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Staying healthy with child-centred hygiene education in Mozambique

© UNICEF Mozambique/2007/ Delvigne-Jean
Argentina Mondlane, 37, with her daughter, Laura. Ms. Mondlane is a member of Ngoanine village’s water and sanitation committee.

UNICEF’s yearly flagship report, 'The State of the World’s Children', launched 22 January 2008, makes a call to unite for child survival. Here is one in a series of related stories.

XAI-XAI DISTRICT, Mozambique, 25 March 2008 – Argentina Mondlane, 37, a widowed mother of four young children, makes her way to the village well in Ngoanine village on the southern coast of Mozambique. Ms. Mondlane treasures this morning ritual of collecting water for her family because it gives her a chance to exchange stories and jokes with the other women. 

It also serves as a gentle reminder of difficult times past, when water was neither abundant nor safe. Before the well was built in Ngoanine, the villagers used water from a muddy lagoon, which resulted in severe health consequences.

“Our children were often sick, but we did not know what to do,” Ms. Mondlane recalls.

Child-centred education

Since 2004, Ms. Mondlane and her community have been able to report on the improved health of their children, thanks to a child-centred hygiene education programme initiated at the local school.

The school serves as a hub to train members of the village water and sanitation committee.

“Through the school, the committee receives hygiene education,” explains School Director Alfa Nhalungo. “They learn about good practices that can prevent diseases, such as hand washing and correct use of the latrines, and they share their knowledge with the community.”

Students themselves also bring home important hygiene and sanitation messages, which have been incorporated into their academic curriculum.

Installing facilities

The curriculum is part of a project that is improving sanitation and hygiene practices in 179 schools across the country.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2007/ Delvigne-Jean
Children at the water pump in Ngoanine Village, Xai-Xai- District, Mozambique. Before this pump was built, villagers used unsafe water from a muddy lagoon.

With support from UNICEF and the Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team, a non-governmental organization, the project has provided for the installation of water points and the formation of village committees to manage the use of these wells in 18 schools.

The group has also supervised the installation of new latrines and hand-washing facilities in schools.

Safe water for her children

Ms. Mondlane is a member of her village committee and is responsibile for collecting contributions to maintain the water pump.

“Each person who uses the well contributes a small amount each month, although this requirement is waived for the most disadvantaged community members,” she explains.

Ms. Mondlane knows all too well the risks associated with unsafe water and poor sanitation. Several years ago, her older son suffered from a serious bout of cholera after drinking contaminated water and had to be hospitalized for 14 days.

“That will not happen again,” she says defiantly.



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