Health

In Brazil, Advocacy for Clean Water

By Priscila Oliveira, ChildFund Brasil

Reflecting the fifth article of the Universal Declaration of Water Rights — ”Its protection is a vital need and a moral obligation of men to the present and future generations” — ChildFund Brasil strives to educate communities about water preservation for the benefit of future generations.

The project “Meu Meio, Minha Vida” (My Surroundings, My Life), is part of the Vigilantes da Água (Water Watchers) program and is a result of the efforts invested in the communities of Vereda, Bidó, Pedra do Bolo, Tombo and Empoeira, in the Jequitinhonha Valley, a semi-arid region in the state of Minas Gerais in eastern Brazil.

Brazil water watchers

A group of water watchers in Brazil gather at a pond.

ChildFund Brasil’s local partner organization, Municipal Community Association of Medina, carries out the program, which trains community leaders to monitor water quality and educate the community on advocating for their right to have access to clean water. Currently, 18 men and women monitor water quality, which benefits more than 200 families.

For Maria de Almeida, a 42-year-old farmer from the community of Tombo, participating in the program has been valuable. “This project made us learn more about the water we use,” Maria says. “And, knowing that it was contaminated, we now fight for improvement and for the preservation of the springs. I feel happy to participate in the project and for the opportunity to educate other people.”

Brazil water watcher

One water watcher gets a sample.

Paula Gava, coordinator at the Medina community association, notes, “The program is a way of working on environmental issues as a whole in the community, of making everyone reflect on the environment. At the moment, we discuss the situation of water availability.

“The reality is that there is a lack of water during this period of drought, and furthermore, we’ve detected coliform bacteria contamination,” he adds. “We already have people mobilized and aware of the bad water they consume. Our job is to provide information so that the community can organize themselves, feel empowered to demand clean water and become part of the solution.”

As the program continues, community groups are working with Minas Gerais’ rural extension agency and municipal health and agriculture departments to improve the quality of water.

Help Stop TB in Their Lifetime

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communications Specialist

Tuberculosis is rare today in the United States and other developed countries, but in developing nations, it is a killer. Globally, TB has created 10 million orphans and is one of the top-three causes of death in women ages 15 to 44.

Today, March 24, we mark World TB Day by joining with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and other international organizations to raise awareness and mobilize political and social commitment toward progress in the care and control of tuberculosis.

children in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has the world’s highest tuberculosis incidence and mortality rates by far.

Caused by an airborne bacteria, TB often attacks lungs and has developed strains that are resistant to multiple drug treatments. It also strikes people with weak immune systems, particularly those infected with HIV. In the 1800s, Western Europe saw the number of tuberculosis deaths peak at nearly 25 percent, but with better medical treatment and understanding, the TB mortality rate fell by 90 percent by the 1950s.

Now, as the virus mutates and resists standard drug therapies, developing nations are experiencing the same level of risk as Europe did a century ago. This year marks the second half of WHO’s two-year campaign Stop TB in My Lifetime, a program that is significant to countries ChildFund serves in Africa and Asia.

Globally, tuberculosis is second only to AIDS as the greatest killer from a single infectious agent. At least a third of HIV-infected patients worldwide are also diagnosed with TB, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, tuberculosis is often the infection that is directly responsible for death. In fact, testing positive for tuberculosis often masks HIV-positive status, which makes proper medical treatment far more difficult than for patients who have one disease or the other.

Ugandan girl holds memory book

In Uganda, TB and HIV infections are often combined, making treatment difficult. This child holds a memory book her HIV-positive parents created for her.

Despite the overall decline worldwide in incidences of TB and the development of rapid diagnostics, the combination of HIV and TB and its accompanying challenges have kept Africa from being on track to halve its tuberculosis deaths by 2015, a WHO goal.

WHO estimates that 500,000 children were newly infected in 2011, and 64,000 died. Tuberculosis is particularly difficult to diagnose in children; current TB tests are largely inaccurate for children.

Poor communities and vulnerable populations also suffer disproportionately from TB. At highest risk are young adults, infants, diabetics, smokers, those infected with HIV, people who are malnourished and anyone living in crowded or unclean conditions — such as refugees and others displaced by a natural disaster, political oppression or civil unrest.

Because TB threatens the well-being of children where we work, ChildFund supports local government initiatives and public messaging. Here are some facts about ChildFund-supported countries and their exposure to TB:

Sierra Leone has the world’s highest prevalence and mortality rates; tuberculosis incidence there is one and a half times as high as in the second-ranked country, and Sierra Leone’s mortality rate is almost twice as high.

mother and child in a Timor-Leste garden

Timor-Leste has the world’s eighth highest incidence rate of TB, but good nutrition can make families less vulnerable to infection.

