Azaranica is a non-biased news aggregator on Hazaras. The main aim is to promote understanding and respect for cultural identities by highlighting the realities they face on daily basis...Hazaras have been the victim of active persecution and discrimination and one of the reasons among many has been the lack of information, awareness, and disinformation.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Simple remedies that are cutting deaths in Afghanistan

17 Nov 2011
Afghan doctor Abdul Javid sadly recalled the deaths of two one-year-old babies as he stood nearly 9,000 feet up in the mountains of his country's most isolated regions.

"Poor hygiene killed them. It was so unnecessary," he said. "They were dehydrated through illness, but they didn't need to be. That is what we are trying to stop." Dr Javid explained that preventable deaths are common in the remote districts of Bamiyan province, where he works for international charity Medair. Disease and dehydration caused by poor hygiene are bigger killers than guns and bombs.

The charity's life-saving work involves providing free washing lines, plastic buckets and nail clippers, plus latrines, washrooms, piped spring water and wells.

The pipes and wells bring clean water for villagers previously forced to use potentially disease-bearing ponds and streams, while the latrines mean that human faeces are no longer deposited outside homes.

Dr Javid said that Medair's efforts to change cultural attitudes towards cleanliness would also save lives. "People are used to drying their clothes on the ground, even though it is covered in manure from the village animals, so we tell them the dangers and give them washing lines so that they can hang them up safely," he said. "There is also a tradition that it is bad to cut your nails. But that means that dirt gets in their mouth and causes illnesses so we give them nail clippers."

The free buckets come with lids to keep clean water untainted. Other gifts include toothbrushes and toothpaste to improve dental hygiene.
Medical research in the area shows that diarrhoea among children could be cut by nearly half simply through regular hand-washing.

As Dr Javid speaks, the good hygiene message is being drummed home in the village of Sar-e-Qalat in a class organised by Medair as part of a six-month health project in isolated Bamiyan communities.

The teacher, 18-year-old local girl Najibah, uses an illustrated flip chart to teach her largely illiterate audience of women and children, with images showing how to combat diseases by keeping food free of dirt and flies, washing fruit and vegetables, and using latrines.

Mother-of-four Parigul, 40, said: "We are learning a lot and our children are much healthier. There used to be a lot of diarrhoea and illness, but now they look handsome and well and we are very happy."

With funds limited, Medair has been unable to help all of those scattered among the mountains. In Shuiek, one of the villages to miss out, father-of-eight Ibrahim, 56, said he hoped that latrines, a well and hygiene training might one day be provided.

"In the winter we have to go half an hour by donkey in the snow to fetch water," he said. "So it would make a big difference to us if the spring nearer to us could be piped here. We also have no latrines so people go near the houses and you can imagine what that is like."

Back in Sar-e-Qalat, Ali Jumah, a 70-year-old village elder, thanked the departing Medair staff for their help. "Before this, up here in the mountains we were the forgotten people of Afghanistan," he said.

London Evening Standard

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