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Sightsavers Reports

The difference a water supply makes...

July 2014
Kachiemeri school children in class.

In some parts of Turkana county in Kenya, as many as 73 per cent of people have the potentially blinding disease trachoma.

To give some idea of just how extreme that is, the World Health Organization considers emergency levels to be 15 per cent.

Teaching people the causes of trachoma and how it can be prevented is vital to the future of communities here. Sightsavers, with its local partner the Diocese of Lodwar, has been working for the past year to improve sanitation facilities at Kachiemeri primary school in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease.

Two tap fixtures.
Sightsavers has worked with the Diocese of Lodwar to create a clean water supply and toilet blocks at the school.

Sanitation is essential

Hand and face washing and sanitation are essential to prevent the spread of trachoma. The infection causes eyes to become sticky, and that attracts flies that pass on the infection to other people. Trachoma is also easily passed on by touch and on clothing, so women (usually the primary caregivers) and children are most affected by it.

Before the improvement work at Kachiemeri began, the school had no access to fresh water or latrines – it had a saline water supply, but the nearest fresh water source was 2km away. You can see how establishing good sanitation and fresh water supply would make such an enormous difference to everyone at the school.

Preventing the spread of trachoma

Children are also hugely important in helping to prevent trachoma from spreading. Through the schools, they not only learn new sanitation habits and take in the facts easily, but they can also take their new-found knowledge home to their parents. This is a strong method of teaching – parents often have not had the same chance of an education as their children have, so they can learn from information the children bring home.

When we visited, the children performed songs in Swahili about hand and face washing and saying thanks for the work done – see the video below. And the children all had very clean faces, which is a hugely encouraging sign in preventing the spread of trachoma.

An example of success

Kachiemeri school now has latrines, including an accessible latrine for students with disabilities, a clean water supply and a greatly reduced risk of new trachoma cases. The school is being used by other charities as an example for other schools of WASH (water, sanitation and health) provision.

We’re working hard to replicate the success of Kachiemeri in other schools in the region. With each new sanitation project, the threat of trachoma will gradually recede, saving countless children and their families from this incredibly painful and entirely avoidable disease. Donations from our supporters are vital in the work we do to prevent trachoma.

Water tanks have been installed, linked to the hand-washing stations at the latrines and kitchens.

Water tanks have been installed that are linked to the hand-washing stations in the latrines and kitchens.

Water tanks have been installed, linked to the hand-washing stations at the latrines and kitchens.

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