Cambodia ranks fifth for prevalence and Timor-Leste eighth, but both countries tie for fifth-highest mortality rate because Cambodia has an edge in successful treatment.

Joining those three nations as very-high-incidence countries are The Gambia, Liberia, Mozambique, the Philippines and Zambia.

Areas of high prevalence include Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam. Uganda, where TB and HIV infection forms a lethal combination, has a treatment success rate of only 71 percent.  Ethiopia and Guinea also have lower-than-average success rates: 83 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

The story isn’t entirely bleak, though. Some countries have made impressive progress. Between 1995 and 2011, 85 percent of all new infections and 69 percent of relapsing cases were successfully treated. And between 1990 and 2011, the overall mortality rate fell by 41 percent.

However, every year funding falls $3 billion short of WHO’s goal to make quality care accessible regardless of gender, age, type of disease, social setting or ability to pay. International assistance is especially critical for the 35 countries designated as low-income — including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Uganda. Of these, The Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are not currently among the top 50 recipients of Official Development Assistance.

Please join us in taking action to end the burden of tuberculosis in the lifetimes of the children we serve. When you sponsor a child or make a donation to Children’s Greatest Needs, you’ll be helping to ensure that children in our programs live healthier lives.

World Water Day: Fátima’s Story

Reporting by ChildFund Mozambique

 To mark World Water Day on March 22, we’re focusing on the myriad challenges children and families face without a reliable source of clean water.

a girl drinks water from a cup

11-year-old Fátima.

My name is Fátima. I am 11 years old, I live in Gondola, Mozambique, and I attend Bela-Vista Primary School.

Formerly in my school there was no water source, which compelled us to walk long distances with a 20-liter container looking for water in other neighboring communities between 5 and 7 kilometers (3 to 4 miles) away from the school.

Consequently, our lavatories were unclean and classrooms floors were rarely mopped up, which exposed all of us to the risk of catching diseases related to poor hygiene.

Luckily, a water borehole has been dug on our school grounds by ChildFund, so now we are very happy because we do not need to walk long distances to access water anymore. Drinkable water can be obtained 7 to 10 meters (23 to 30 feet) away.

Our classrooms are not dusty anymore because we keep them neat, and our lavatories are always clean. We are less likely to catch diseases, as we now quench our thirst with treated water from the borehole.

women at a water pump

Fatima’s mother (in red coat) gets water at the pump.

This lady pictured in the red coat is my mother. She is pumping the water up here at my school for us to use at home. The beneficiaries of the water are not only schoolchildren but also the neighboring community.  We don’t need to walk long distances looking for water to drink, to cook, to wash our clothes and to give our animals to drink.

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

Progress in the City of the Water Wars

 By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager

 Cochabamba, a city in central Bolivia, made it into the news in 2000 for its “water wars.” Today, its communities still struggle for access to clean water, but ChildFund makes life a bit easier for residents by providing education and water purification systems. Today, as we mark World Water Day, we take a look at the situation in Cochabamba.

In the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, water is a scarce resource. The city is located in an extremely dry valley, where most of the scenery is dominated by desert and dusty roads with little greenery or vegetation.

Bolivian mother

Luisa, a mother of five, lives in Cochabamba, an area with a serious water shortage.

Luisa is a mother of five children, ages 11 years to 7 months. She and her husband, Zenón, arrived in Cochabamba a few years ago with many other migrants from Bolivia’s rural areas when the country’s main mining company closed and left thousands of people unemployed.

 The family settled in a marginal area of Cochabamba, where no electricity, paved roads or water services are available.

Bolivia landscape

Cochabamba is a dry region in central Bolivia.

The water problem in Bolivia is not new. In fact, Cochabamba’s water wars made news in 2000 after protests over water prices erupted into violence. The conflict inspired several movies and documentaries. Today, more than a decade later, Bolivia continues to suffer from South America’s lowest water coverage levels, as well as low quality of services, especially in terms of sanitation.

ChildFund Bolivia works in the most vulnerable and deprived areas of Cochabamba through local partner Obispo Anaya to help families gain access to purified water, educating them about water-usage techniques and improving hygiene and sanitation systems to avoid the spread of diseases that include diarrhea, chagas disease (a parasitic infection), respiratory and skin infections.

Luisa has worked as a community leader with ChildFund Bolivia’s local partner for the past seven years, and one of her family’s main concerns is water. Having to buy water has always been an additional expense that was eating up a big portion of their small monthly budget. Her family still has to buy water, but the expense is lower thanks to ChildFund’s efforts.

mother and daughter

Luisa and her 10-year-old daughter Maria Elena get clean water.

