In Guinea, household water treatment to defeat cholera and diarrhea
Under the theme, ‘Clean Water for a Healthy Word,’ this year’s World Water Day, 22 March, aims to spur action on improving water quality worldwide. Here is a related story on UNICEF's water-treatment and hygiene efforts in Guinea.
KAMBAYA VILLAGE, Guinea, 19 March 2010 – In the small village of Kambaya, the residents take water from unsafe sources that are contaminated with bacteria. Doing so leads to the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera.
Water quality is a key factor for health, and one of the most efficient ways to improve access to safe drinking water is to promote household water treatment. Several months ago, the villagers in Kambaya began using chlorine to decontaminate their water.
"Since we started using chlorine in the village, children stopped complaining about their belly, and my children have no more diarrhoea," said Sefanta, a mother of four children. "You just have to drop the contents of the cork in a 20-liter bucket full of water, and it's decontaminated."
Prevention of cholera
In response to a severe cholera outbreak in 2006, UNICEF has partnered with Tinkisso, local NGO in the region of Dabola, to produce 620 bottles of chlorine every day. One bottle covers the needs of a family for one month and contributes significantly to household hygiene and health.
"You can use it to treat water, but also food and the dishes," explains Aboubacar Camara, the Co-ordinator of Tinkisso. "It can also be very useful to disinfect wounds in health centres."
The purifying blue bottles of chlorine solution, or Sur'Eau, are sold at moderate prices in retail centers in the community. However, during a cholera outbreak, Sur'Eau can be distributed for free to curtail an epidemic.
Since the inception of the programme, the number of cases and deaths from cholera has decreased considerably. According to the World Health Organization, more than 8,000 cases were reported in 2007, and 311 people died from the disease. The following year the number of cases dropped to 513, with only 32 reported deaths.
UNICEF is also committed to supporting WASH in Schools to promote hygienic practices and sanitary environments. UNICEF provides latrines and water points for children and teachers at Boubere School, in the region of Dabola. Hand washing is promoted at critical moments of the day, such as after going to the toilets, and before and after eating.
Children are agents of change
"A child, who learns about good hygiene practices early, adopts them easily, and it also means that, in the future, we won't need to invest in changing the unhealthy behaviors of the adults, as we do today," said Mamdou Oury Bah, a health and sanitation expert for UNICEF.
Health and education work in synergy, and improved hygiene practices will curb the spread of disease and ease the burdens on children. This in turn will enable increased attendance in schools and an increased ability to learn. Such safeguarding of cognitive development allows children's opportunities to expand.
More than one in seven children under five die each year in Guinea, many from diseases caused by the lack of hygiene and the poor quality of water. To meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, UNICEF aims to reduce by two thirds the mortality of children under five.
By Edward Bally and Gaelle Bausson