Your Health Is In Your Hands May 21, 2014 by Nick Johnson
By: Yunus Mohammed, CFK Community Outreach Project Officer
Many people believe it’s impossible to keep living spaces clean, especially in Kibera, where household walls are often made of iron sheet or cardboard, and floors are often made of mud. It doesn’t help that the environment is also marked by heaps of garbage, which act as breeding sites for insects and rats that are commonly known to carry diseases.
Our own hands are another leading disease transmitter. When they’re not kept clean, they can turn into dangerous weapons against our own lives, especially the lives of our young ones. Keeping our hands clean is regarded as one of the most cost-effective interventions to improve community health. Unfortunately, most households within Kibera have very limited water for proper hygiene or don’t use soap when it comes to hand washing.
It’s for these reasons that the Community Wellness Program under CFK’s Health Department launched a campaign dubbed, “Your Health Is In Your Hands!” (“Afya Yako Ipo Mikononi Mwako” is the Swahili version.) The program works closely with 150 Community Health Workers (CHWs), who perform a wide range of tasks for community members, including first aid treatment, health education, nutritional advice, and other services. The program’s main aim is to contribute to the reduction of diarrheal disease in women who are pregnant and children under the age of 5 years in three of Kibera’s villages (Gatwekera, Soweto West, and Kianda). Sponsored by Ronald McDonald House Charities, the hand washing campaign’s focus is to educate the community on the importance of washing hands with soap, install hand washing facilities at the household level, and disseminate hand washing materials to households that need them.
In one of our visits to Kibera’s Soweto West village, the CHWs educated the community on how to wash their hands properly to ensure the community—especially caretakers—understood the proper procedures. During the activity, we discovered that three quarters of the caretakers didn’t know how to wash their hands properly and this begged the question, “Do you really know how to wash your hands properly or are you amongst the three quarters who wash their hands just for the sake of doing it?”
“Washing hands with soap is not new but knowing the correct way of using soap and cleaning hands is a great experience,” said Teddy, a Community Health Worker, who was joined by a number of children, including their caretakers, to show the right way of going about it. “Proper hand washing requires soap and only a small amount of water,” added Maryanne, another CHW. “One should cover wet hands with soap, scrub all the surfaces and rinse well with running water. The hand parts, including palms, back of hands, and especially the area under fingernails must be thoroughly cleaned.”
Ruth, a caretaker within Soweto West village, said, “Till now, I was only washing my hands with soap after using the toilet, but now I have realized that hands should be washed properly before handling food, after changing baby diapers, before and after attending to a sick person, before cooking and eating. Unfortunately, most of us do not use soap regularly at home and this encourages diseases that take a heavy toll on life and money,” she added.
Through the Community Health Workers, the importance of hand washing is becoming well-known throughout Kibera. The simple action of washing hands with soap can break off the transmission of germs that cause diarrhea and pneumonia, the two biggest killers of children under five. Let your hands be clean to save lives.