A Legacy of Healthy Children: Saving Lives by Washing Hands in Morocco
Creating a dramatic change in community health can begin by teaching children the importance of washing hands. As part of Legacy’s North Africa Community Health Initiative , Mohammed Arif designed and implemented a critically needed program for his community. By teaching children to educate their peers and families in the importance of washing hands, this project is combatting one of the leading causes of early childhood death in rural Morocco.
Head nurse at Ait Haddou Youssef (AHY) Health Center, Mohammed collaborated with teachers in the local school to establish the Tamazirt School Health Club to educate students and their families about the hygiene to control diarrhea.
“My goal is to create a health club focusing on hand washing hygiene, water and food hygiene. We are educating students through health education sessions in theory and in practice, and then evaluating these students by visiting their homes or schools and seeing them educate their families and peers.”
By involving students in peer eduction on proper hygiene education and awareness, Mohammed hopes to change behavior of today’s children, and tomorrows fathers and mothers. He designed a sustainable program to effect change among the students and their families. Students in the Health Club were involved in researching information, making demonstrations of what they learned, and developing effective communication techniques to share and demonstrate the information to their peers and families.
Identifying the Need:
Diarrhea affects children more than adults; the rate of diarrhea among children (especially under 5 years) in AHY is very high, 41% according to SNIS. (Systeme National d’information sanitaire-2011). Children in this rural Moroccan community suffer or die because they don’t have good hand washing hygiene. “They don’t realize that they can prevent diarrhea only by cleaning their hands and their foods with water.”- Mohammed Arif
Training the Student Educators
Muhammad also selected a small group of students (Fatima, Mohamed and Hoceine) to work with, teaching them effective communication skills. Starting with several subjects (not related to health education), he taught them a techniques for communicating with their peers. Student educators participated in 11 sessions and were given binders, soap, pens, books, leaflets, badges and chocolates. In each practical session, he effectively teaches about hand washing hygiene by engaging students in humor, creativity, role play, and a hand washing drawing competitions. Recognition certificates were distributed to the educators and other students
“I have had the pleasure of seeing my team teaching their peers and their families in schools, in ’’kottab’’ and in their own homes.”
Teachers, fathers, and mothers have observed change in their children. They are teaching their peers and theirs families how to prevent diarrhea and other communicable diseases with a very effective strategy that is actively promoting community change. Members of the Health Club will find new ‘educators” in the same school and in other schools and teach them what they have learned.
Mohammed continues to mentor the students, evaluating their success and encouraging them. This model is sustainable for the community as the students and teachers have become independent promoters of good hand washing hygiene.