In West Africa, Better Hygiene Equals Better Learning

At primary schools in Cote d'Ivoire, children are better able to learn since the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) partnered with Reservoir de Siloe to install latrines and hand-washing stations in their school.

"Today there are latrines for Sokorobo Primary School," said Diarra Salimatou, government representative of Sokorobo County. "This is good news. Children can learn in comfortable conditions. A school without latrines makes learning difficult. This project encourages parents to enroll their children in school."

Salimatou thanked the nongovernmental organization Reservoir de Siloe for bringing about this positive change. Reservoir de Siloe, or Pool of Siloam, is named for a sacred Christian site where, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus healed a blind man.

Douo Kouassi, who has been the school's director for a decade, remembers when the children had no latrines. "In the past, students practiced open defecation," he said. "The cleanliness in the school will be improved."

Throughout Cote d'Ivoire, Reservoir de Siloe constructed latrines and hand-washing areas for students and teachers at schools, resulting in improved water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Teaching children new habits related to water and sanitation can boost the health of the entire community.

About 3,000 people live in Sokorobo County, and the project's benefits have already traveled beyond the school walls, reaching community leaders, government authorities, and parents as information on good hygiene spreads.

In Sokorobo Primary School, a hygiene club that had gone dormant was revitalized, and now children can participate in activities that teach them to practice healthy habits. They take those habits back to their parents and their communities.

The feeling of collaboration was reflected in the community as well. As Reservoir de Siloe worked on the project, a committee of women, youth, ethnic groups, and local leaders pledged to work together to keep improving hygiene in their community.

Susan Kim, journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org

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