My name is Naw Sae Phaw and I am a teacher of a primary school of Thee Kwe Kaw village, Kyarinseikygi Township. I have been teaching in this very remote village of Kayin Sate, in the South-East Myanmar, for about a year. There are 30 children in the school.
|Naw Sae Phaw tells her story|
©UNICEF Myanmar/2015/Khin Mar Win
Thee Kwe Kaw village is one of the Ethnic Armed Organization (EAO) controlled villages which is not under the supervision of Government township administration. It is located in the Kayin National Union (KNU) area, which is one of the several EAOs in Kayin state.
Social services are not sufficient in many villages in this state. The Kwe Kaw village is not an exception and villagers are often neglected. Each year, half of the school children gets sick with diarrhea and, therefore, they are often absent from classes. In August 2015, there was also a cholera outbreak in the village and more than 10 schoolchildren suffered from severe diarrhea. One of these children died. This situation was a threat to the whole community. The villagers did not know how to prevent diarrhea and these cases were always treated in a traditional way.
I realized that the lack of safe water, sanitary latrines, handwashing facilities, and awareness on good hygiene behaviours could be some of the reasons of the outbreak. In Thee Kwe Kaw village, there were no latrines in the entire village, including in the school. As a result, open defecation was practiced by the villagers and schoolchildren.
In this context, I started thinking on how to help and prevent diarrhea. One day, I heard that UNICEF was planning to support our village to improve school water and sanitation facilities through the NGO PU-AMI and the State’s Health Department, so I got involved in the community discussions. UNICEF planned to support schools in the construction of WASH facilities and my school was also included in this project.
|©UNICEF Myanmar/2015/Tin Aung|
With UNICEF support, the local NGO built new latrines and conducted hygiene promotion sessions in my school. As a teacher, I also took part in these awareness activities and education training sessions. Now, I am very happy to see our children using the sanitary latrines, and washing hands. Every day, I guide them on the proper use of latrines and conduct group handwashing activities, which are also fun.
The situation has significantly changed since handwashing and sanitation facilities were built. I see that children have a good personal hygiene and notice they take those behaviors back home. Parents and communities confirm that their children do not have diarrheal diseases anymore and, therefore, they don’t miss classes. After only a few months of practicing, the community have also realized the benefits of hand washing and latrines. As of now, more than 50% families have built household latrines and they are using it.
I am hoping that one day this village will be free from diarrhea and have a healthy living environment.
Thanks UNCEF and PU-AMI for helping us to have WASH facilities and change children’s behavior. You have saved the lives of many children in our village. I am confident that my students will have better health and school performance.
* Naw Sae Phaw interviewed by Khin Mar Win, WASH officer at UNICEF Mawlamyine Field Office