As communities in Typhoon-affected areas of the Philippines transition into the early recovery phase, it is critical to protect vulnerable populations from waterborne illnesses, especially young children. In late January, a team of International Medical Corps nurses taught students at San Roque Elementary School in Tanauan about the importance of washing their hands, a simple yet critical public health message for a community hard-hit by Typhoon Haiyan. All but one classroom building at San Roque Elementary was destroyed by the storm. International Medical Corps has since installed a new hand washing area and repaired damaged roofs.
With financial support from UNICEF, International Medical Corps is now implementing a comprehensive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project to bolster the Department of Education’s goal of returning children to safe, healthy schools as quickly as possible. International Medical Corps and UNICEF are now active in schools in seven municipalities: Palo, Tanauan, Mayorga, MacArthur, Burauen, Alangalang, and Ormoc City. The recent training at San Roque Elementary was the first of a hygiene promotion program that will eventually cover approximately 100 schools in Western, Central, and Eastern Leyte. Working in partnership with education officials, local government leaders, barangay authorities, and UNICEF, International Medical Corps identified the schools that were most damaged by Typhoon Haiyan and will rebuild the sanitation and water systems at these sites in the coming months. In addition to technical support, we will provide information, education, and communication on WASH and related health issues, strengthening the government’s Essential Health Care Program in elementary schools.
“As a nurse, I can see the benefits of the WASH program because it helps prevent the spread of water-borne pathogens,” said Priscilla, a member of the International Medical Corps hygiene promotion team. “A big concern of our program is to involve every child, because they are prone to illness. I know it isn’t easy to change these daily routines, but I’m excited to make a difference.”