|© UNICEF Nepal/2006|
|Meena Pandey and Dilmaya Mukhia sing a song that they have composed to inspire villagers and classmates to keep their community clean.|
By Sagun S. Lawoti
KAPILVASTU, Nepal, 16 June 2006 – Meena Pandey and Dilmaya Mukhia, members of a children’s club in Nepal, sing a song they have composed to inspire villagers to keep their community clean.
“How can you sit around and watch others throwing dirt in our neighbourhood?” sing the girls.
Along with many other children across the country, they are lending their talents to this year’s National Sanitation Action Week.
Initiated by UNICEF seven years ago, National Sanitation Action Week has proven crucial in protecting children’s health in Nepal, where poor hygiene and a lack of sanitation facilities are responsible for about 70 per cent of childhood illnesses.
Every year in Nepal nearly 10 million cases of diarrhoea strike children under five. Diarrhoea kills about 15,000 children.
At the Kapilvastu Primary School students are discussing their duties for the week. “My job with my team is to ensure that the school latrines are cleaned,” says one boy. “I will tell people about washing their hands and staying clean,” says a girl. And another girl adds: “We will be going house to house to check who doesn’t have a toilet.”
Drama helps spread the message of hygiene
In the streets of Taulihawa town, volunteers put on plays to educate people on the importance of good hygiene.
The first tells villagers that they should always wash their hands before eating. The next one shows how diarrhoea ruins a cricket game because one player did not wash.
After the plays villagers are given a demonstration on the proper way to wash – with soap and water.
During National Sanitation Action Week community volunteers help build latrines for residents who otherwise couldn’t afford them. Poor villagers like Manakala now have new facilities thanks to their efforts.
“I used to go to the jungle to defecate,” she says. “Now we know that we shouldn’t dirty our place. We must use the toilet and not go out. It has become very convenient now.”
‘100 per cent latrine zone’
Thanks to the campaign, residents of Ward Six in Banganga, have declared their ward a ‘100 per cent latrine zone’ to coincide with National Sanitation Action Week.
“This village was hit by an epidemic five years ago. In contrast, we now have minimal cases of diarrhoea and cholera,” says primary school teacher Tara Jung Ghimire.
“Earlier, people used to laugh it off when approached with the idea of constructing a latrine,” he says, “but now every household in the vicinity has one.”
Sustaining the momentum
And the children will continue to help spread the message after National Sanitation Action Week ends.
“We inform, educate and encourage children and adults to stay clean and keep their communities clean,” say Meena and Dilmaya.
It’s an effort that will not only keep themselves healthy, but many other children throughout Nepal.