At the ChildFund-supported community center, families receive training on how to use a simple water purification system, which requires only sunlight and plastic bottles to kill germs, viruses and bacteria that can be present in water.

“We don’t need to buy bottled water anymore or boil it,” Luisa says. “We used to spend much more money for water. We still have to buy it from the water truck, but we spend less.” The family still buys two to three tanks full of water a week, which is approximately 15 bolivianos (US$2), half of what Zenón makes in one day of work.

Now Luisa trains other mothers in her community about proper usage of water purification systems. Her children are also healthier: Baby Tania is growing much stronger, as well as her brother Jonas, who is 3. Luisa’s three older children attend school and have healed from the skin infections that they used to get before the family began using the water purification system.

ChildFund’s program has helped me in many ways… to take better care of my children,” Luisa says. “They have taught us how to better clean our house and avoid diseases, and how to use water better and wash our hands, and I can see the difference, as my little babies don’t get sick anymore, as the elders did.”

Were you inspired by today’s blog post? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

Clean Water: A Learning Essential for Southern Philippines School

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

It’s quiet in the neighborhood around Nabilid Elementary School. The school sits amid a small community of 10 houses and a sari-sari store that sells packets of instant noodles, soda and junk food. The peace is only broken by the roar of an occasional jeepney bus, carrying children and their adult guardians to and from school in this section of the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.

classroom with adults and children

Nabilid Elementary School, in the Philippines, lacked a functional water system until recently.

Amid the dust and black exhaust, passengers have to cover their noses and mouths with handkerchiefs. Thirsty children walk straight to the school’s canteen after arriving, seeking something to drink.

Because the school’s water system doesn’t work properly, children go for artificially flavored juices or cola, which are cheaper than juice. Nabilid’s water taps were installed incorrectly, so mud gurgles from them.

Lacking funding to correct the plumbing problem, the school is forced to ration water collected in large drums, but soon this situation is set to improve.

ChildFund has a long-standing partnership with Nabilid Elementary, supporting early childhood development programs, child-friendly teaching methods, teacher training, peer mentoring among older students and stocking of learning materials and books for students. “Nabilid’s made good with ChildFund’s support, adopting ECD in their curriculum and developing their faculty,” says Marlene, a ChildFund Philippines staff member. “ChildFund recognizes, however, how water is specifically crucial to the success of our efforts here.” This is why ChildFund is installing a clean and functional water system at Nabilid.

outdoor sink

A new water system is being installed at the school.

Marlene is monitoring the progress of the water system’s construction at Nabilid and five other schools in the southern Philippines. “Though seemingly oblique, providing a safe water supply is in fact crucial to ECD services at schools,” Marlene says. Activities like hand-washing and personal hygiene education, as well as and some parent-education activities like nutritious food preparation, become difficult without water.

“Completion of the water supply systems in these five areas alone will benefit a total student population of 20,000 boys and girls,” Marlene notes. Nabilid’s new water system is expected to be fully functional by the end of March.

The school administration is appreciative of the progress and matches ChildFund’s contribution by committing labor and some construction supplies. ChildFund’s local partner agency will also help the school design common sinks just the right height for younger children. The School Governance Council has also pledged to maintain the water system once it’s in place.

ECD sessions continue while the Philippines’ older students are on summer break, which began in mid-March and continues through May. Over these months, Nabilid’s teachers expect more heat and dust. Once the water starts flowing, though, children will have a school environment that’s more conducive to learning.

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

Without Fresh Water, It’s Not Easy to Have Clean Hands

By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

All over the world, children’s hands get dirty while they’re playing. But not everyone has access to soap and running water.  In Indonesia, one of the Early Childhood Development centers supported by ChildFund has tackled the problem of cleanliness without easy access to fresh water.

“Children always enjoy playing here,” says Sriyatun, a tutor who works at the Early Childhood Development center in Kulonprogo, Central Java. “They play with the blocks, crayons, water and other local materials such as corn seed and bamboo.

“Their hands, however, soon become dirty,” she adds. “Children need to wash their hands before they eat. Unfortunately, we don’t have the facility. We usually brought the children to the mosque next to our ECD center to wash their hands.”

3 women installing a clay pot

Sriyatun (in green), a tutor at an Indonesian ECD center, helps install a handwashing system.

Not wanting to prolong this situation, Sriyatun and the other tutors recently hand-built a “water facility” for the children in the front yard of the center. The system consists of clay water pots with spigots that were contributed by a parent. Teachers and parents still must bring the water from elsewhere, but the clay pots keep the water fresh and allow easy, controlled dispensing.

