COVID-19: Hygiene Clubs for schools in Haiti

Norwegian students support construction of water supplies and handwashing training for vulnerable children

(LWI) - Students in Norway have teamed up with the joint office of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH) to help school children in Haiti protect themselves from the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Population density, political instability, water shortages, plus a lack of health and hygiene infrastructure make the population of Haiti particularly vulnerable to the spread of the virus.

LWF has been supporting communities in Haiti since 1995, working in an innovative partnership with Norwegian Church Aid and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe since 2017. The country is prone to natural disasters and thousands of people are still struggling to recover from the effects of a devastating 2010 earthquake, as well as the 2016 Hurricane Matthew.

LWF/NCA/DKH country representative Starry Sprenkle (back row, right) with the team which is promoting the WASH campaign for schools in Haiti

LWF/NCA/DKH country representative Starry Sprenkle (back row, right) with the team which is promoting the WASH campaign for schools in Haiti

In 2012 NCA started fundraising with Norwegian students to support schools in Haiti and this collaboration continues. Through the joint aid partnership in Haiti, Starry Sprenkle, the country representative for LWF/NCA/DKH, visited two schools where children are learning about handwashing and other hygiene habits that can help protect them from diseases, including Coronavirus. While Haiti has only reported a few dozen cases and three deaths (as of 15 April), there are widespread concerns about an exodus of people evading medical controls as they cross the border from neighboring Dominican Republic which has confirmed more than 3.000 cases and over 180 deaths.

Haiti’s Vieux Caille National School located in a rural area outside Grand Goave to the west of Port-au-Prince

Haiti’s Vieux Caille National School located in a rural area outside Grand Goave to the west of Port-au-Prince

The smaller of the two schools being targeted for the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) campaign is called the National School of Vieux Caille. Located to the west of the capital Port-au-Prince, it serves an isolated farming community where fear of infection and stigmatization are rife and there is no well or running water supply. Built in the 1970s, the school is a very simple construction with five classrooms currently providing education for 123 students.

A new toilet block has been built for students at Vieux Caille school with a water tank on the roof to serve the handwashing stations

A new toilet block has been built for students at Vieux Caille school with a water tank on the roof to serve the handwashing stations

Originally the school only had two small pit toilets but now, thanks to financial support sent by students in Norway through NCA, a modern toilet block has been built and two separate hand washing stations have been set up. Gutters have been installed along the tin roof of the building to collect rainwater which fills up a cement water tank behind the school. The water is then pumped to a tower above the toilet block, from where gravity enables it to run down into the faucets.

Pupils at Vieux Caille school learn about handwashing and hygiene techniques that will help to protect them from diseases including Coronavirus

Pupils at Vieux Caille school learn about handwashing and hygiene techniques that will help to protect them from diseases including Coronavirus

The school has started a Hygiene Club and all children learn about correct hygiene techniques, including a song to help them remember how to wash their hands properly. Such simple protective measures are especially important in a context where most people depend for survival on the informal economy, making stay-at-home regulations hard to enforce. Social distancing measures are also difficult to implement in cities like Port-au-Prince, the most populous capital in the Caribbean with over three million inhabitants.

Students in a class at Gressier National School learn about how to prevent the spread of infection

Students in a class at Gressier National School learn about how to prevent the spread of infection

A second school supported by the LWF/NCA/DKH WASH program is Gressier National School, located in a suburban setting next to the main highway to Port-au-Prince. Norwegian students have helped provide funding for toilets and handwashing stations to cater for over a thousand children who attend this educational facility.

A Hygiene Club is also active in this school, with ‘ambassadors’ helping younger children to learn about ways of preventing infection and disease. Starry Sprenkle and her team are hoping that other countries will able to provide funding to support and expand this vital work among the children of Haiti.

 

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15 July 2021
GENEVA, Switzerland
14 July 2021
PALORINYA REFUGEE SETTLEMENT, Uganda/GENEVA