2020 News

How Hand Washing Helps Kids in Vanuatu

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

The importance of washing our hands has been emphasised to us a lot lately. I’m sure you have seen posters or videos showing how to make sure our hands get thoroughly cleaned. It’s easy to see things like this and wonder, “Surely everyone knows this already?”

In many parts of the world, there is a lack of education around proper hygiene. People aren’t taught how germs spread, or how to properly wash their hands. They may not even have clean water to use! And some of the most affected by this are children.

Poor hygiene is a major cause of illness in children, resulting in an estimated 1.9 billion days of school missed per year. Kids spend long hours close together in classrooms, which makes it easy to spread communicable sickness like diarrhoea. Schools can too easily become a place where children will be at risk.

This is why hygiene training, soap, and handwashing stations are so important.

Baravet is a small village on the coast of Pentecost Island. Like many small communities in Vanuatu, the people living there had no reliable access to safe water until recently. Matan is a teacher there, and she used to have to walk all the way to the next village to gather water for the school. With so little water, they had to choose if they wanted to use it for drinking or washing.

“Now the pre-school has a standpipe, we have clean water and do not need to walk long distances,” Matan says. “The children can clean their hands after the toilet and not worry about using up the water.”

Frequent handwashing helps to keep these kids healthy. It can reduce the spread of sicknesses like diarrhoea.

Another village on Maewo Island, called Nasawa, also built handwashing stations as part of their new kindergarten. Children can now wash their hands before they eat, and after using the toilet!

Good sanitation is spreading — but there are still many places in Vanuatu, and other countries, where they don’t have this awareness.

You can help make a difference to people living in places like Baravet! It costs $300 to educate a group of people about proper hygiene and sanitation practices. Your gift, no matter how much, helps bring this critical training to more people, and stops the spread of preventable disease. Donate today at www.gmp.org.au/change

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