Hygiene clubs at schools improve community health
TORIT, SOUTH SUDAN- “One time, my brother went to the bathroom and I followed him to check if he was washing his hands after. He didn’t,” says Angelo Adaha. He is 13 years old and member of the hygiene or aliboli [means hygiene in Lotoko language] club at Faith Ministry International Academy in Torit.
They are twenty in total and meet twice a month. “We discuss about health, we talk about sanitation and hygiene,” Nite Amomo (15) says, “and handwashing with soap and clean water,” Annan Ohiri (13) interrupts. “Lately, we have also discussed COVID-19 and the importance of washing hands,” Fatna Nanila (17) adds.
Meet some of the members of the hygiene club
Godfred Sabre (11)
Annan Ohiri (13)
Johnson Solomon (14)
Omjema Helen (12)
The hygiene club is formed to raise awareness among the students on why good hygiene is important and what they can do to stay healthy. The students in the club are responsible for teaching the other children at school about what they have learned. “We talk about it at the morning assembly, then we say they must keep the classroom, their surroundings and themselves clean,” Nite explains.
The club members are also looking after the younger students, ensuring they are turning knowledge into practice. “The younger students sometimes go to the bush to defecate. So, when we see that we are responsible to do something about it as club members. We explain to the kids that they have to use the latrines and then we take them there,” Angelo explains with pride in his voice.
The establishment of hygiene clubs has also been helpful to reduce stigma around menstruation. “There is a mix of boys and girls in the clubs. While it is important to teach the girls about how to manage their periods including staying clean, it is important that also the boys have this information, so they understand that this is a normal thing that all girls are going through. It builds understanding and the teasing is reduced,” says UNICEF WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) officer Sonia Poni Stephen.
Josephine Arremo (12)
Angelo Adaha (13)
Pasca Sunday (10)
Agona Americana (17)
The ‘club aliboli’ members are not only disseminating information to their peers; they are also taking it home. Elizabeth Mam (17) is part of the club at Iluhum Primary School and organizes meetings. “I would gather my family and neighbours and then I talk to them about handwashing, cleaning utensils properly and avoid open defecation.”
“Do they listen?”
“Yes, and sometimes we have told visitors to go and wash their hands, it is not only family,” Margret Ika (17) interrupts.
In South Sudan, diarrheal diseases are among the top three causes of death among children under five years of age. About ten per cent of the children in the country die before their fifth birthday. Many could have been prevented through simple yet very effective hygiene measures. Through the creation of hygiene clubs, UNICEF is ensuring children are ‘agents of change’ in the communities for instigating change now but also for the future as they become parents themselves.
“Angelo, what happened when you caught your brother not washing hands after toilet?”
“I told him there are germs in the toilet and that is why we always have to wash our hands after using the toilet. Then I pointed at the soap and water and asked him to wash his hands.”
“Did he do it?”
“Yes,” Angelo finishes with a grin.
UNICEF is supporting the hygiene clubs with materials and trainings. Furthermore, UNICEF is a major contributor to easy access to clean water and improved sanitation is schools, important for putting in practise what the children have learned.
UNICEF’s WASH in school programmes are generously supported by the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW Development Bank.