Sanitation programs in Nepal have enabled rural villagers and school children to have a healthier living environment, where hand washing and tooth brushing are now a part of daily life.
The school dental programs in Nepal revealed an underlying problem with sanitation, both in the schools and in the villages. The sanitation facilities either didn’t exist, or were not functioning adequately and were in danger of becoming health hazards.
Without access to clean water, safe disposal of human waste, facilities for hand washing and storage of hygiene items, tooth cleaning advice can be an interesting discussion but one which leads to no change. Rather, it can cause embarrassment and shame.
What have we learned?
To approach a village by starting with the school:
- with cooperation from the school staff and families, an oral health program is offered, and sanitation facilities at the school are checked
- if necessary, toilets are upgraded to be safe and functional, hand washing capacity is built, soap storage/dispensing is put in place, tooth brush storage is built, water storage is considered
- dental training is provided to the teachers, dental camps provide free preventive dental care, the teachers supervise a daily school tooth brushing program
- all partners contribute according to their expertise and capacity: the school might provide labour and equipment for manual works, offer meals to workers, buy and install a water storage tank, identify local skilled staff who could be employed in the program
- the international team works with the local team to identify solutions, and how to get them built
- if evaluation of this work considers it to be a success, and partners have worked cooperatively, then the program starts to work with the nearby villagers to roll out appropriate sanitation programs in their homes.
Once this is done, the oral health and cleaning advice given to people has a chance of actually being applied in daily lives.
Always funds are required, and the programs are always grateful to supporters and donors.