“It isn’t healthy to wash your hands using water from a bucket, as the water gets dirtier the more people use it,” Sriyatun says. “Also, as we should always use running water and soap when we wash our hands to prevent illnesseses such as diarrhea, we thought this idea would work.”

A growing awareness of the importance of handwashing is one result of ChildFund’s efforts to build integrated community-based health services.

“We want parents and children to be more aware of the importance of handwashing at the critical times of day, for example, before eating and after using the restroom,” Sriyatun notes. “It’s also important to wash your hands before feeding a child and after cleaning a child’s bottom and, of course, before preparing food and after touching animals.”

Today, people in the community are more aware of the importance of hygiene than they were in earlier generations, Sriyatun says. “They even practice handwashing at their home now, which they didn’t use to do.”

3-year-old boy washing his hands

Ngatini and her 3-year-old son practice handwashing at the ECD center.

According to one mother, Ngatini, whose 3-year-old son is enrolled in the ECD program, “If we ask them to wash their hands, they will do it, but it can sometimes be a challenge. If, on the other hand, the teacher asks them to wash their hands, children comply more easily and even do it at home without being asked to.”

Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.

Uganda Makes Progress on HIV and AIDS Interventions

By ChildFund Uganda staff

ChildFund and its local partners in Uganda made a concentrated effort  to increase HIV and AIDS interventions in the past year, setting three primary objectives:

  1. Make significant contributions to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  2. Improve access to care and treatment for children living with HIV and AIDS.
  3. Strengthen the existing district health care system to ensure effective delivery of HIV and AIDS services.
women and men in classroom

Expectant mothers and their husbands attend a prenatal care training session, which includes HIV and AIDS counseling and education services, in Agago district in northern Uganda.

To effectively deliver quality HIV and AIDS programs to the target populations, ChildFund is taking an integrated approach to service delivery in Uganda. We are working within existing programs including maternal and child services, health care and immunization.

Last year, we made considerable progress toward those goals, including

  • comprehensive training for 28 health workers in four districts on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
  •  a fully equipped maternity unit constructed in Kitgum district
  • 7,800 pregnant mothers accessing HIV counseling and testing
  • 8,100 children tested for HIV, with 72 percent of children who tested positive receiving appropriate treatment
  • more than 350 HIV-affected households supported with income-generating activities
  • 160 health volunteers trained and engaged in community mobilization and follow-up for HIV-positive patients
  • more than 100 local and religious leaders selected and trained on their roles in promoting HIV and AIDS prevention services.
building with blue roof

A newly constructed maternity ward at Akuna Labor Health Center III in Lagoro Subcounty in Kitgum district now offers HIV and AIDS interventions.

Always Small: The High Price of Malnutrition

By Christine Ennulat

Way back in college, I went to Haiti for six weeks on an interdenominational mission trip. Our team lived in an orphanage outside of Cap-Haitien, on Haiti’s northern coast, where our task for the summer was to add a second floor to a building in an orphanage.

The children were always around, but I remember in particular four little boys — Roro, Antoine, Roger and tiny Delice. They were a pack, always smiling, always curious about what this group of giant, sweating teenagers was up to.

mangos in a treeI remember their throwing rocks into trees to knock down mangos and the insanely sour, thick-skinned grapefruit that I loved. I remember them looking on, grinning, as we toiled and complained while washing what must have seemed our overabundance of clothes at the orphanage’s well. I remember their small, rain-slick faces peering into the sick tent, where I suffered in quarantine with some unpleasant stomach ailment as a small river rushed past my air mattress, and Roro’s asking, “Ou malade?

Roro was my favorite. He had twinkle to spare, and he and Delice seemed to have a special bond. I thought it was nice that the older boy looked out for the younger with such obvious care.

A few weeks into our stay, I had learned enough Creole to find out that the boys were not 8 or 9 years old, as I’d thought, but 11. All of them — including Delice, whose head reached Roro’s shoulder, and whom I’d thought was maybe 5 or 6. But as I thought about him and paid more attention, I recognized his more sober, angular countenance was at odds with his birdlike, stunted body.

When I asked the minister who ran the orphanage about his story, I learned that Delice’s mother had left him there as a toddler, and that he had been severely malnourished, which was the reason he was so small. He would grow more, but he would always be small.

