More than two million children die of diarrhoea every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Diarrhoea is the second leading killer of children, accounting for 29 per cent of under five deaths annually.
And, like diarrhoea, many other waterborne and hygiene-related diseases such as dysentery and typhoid keep malaria haunting villages across the country.
However, under the Millennium Villages Project, a global health-based NGO that seeks to address the root causes of extreme poverty, Maynage Sector in Bugesera District has taken a step to curb such diseases with the introduction of the Step-and-Wash project. It is working wonders.
Millennium Villages Project takes a holistic, community-led approach to sustainable development. The project unites science, business, civil society and government in these efforts by empowering communities and partners alike to become a part of the solution to ending extreme poverty.
In Mayange, Millinnium Villages Project educates people how to set up Step-and-Wash programme, locally known as Kandagira Ukarabe, in their respective families to curb diseases transmitted through unhygienic lifestyle such as not washing hands after visiting pit-latrine.
Project changing lives
According to Dr Alphred Rutagengwa, the director of Nyamata Hospital, the cases of transmitted diseases (mostly come from unhygienic transmissions) stood at 65,000 last year in the district.
“In early years, the rate was tripled, this is a great achievement the project has made, introducing Step-and-Wash programme in the area, there is hope that the rate will decrease gradually,” he said.
The Millennium Villages Project is taking the first step to raise awareness of the role of Step-and-Wash in rural communities to save the cost and time they spend when they are ill.
“When they are sick, they do not work for their families, which results in production shortage in the area. Our main target is to assure their good health preventing them from affected diseases,” he said.
Eight years ago, Mayange, one of 15 sectors of Bugesera, endured poor hygiene and disease outbreaks because most homesteads did not have pit-latrines.
Donald Ndahiro, the national coordinator of Millennium Villages Project, said the project has improved sanitation by setting up pit-latrines and educating villagers about setting up Step-and-Wash in their respective families.
“Before the project was introduced in the area, there was no one here who could understand Kandagira Ukarabe, and we did not have any ways to educate them about it,” he said.
How it works
In Kandagira Ukarabe, a water jerrycan is fixed between propped woods above the ground. A string is tied to the top of the jerrycan and fastened on a lever at the ground so that when someone steps on the lever, the jerrycan is slanted in a decanting position, hence water flows out for use.
Ndahiro said the NGO started by putting in place health post cantres, providing ambulance and giving the community a toll-free phoneline for emergency calls such as when they have a patient to be taken to hospital.
Jeannette Mukabalisa, the community development coordinator of Millinnium Villages Project in charge of the Step-and-Wash project in Mayange, said at least 4,528 households out of 6,145 have made the apparatus in the sector over the last two years.
“They have understood the programme, and it has changed their life for the better. Every household member is doing better with Kandagira Ukarabe,” she said.
Mukabalisa said there are 45 community clubs, each comprising 100 people from a village. The club leaders have to ensure each household has built Step-and-Wash, and also help those who cannot afford it.
Millinnium Villages Project has also spread 40 community education workers in the villages to work with schools by monitoring hygiene and helping with lessons on sanitation.
Mukabalisa said it is giving hope forward, saying children and adults have engaged in promoting the programme.
“Nowadays children are the ones who create awareness of the programme in their neighbourhood; we are receiving a positive feedback from parents. After lessons, pupils initiate Step-and-Wash in their homes,” she said.
Joyeuse Umutesi, six, from Mayange Nursery School, has set up Kandagira Ukarebe in her home.
“It is easy and reliable. The first time they introduced a lesson of using Kandagira Ukarabe, I couldn’t resist the urge to set it up for my family,” she said.
She said the programme will help children grow up in healthy environments.
Jean d’Arc Uwimana, a resident in Mayange Sector, said: “We are blessed to have the project in the area, if one came in Mayange 10 years ago, seeing how people were helpless, died of infected diseases, but now we are happy, we have pit-latrines and have been taught that after using the pit-latrine, we have to wash hands using Kandagira Ukarabe,” says Uwimana.
Millennium Villages Project is currently extending its projects beyond the pilot area (Mayange Sector) to other sectors in Bugesera District.