Pakistan: We are the Hygiene Kids Leaders!

Pakistan accepts approximately 1.6 million refugees from its neighboring country, Afghanistan. The country has the largest number of Afghanistan refugees in the world. The north-west refugee camp, which hosts most of the refugees, and its surrounding areas do not have the infrastructure to provide them with access to safe water. In addition, a lack of toilets in this area is forcing the refugees to defecate outside. Children suffer from diarrhea and infectious diseases as a result of drinking unsanitary well-water contaminated with Ecoli and from not washing their hands regularly. Since 2011, AAR Japan has performed maintenance on wells and toilets in 54 elementary schools in Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In these schools, AAR also carries out hygiene education for the prevention of infectious diseases.

"I was able to help protect my mother from sickness" 

Zahib (10), a fourth grader of Ghulam Rasoor Korona Elementary School is one of the students who participated in AAR’s hygiene education program. Zahib is the youngest of five siblings. Through AAR’s hygiene education program, he  has developed a habit of washing hands and brushing teeth, and has been telling his family about the importance of maintaining good sanitation. He said, "the AAR staff from the hygiene education asked me to tell my family what I learned at school." As soon as Zahib got home, he told his mother to brush teeth every morning and wash hands before preparing meals and after excretion. The family even made a new rule that the family does not eat until his mother washes her hands. Before AAR’s hygiene education program,  Zahib did not know the benefit of washing hands with soap nor that drinking unsafe water could be a cause of illness. Zahib gratefully told us, "I was able to share these things with my mother, so that she will not get sick. I think I am being helpful to her". 

Zahib teaches his mother (right) how to wash her hands (Nowshera, August 8th, 2014)     

Contests increase children's motivation

In a contest at school, Zahib and other students who participated in AAR’s hygiene education program demonstrated what they hadlearned. These students, known as "Hygiene Kids Leaders", pass on their knowledge to junior students. Competing in a contest also increases the students’ motivation. Zahib now shares his knowledge of hygienic practices not only with his siblings and cousins, but also with visitors from other villages. Zahib’s older brother commented that Zahib’s explanation about the hygienic practices was very easy to understand. Zahib’s father looked at him proudly and said, “I have also made the habit of clipping my fingernails regularly". 

 Zahib (right), who has become one of the Hygiene Kids Leaders, and Ihsan from AAR Pakistan office (left) (Nowshera, January 1st, 2014)
Zahib, his siblings, and cousins washing their hands with soap (Nowshera, August 21st, 2014)

"Our children do not suffer from diarrhea as much as they used to."

Zahib's father told us that he started cleaning the drainage ditch along the road every week based on what he has learned from his son. Zahib also encourages his mother to maintain good sanitation in the kitchen. "I think our children get diarrhea a lot less than they used to." says his mother. In the past, Zahib lived with more than 20 other people including his relatives in a residence that had only three toilets. Recently, three more toilets have been installed, allowing everyone to use toilets easily. They said, "We must thank the people from Japan. What you have done for us changed us and our lives. We are very grateful." It is evident that what the AAR staff has taught the children in school is spreading to their families and further to more people in the surrounding areas. AAR will continue providing support, so that hygiene education will take root in this country. 

We have received a message from Zahib's family saying, "Thank you to all of you from Japan." (Nowshera, July 15th, 2014) 
*This program was supported by a grant from Japan Platform (JPF) in addition to your donations. 

Tamayo HARAGUCHI from AAR Pakistan office
After working as a nurse in Japan, Haraguchi became a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer and provided medical assistance in the Marshall Islands. Haraguchi then worked for a number of NGOs, including AAR, where she engaged in various activities such as providing medical and maternal-child health assistance in Asia, Africa and former Yugoslavia. Haraguchi has been working in her current position with AAR since February 2012. Originally from Kagoshima Prefecture. (profile as the date of the article)

Japanese-English translation by Ms. Satoko Koyama
English editing by Mr Peter Bungate

The article on this page has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Volunteer Program. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.