Making washing hands a way of life

On its way through the Visayas, Typhoon Haiyan damaged or ripped apart more than 3,000 schools. Once the worst of the debris was removed, many of the returning students and teachers were forced to use emergency tent classrooms. In many cases, teachers had to use improvised classrooms with little or no protection from the sun and rain.

Red Cross immediately began a program to restore hundreds of classrooms, latrines and washrooms. By the end of October, 410 classrooms had been completed out of the 500+ target and more than 30 schools have improved access to water and sanitation.

One of the schools is Jaquiquican Elementary School, nestled at the foothills of a jagged mountain range in Antique, far from the nearest town. Most residents rely on wells and pumps for their water. Many students live in homes lacking proper sanitation, so diarrhoea and water-borne outbreaks of infection are common.

Red Cross volunteers have therefore been working with the students to stress the importance of cleanliness as part of the participatory hygiene program that runs in tandem with facilities repair.

School principal Cyrus Peroy says the lessons are an important way for the children to gain knowledge and impart it to their peers and families.

‘The hygiene training includes how to keep toilets and communal areas clean, and rules about proper disposal of garbage,’ he says.

‘The volunteers make it fun as well, with role play to reinforce good practices and flash cards as part of the program.

‘The whole idea is to encourage the children to learn for themselves, and for the older ones or the group leaders to pass on their tips to others.’

Children in Tolosa wash their hands at San Vicente Elementary School. The American Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross installed this running water in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which damaged and destroyed houses, schools, and infrastructure in its path. Photo by Niki Clark / American Red Cross
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