Simple equation: clean water + clean hands = good health

Published: 30 June 2011 13:03 CET

Mahieash Johnney in Sri Lanka

Following a disaster, National Societies often discover that small changes in a community can have the largest impact. This is especially the case when taking the hygiene and sanitation messages to communities devastated by the 2004 Asian tsunami. In Sri Lanka, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) and its partner National Societies  have been involved in bringing clean water to thousands of people in the final part of a comprensive water and sanitation programme.

Part of this was a hygiene promotion programme in order to make sure that not only do we provide safe water but also stress the need cleanliness and self-hygiene. The hygiene promotion programme runs over 28 schools in the east.

This promotion programme mainly ran in schools, encouraging children to be clean and using peer assisted learning, where a single student who learns from school will go and coach another student in or outside the school in order to disseminate the message.

Upali Ravindra, Principal Pottuvil Sinhala Secondary School, said there had been a significant change in the behaviour of the children. “There is a clear difference in children’s attitude. They are more confident, cleaner, and most importantly healthier and the attendance to school has certainly increased,” he said. “However you analyse these facts, it comes down to one thing. This was possible because of clean water we have received, and my sincere thanks go out to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and the Movement for taking steps to help the children.”

Our volunteers, our force

For over seven years, the tsunami programme ran in eastern Sri Lanka. Over 10 million dollars were spent for the project; the scope of the work and its impact have spread to more than a million people in various parts of this island.

Our volunteers have been key to the success of the programme. In its 75 year existence, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, like all other National Societies, depends on its volunteers. Over 300 volunteers have taken the task of disseminating and helping out the Water and Sanitation project in the East.

Bob McKerrow, IFRC Sri Lanka Head of Delegation, said it was the dedication and support of the volunteers that made the project possible. “You have contributed to its success,” he said. “I wholeheartedly thank you for the time and commitment put towards the success of this project. What you have done is quite inspiring, and all because of you what we do here in the east does matter.”

The final phase of the water and sanitation project of the Red Cross Movement will be handed over to the public towards the end of July 2011.

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