Mohammed Arif received the Department of State Professional Fellows Alumni Impact Award on May 31st, 2016.
Alumni from Legacy Programs are making a difference throughout the world. Mohammed Arif participated in Legacy International’s Professional Fellows North Africa Community Health Initiative. The program provided community health care professionals from Morocco and Egypt a new set of tools, resources, and knowledge to enhance rural health care in their respective communities. The program built the capacity of professionals who serve marginalized populations, particularity women and children.
As part of the Legacy program, Mohammed developed a follow-on project to implement once he returned home to Morocco.
Creating a dramatic change in community health can begin by teaching children the importance of washing hands. Mohammed 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 combating 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 education 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.
In addition to his Legacy follow on project Mohammed also is the founder of the Health and Peace Hike in Morocco.
The HPH (Health and Peace Hike) is an annual hike down the coast of Morocco from Essaouira to Agadir. The hiking team is compromised of a dedicated group of Moroccans, Americans and Europeans who have been committed to healthy lifestyles and can share knowledge and skills about health, education, women’s empowerment in local communities and participate in a meaningful cultural exchange network. The hike is spread over two-weeks covering nearly 200km of terrain along the coast. HPH teams in the past have visited small duwars (villages) and given primary and urgent healthcare, provided health education through games and campaigns, and overall contributed to community development by means of children’s activities and games. We are a multicultural team committed to promote health and peace in a holistic way from village to village and coast to coast. Participants this year will benefit from practical workshops facilitated by experts in the fields of leadership, social media, public health, sport and peacebuilding.
Read more on the Professional Fellows Alumni Impact Award on the U.S. Department of State Alumni Page:
Mohammed Arif, a head nurse for the Moroccan Ministry of Health whose responsibilities encompass community health outreach and environmental health, is committed to building and strengthening public health programs and services in Morocco. His U.S. fellowship provided him greater understanding of public health issues as well as a new set of tools, resources, and knowledge to enhance health care in his community. Mr. Arif has successfully applied his fellowship experience implementing impactful projects such as the Tamazirt School Health Club, the Health Peace Hike, and the Outreach Cancer Program which significantly reduced diarrhea in communities, promoted healthy lifestyles and increased health literacy on issues including cancer. The fellowship also connected Mr. Arif with other alumni, NGOs, and community partners that helped him to expand his project ideas. Mohammed Arif has a passion for designing and implementing outreach prevention programs through conferences, workshops, sporting events, and trainings and is determined to find ways to overcome unequal access to healthcare services in rural Morocco. Guided by the motto: “Why treat people without changing what makes them sick?”, he has successfully initiated social change and improved community health through prevention education. Recently, his rural community work was featured on a local Moroccan television channel, and he was selected as one of 24 rising leaders from the region to participate in the Swedish Young Leaders Visitor Program.