Road to Jholunge

Update from the Field

Namaste from Nepal! To say the least our first few months back, have been eye opening. We have spent some time connecting with local NGOs, district public officials and learning about the current WASH situation. While scoping out various districts, we connected with local NGO Educating Nepal and have had the opportunity to spend time in a small village located in the district of Sindhupalchowk, named Jholunge (jho-loon-ge).

Nestled in the valley of Maghi Gaon, the village is home to some of the best fishermen in Nepal. Through a somewhat treacherous road, the village can be reached within 5 hours by local bus. However, as the current border blockage with India continues to make headlines, traveling has been quite the task especially with a lack of fuel and transportation.

Starting this December, Manavta will be building urine diversion toilets for three families and working alongside the community, students of Suryoda Primary School and artists from Kathmandu, to spread the good word about stopping open defecation. As many of you may know, Sindhupalchowk is also the epicenter of the earthquake and has been the site of much of the destruction that was witnessed in the media. Jholunge in total lost 25 members of their community and are currently rebuilding their homes, schools and lives. Their story is something I will come to learn while I spend the next few months living with them. We are so grateful to be able to work with this community and are equally heartfelt by the support our fans have shown us during the past few years leading up to this project. 

We are set to depart next week and I encourage you to keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (links at the very bottom of the page) to learn more about the progress and the community we are working with. If you would like to get involved with our current operations you can connect with us on social media or at toilets@manavtaproject.org, we would love to hear from you!

The ‘H’ in WASH

Having a place to poo is important. However, behaviour surrounding toilet activities, particularly hand washing, can be just as significant as having a toilet to begin with.

The WASH sector (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) often focuses on the hardware of toilets, pipes and drains, but access to hardware isn’t everything. The ‘H’ is a key part of improving health through WASH, because without hand washing people will quite literally continue eating shit. Fecal matter travels easily to hands after defecation and, without hand washing, can then travel easily to food or other surfaces.

The story by stats

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 gram of poo (think the weight of a paperclip) can contain 1 trillion (1,000,000,000) germs. Hand washing can prevent spreading those germs and decrease illness: evidence shows that proper hand washing can reduce incidence of diarrhea by 30%. With 500,000 children dying each year from diarrhea, related to poor quality water and sanitation (WaterAid, n.d.), hand washing (with soap!) is a simple step for reducing those deaths.

Hand washing can also contribute to reducing children’s absence from school by decreasing the amount of time they’re sick. Programs that promote hand washing, provide soap and put in place peer hand washing champions have been shown to lead to 54% fewer days of school absence. And that sickness isn’t limited to diarrhea – other health issues, like respiratory illness, skin infections, and intestinal worm infections, can also be decreased with hand washing.

Taking action

Of course, knowing about the risks of dirty hands and actually washing them isn’t the same thing.  Behavior change is a huge part of preventative health, and it’s often the most difficult step to implement. Just ask any smoker or chocoholic. That’s why Manavta’s engaging educational programs, which encourage positive hygiene-related behavior change among students, are a key part of what we do.  

So next time you finish up your daily constitutional or hang out with your pet chicken, don't forget to wash your hands before you make food or hold hands with that special someone!