency defecation areas in order to identify the best locations for new latrines.

Within a week the women made improvements to 20 latrines. Within three months 50 new latrines were built.

 {Photo credit: Mahjan CLTS Facilitator.}Washing hands. Itarchi Hakimabad, Badakhshan, Afghanistan.Photo credit: Mahjan CLTS Facilitator.

The USAID-funded Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project, Afghanistan (SWSS) project increases access to potable water and sanitation services in Afghan communities and decreases the prevalence of water borne diseases through household hygiene interventions. Led by the Association for Rural Development, in partnership with Management Sciences for Health, SWSS has led nearly 400 communities in Afghanistan to become Open Defecation Free. The MSH components of the project have succeeded under the astute leadership of Dr. Abdul Hatifie, the team leader for Sustainable Health Outcomes, and Dr. Logarwal, the BCC Material and Media Specialist. Together they have led the successful implementation of innovative approaches in all aspects of the SWSS project. To learn more about SWSS’s accomplishments, please see the cover article in this month’s USAID Global Waters magazine.

Three Afghan children. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

About 7.6 million children under age five die each year of preventable causers; 3 million — 40 percent — are newborns (under 28 days old). Ninety-nine percent of these occur in developing countries; three-quarters are mainly due to preventable causes such as neonatal conditions, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and measles. Many of these under-five deaths could be averted by known, affordable, low-technology interventions.

Any preventable child death is one too many.

Here are 10 important interventions for child survival --- a list that is by no means exhaustive:

  1. Exclusive breastfeeding

    Could keep 1.3 million infants from dying (including by preventing pneumonia)

  2. Long-lasting, insecticide-treated bednets

    Would save more than 500,000 children by preventing malaria

  3. Vaccines, such as PCV, Hib, and rotavirus

    Would help prevent common childhood illnesses, such as measles, and save children’s lives

  4. Micronutrient supplements, such as vitamin A and zinc

    Would fight malnutrition. (While not a direct cause of death, malnutrition contributes indirectly to more than one-third of these deaths.)

Deborah Nyantiok is 56 years old and lives with her grandchildren in Kaya, near the border of Uganda. She lost her husband during Sudan’s 20-year civil war and now takes care of her grandchildren. In order to pay for food and school fees, Deborah operates a small business and keeps animals to generate income. Despite her hard work, in the past Deborah found life difficult as she and her grandchildren often fell ill.

Lacking a source of clean drinking water, residents of Kaya gather drinking water from the nearby Kaya River. While the river provides vital irrigation which makes the surrounding land lush and green, unfortunately it also carries dangerous viruses and bacteria. These pathogens cause many waterborne ailments like typhoid, diarrhea, and parasitic diseases. Deborah and her grandchildren often suffered from these diseases, and while they sought medical treatment, it always seemed only a matter of time until their suffering returned.

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