Keeping everyone healthy

Our new partner NGO is entirely Mozambican, a sign of progress in itself.  Set up by one of the most driven people I’ve ever met, Bashir, they have a wide range of capabilities and knowledge.  This week we tapped into their knowledge of hygiene and sanitation.  In four of the villages that Nema support there are no latrines at all.  This is because the sand is so soft that the local people say that they cannot dig a latrine hole that stays open due to the sand falling into the hole.  Not anymore.

We love the chefe de aldeia in Crimize, he’s gruff, supportive and sufficiently authoritarian.  His village are very good at helping themselves to a better life and there’s a great attitude here:  it’s also on yet another part of Mozambique’s gorgeous coastline.  So we started our latrine project in Crimize. 

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It’s pretty idyllic here.

It’s a 2 hour walk to Crimize from Guludo and for our pre-training meetings with the chefe de aldeia we walked, it’s lovely but a bit more difficult carrying a 50kg sack of cement so I relented and took the car.

Day one of our work with Bashir was a day of training on a whole range of health messages, starting with why we wash our hands through open defecation to tidying up waste and then onto the reason we need a varied diet and clean drinking water.  

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Bashir teaches the people of the village and the local school the health benefits of a good, clean  lifestyle.

There was a wide range of engagement from the village and as the teacher wanted to listen in so did his classes (he runs 2 classes concurrently, every morning and afternoon). There were also a group of women who joined in, behind Bashir, but listening intently. 

In the group exercise phase I looked around the groups and though they were not really taking an interest.  I was prepared to be surprised but not quite as much as I was.  They were asked to discuss what they had learnt and think of what they would like to do next to improve their lives.  The ladies were first to present their answers and they said they would like to use lids for the water pots, for carrying and storing so that the water did not get dirty from flies.  The other groups had answers including;

  • Getting the whole village to pick up all of the litter and burn it;
  • Building 6 public latrines, 3 each side of the estuary so everyone could use and to stop open defecation and the disease that it brings into the village and;
  • Clean the area around the well for safety and health reasons.

Great initial enthusiasm and with the chefe the way he is we’re pretty confident that some of these things will be carried out.

For day two we set about building a demonstration latrine.  We had asked the chefe de aldeia to choose a person who most needed a latrine but who could not build one for themselves.  Wise as he is, the chefe chose well.  Farque Momande is, according to his id card, only 48, but he looks old enough to be my great granddad, and I’m no spring chicken any more.  He lost and arm to a sickness about 15 years ago and is currently confined to his bed with a problem with his legs, having to be carried everywhere, including into the bush to use the toilet.  This means his equally old looking wife is pretty burdened, add in a mentally handicapped granddaughter and this is definitely a house in need of a bit of help. 

So, we built a latrine out the back of his yard.

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First off, cut some sticks from the local bush;  there’s no point making a demonstration of something that is beyond the capability of the locals to build, in terms of cost and technology, using items freely available in the bush makes this a copy-able demonstration.

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Second, dig a hole.  The boy in the hole has his trouser waistband around the bottom of his arse, who new such ridiculously bad trends would still be used half way around the world years later:  these are the things I’m here to get away from.

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Third, line the hole with the poles in a cone shape.

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Four:  secure it all with some rope made from local bark.

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Lastly:  cover with one of Nema’s latrine slabs from the slab project and get the household to try it out.

It’s actually a pretty simple thing to build, but having the knowledge and confidence is the important thing.

At the end of the demonstration the chefe stood up and said his thanks to Nema and Bashir, but he also told everyone that he will be building a latrine in his house this week and called on every member of the village committee of health to do the same.  He also talked passionately about thanking Nema for all of our work, especially helping to send the students to secondary schools and encouraged those in the village to make the most of the opportunities Nema offered to improve their lives. Maybe he should be Director de Nema, he certainly does inspirational speaking as well as anyone I’ve met; he’s also just on the right side of scary!