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.

Specific Goals:saving childrens lives by washing hands
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

Training children to promote cleanlinessMuhammad 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.”

Behavioral Change
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.

3 Responses to "A Legacy of Healthy Children: Saving Lives by Washing Hands in Morocco"

  1. Karen Maffucci says:

    Thanks for sharing this with me Sandy. Great work!

  2. Arif Mohammed says:

    Thank you for sharing my experience and i want to share with you too a story related to the same project

    The three youngest healthcare teachers ever honored by MKI’s President with a certificate of Apperciation.
    par Medical Knowledge Institute (MKI)

    Read the amazing story by Arif Mohammed of the Tamazirt School Health Club high in the mountains of Ait Haddou Youssef near Essaouira in Marocco.
    During my fellowship with Legacy International, I attended a workshop that was facilitated by Dr. Harold Robles, founder and president of Medical Knowledge Institute (MKI). Dr. Robles provided strong evidence on how consistent provision of accurate information on health is the most effective and cost-efficient strategy for improvement in healthcare. Thinking back to my work as a nurse in a remote village in Morocco, I decided to carry out MKI’s motto “Prevention Through Education” and focus on school health. All the work that I have been doing thus far has been inspired by the work MKI is currently doing in South Africa. I am using their methods with a focus on children as peer health educators. The following story is how I have used this knowledge to create a health club in Morocco. During Dr. Robles visit to the school in my village in Morocco, he was so impressed by the work and dedication of the children that he decided to offer MKI certificates to the youngest health educators in the world.
    The purpose of the Health club is to promote basic health education in primary schools in the area through peer education.
    Three students, Fatima (9 years old), Mohamed (10) and Hoceine (11), were selected and trained to become peer health educators. The training focused on leadership exercises, basic communication, as well as basic health lessons. Since students in Morocco are generally not given much responsibility and are often tested more on memorization than creativity, I wanted my training to give our students a chance to see where their creativity can take them.
    Because I did not want my students to simply imitate me as they are used to doing, I delivered the initial health lessons to them in a purely informational way, similar to the way they are used to learning in school. Then, once they had the information, I asked them to do creative things with it—turning it into skits, presentations, etc. It took practice, but eventually this method proved quite effective.
    The training also gave the students a chance to get to know each other and feel comfortable with the idea of presenting in front of an audience of their peers. We did this through multiple mock presentations designed to allow the Peer Educators to practice their presentation skills. By the end of training, they were absolutely prepared to go into the classroom, and they were able to think creatively and out-of-the-box.
    Preparing Presentations
    Towards the end of the training, I assigned each group a health topic we had covered in class. They had a few meetings to prepare their first lesson, and at the end of each meeting we would get together and discuss their progress. Each group would present their work, and everyone—teachers and Peer Educators—would offer comments and criticism.
    More than informational, I wanted the students’ presentations to be creative and engaging—using visual arts, acting and any other creative tools at their disposal. Some of the main health messages that were covered revolved around:
    • Hand washing
    • Disease transmission
    • Water Treatment

    I was very satisfied with this development since they were great presenters . We continued to prepare, present to each other, and offer constructive criticism until the students felt ready to enter the classroom.
    Generally, in the classroom each peer educator would introduce himself/herself, introduce the health topic, and begin the presentation switching between the Classical Arabic language and local language (Berber) for better comprehension. Most of the students loved it, and energetically volunteering to answer questions during the questions asked by the educators throughout the presentation.
    Following the presentations, we would break for the day and regroup a few days later to discuss how the presentations went. After their first time in the classroom, the Peer Educators had a much clearer idea of what they needed to do to create a successful presentation, and many of them greatly improved their lessons without any extra guidance.
    A bulletin board is established in the school, where students, myself, and the teachers post messages, drawings, proverbs, etc… on topics related to health.

    Finally, I see potential to take the Peer Educators on field trips to teach in the outer schools, as well as The Peer Educators, with their creative style of teaching, could reach a large cohort of students who have never had any type of health education.

    Arif Mohammed

  3. Edward Stern says:

    It is a great pleasure to read about this good work.

Leave a Comment