Now, decades later, as I explore ChildFund’s work so that I can do my job of writing about it, I often learn hard truths. In researching our Early Child Development programs, I’ve learned about the importance of nutrition in a child’s development — physical, cognitive, behavioral and more. The other day, I ran across a widely quoted nugget from Carl Sagan, from a statement he made to Congress in 1994:

“When there isn’t enough food, the body has to make a decision about how to invest the limited foodstuffs available. Survival comes first. Growth comes second. In this nutritional triage, the body seems obliged to rank learning last. Better to be stupid and alive than smart and dead.”

For Delice, his body’s “decision” was outwardly obvious. There’s no way to know about the rest of it — what losses he may have had in his learning or social capacities — but, remembering his eyes and his demeanor, I’m pretty sure he was able to hold his own.

I like to think that Delice was one of the comparatively lucky ones — that, with the care he received in the orphanage and with a friend like Roro, he found his way in the world and has lived a productive, satisfying life.

What I know for sure, though, is that the world is too full of 11-year-olds who look like 6-year-olds and too many children who don’t survive malnutrition to reach age 5 ― children whose potential has been stolen by malnutrition and other effects of poverty. And that’s why ChildFund’s work to turn this around for children is so important.

World AIDS Day: 24 Years Later, More to Do

By Kate Andrews, with reporting by Saroj Pattnaik, ChildFund India, and ChildFund Kenya staff

The first World AIDS Day was held in 1988, and a great number of medical and social advances have been made in the 24 years since then. Nevertheless, much remains to be done. Today, we turn our focus to ChildFund’s work in India and Africa.

young woman at table

Rajashri is a Link Worker in Machareddy Block of Nizamabad District, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Rajashri is a supervisor for the Link Workers Scheme (LWS), a program in India that helps children orphaned by AIDS and some who are HIV-positive. She provides medication for hundreds of children infected with the disease in 19 districts of Andhra Pradesh, a central Indian province with a population of about 76 million. Started in 2008 by the national and regional governments with help from ChildFund India, LWS targets high-risk groups with prevention and risk-reduction information.

ChildFund India has identified more than 7,400 children in Andhra Pradesh who have been orphaned or left otherwise vulnerable by AIDS or HIV.

Although African nations often receive the most attention when the topic of AIDS arises, India has approximately 2.4 million people living with HIV, the third-highest population in the world, based on a 2009 estimate by UNAIDS. According to the Indian government, the state of Andhra Pradesh reported the second-highest HIV rate in the nation.

The LWS program, which ChildFund supports, began in three districts in Andhra Pradesh in 2008, reaching 19 districts in 2011. About 23,000 volunteers have been engaged in this effort, and more than 11,600 HIV-positive patients have been identified and helped by the state’s health department.

ChildFund also is working in African countries to help prevent the spread of AIDS. In Ethiopia, we work with children, youth, parents and community leaders to provide HIV and AIDS prevention and testing interventions as well as make available social networks to counter stigma and discrimination.

Through our Strengthening Community Safety Nets program in the Addis Ababa and Oromia areas, 50,000 orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS have received family-centered care and support. The program builds on existing partnerships with community groups and local volunteers to build the resilience of families and community structures to support children affected by HIV, especially those under age 11.

In Kenya, where an estimated 1.2 million people are infected with HIV (the same number as the far more populous United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), a ChildFund program has helped connect HIV-positive and other vulnerable children to organizations that offer anti-retroviral treatment and social assistance.

The number of vulnerable children attending school and receiving health care has risen since the 2005 institution of Weaving the Safety Net, part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Today, that program has concluded, but ChildFund’s work with orphans and vulnerable children impacted by HIV and AIDS continues. As of spring 2012, more than 73,000 orphans and vulnerable children were being served in Nairobi, and 3,200 HIV-positive children were enrolled in support groups.

girl with books

Lucy receives a school uniform, books and a new bed.

Lucy, a 9-year-old who is HIV-positive, lives in Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya. She, her grandmother, her aunt and four cousins share a one-room thatched home. When Lucy was a baby, her mother died from AIDS complications. Their village had few resources to deal with the disease, but now, with ChildFund’s support, Lucy goes to a district hospital to receive anti-retroviral treatment. She is healthy and thriving at school.

At age 8, Lucy started attending a support group for children living with HIV. “I know my status, and that is why I take my medicine, so that I can remain strong to be able to go to school and also play like the other children,” Lucy says. “My teacher and some neighbors know my status, too, and I know they love and support me.”

A side benefit of ChildFund’s and others’ work in Kenya has been a greater acceptance of those affected by HIV, lessening the stigma of the disease.

“When I was requested to enroll her in a support group, I hesitated, but today Lucy shares information about the support group discussions with all of us here,” her grandmother says. “Through her, we have learned a lot about HIV and AIDS.”

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