NGO, enterprise promote better sanitation for remote Vietnamese children

Around a hundred elementary school students from a disaster-prone coastal commune in the southern province of Tien Giang attended an event on the weekend to improve their hygiene practice

Students from Tan Thanh 1 Elementary School in Tien Giang Province wash their hands with soap after collecting trash and growing plants on April 1, 2017.

Around a hundred elementary school students from a disaster-prone coastal commune in southern Vietnam attended an event on the weekend to improve their hygiene practice.

Entitled “School-based Communication Campaign on Washing," the event was held at Tan Thanh 1 Elementary School in Tan Thanh Commune, Go Cong Dong District, Tien Giang Province, by the international non-government organization Save the Children, with the sponsorship of Samsung Engineering.

At the event, the 4th and 5th graders learned how to wash their hands through songs and quizzes, collected and classified garbage, and planted new plants in their schoolyard, before they received gifts from the organizers.

Students pick up grabage from their schoolyard. Photo: Dong Nguyen/Tuoi Tre News

“Washing your hands actually prevents many diseases, some of which can be fatal for young children," Save the Children Vietnam Country Director Dragana Strinic told Tuoi Tre News at the event.

“So learning the basics of hygiene and how to wash their hands can sometime be life-saving, although many people do not think about it,” she added, saying dirty hands could cause diseases including diarrhea.

“It’s really important for schoolchildren to know those skills and use those throughout their life, and hopefully to teach other children and adults, parents, and the community.”

A group of students pose for a photo after growing a tree in their schoolyard. Photo: Dong Nguyen/Tuoi Tre News

Representatives from Samsung Engineering also joined hands to paint the walls of the school’s latrine to give it a new and neat look.

Saturday’s event to raise hygiene awareness was part of a project building resilience against natural hazards and improving access to clean water and sanitation among vulnerable coastal communities in Tien Giang.

With the support from Samsung Engineering, the project is meant to cover four disaster-prone coastal communes in Go Cong Dong and Tan Phu Dong Districts.

It will directly benefit approximately 4,020 people, of which 45 percent are children, the organizers said.

Students, organizers and sponsors pose for a group photo at the end of the event on April 1, 2017. Photo: Dong Nguyen/Tuoi Tre News

According to Save the Children, with its 32km long coast, Tien Giang, in the low lying north-east area of the Mekong Delta, is extremely vulnerable to sea level rises and tropical cyclones, and is susceptible to flooding during heavy rains.

Among the issues faced by the region is access to clean water, particularly during the dry season.

Through its study, the NGO found that the pipe water system did reach 45 percent of the four communes' population, however, only half of that percentage actually has access to it because the water pressure is too weak to reach more remote locations.

All of the households inteviewed by Save the Children also indicated a lack of knowledge on safe water and did not recognize the quality of different water sources.

The shortage of safe water, together with inadequate sanitation practices, has resulted in water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and other gynecological illnesses.

In an effort to improve the situation, the project is intended to implement a number of measures, including building the capacity of local governments and community members, improving access to safe water through the installation of rainwater harvesting systems and flood-safe latrines, facilitating access to clean drinking water in schools through schemes that use solar energy in the distillation process, and more.

The project launched at the beginning of February and is expected to run until the end of this year.

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