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Rwanda, 13 September 2016: Water, sanitation and hygiene an integral component of early childhood development

By Jung Yuen Park

© UNICEF Rwanda/2016/Park
Prudencenne is helping and teaching children how to wash hands with soap at the ECD centre

Rwamagana District, Rwanda, 13 September 2016 – At the Rwamagana Early Childhood Development and Family (ECD&F) centre, 111 children aged three to six attend from four nearby villages. With the construction of the ECD&F centre and the provision of ECD support, parents in the community benefit through their children.

Prudencenne Mukanzigiye has been working as an ECD&F centre coordinator since it was constructed. “I am pleased to see the progress. Parents tell me they are happy to see their children enjoying and learning at the same time.” She received training to teach the community members on hygiene and sanitation promotion activities. At the centre, she organizes monthly mothers’ sessions on various topics; the most important topic is handwashing with soap.

Eugenie Nyiransabimana is serving her community as a caregiver at the ECD&F centre and as a Community Health Worker as well as Community Health Club (CHC) facilitator.

“I am happy to see hygiene and sanitation improving in my community. Now we have access to newly-constructed water points in all four villages near the ECD&F centre. Some households built latrines for their houses on their own initiative. Mothers normally had to walk for more than one hour to fetch water, but now we can reach water points within 2-5 minutes. I see big improvement in personal hygiene as well, and I feel so proud to be a part of this process. When I greet people on the street, I can see that they washed their clothes and faces nicely. I also see people using clean jerry cans. Before, they were busy bringing water, so they couldn’t think of washing their jerry cans. Now we only walk short distances and fetch water easily, so we have time to think about carrying water safely in clean jerry cans,” she says proudly.

This has all been made possible with the generous contribution of the IKEA Foundation. “Children are the future of Rwanda. That’s why we should take good care of them,” said Per Heggenes, CEO of IKEA Foundation during his visit in 2015 emphasizing the support for Early Childhood Development.

© UNICEF Rwanda/2016/Park
Eugenie is fetching water from the newly constructed water point supported by UNICEF in her village

In Eugenie’s community health club, there are over a hundred members. But in the community, there are still some people who don’t participate in the club or the sessions. She tries to help them, but they tend to ignore her efforts. She doesn’t give up and she continues to approach them. She also seeks support and advice from the local authorities.

Every Sunday evening, Eugenie organizes a CHC session. She uses a participatory way to ensure all members have a chance to speak and share their experiences, concerns, and ideas during the dialogue sessions. She also uses posters to draw attention to the topic and to initiate discussions. At the end of the session, she summarizes important key messages for the members.

Akagarama is one of the villages which benefited from the construction of a new water point. “I have six children and two grandchildren living in my house together. My youngest son used to fetch water before going to school. He was late almost every day as he had to walk very far and wait for a long time at the water point. But now, with the nearest water point, he can fetch water quickly and get to school on time. I always attend CHC sessions every Sunday. We contribute money to help construct latrines for the most vulnerable people in our community,” says Dathive Kumucyera, a mother from Akagarama Village.

UNICEF, part of One UN Rwanda, supports the Government of Rwanda to increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities in the rural communities. UNICEF provided water points inside the Rwamagana ECD&F centre and in four villages surrounding the centre, and provided water supply by connecting pipes to the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), the main safe water supply system of the Government of Rwanda.

UNICEF also partnered with national NGO, PAJER to provide community-level hygiene and sanitation promotion activities by establishing Community Hygiene Clubs, supporting other advocacy activities through social mobilization, and by constructing standard latrines and sharing with communities to replicate. “When there was no water, hygiene messages were merely words. It was difficult for me to tell people to focus on handwashing when they didn’t have enough water. Now, with easy access to water in each village, they can practice what they learned about hygiene and sanitation,” explains Ezequiel Uwitonze, PAJER Social Mobilizer in Rwamagana District. “Also, through church gatherings and the monthly umuganda (community work), I encourage religious and community leaders to disseminate hygiene and sanitation messages. The improvement has been huge. I am so proud and satisfied of what we have achieved,” says Ezequiel.



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