Katako is a village situated around 7km to the north-west of Kindu, the capital of Maniema province. Since 2011, this village of more than 6000 inhabitants has benefited from the actions of the ‘Healthy Schools and Villages’ programme, implemented by the Provincial Health Division of Maniema.
Hygiene rules to avoid cholera
In 2016, while a cholera epidemic was declared officially across the province of Maniema, with nearly 900 cases including around 40 deaths, Katako village did not record a single cholera case.
In the opinion of Ali Twaha, Chief Doctor of the referral health centre in Katako, the village was spared from cholera because its inhabitants have adopted good hygiene and sanitation practices at a family as well as a community level. According to the doctor, all nine communities in this village were certified ‘healthy’ in 2015. Since then, they have maintained this status by taking on board the learning from the national Healthy Villages programme.
To steer local communities towards adopting and following the hygiene and sanitation rules, the partners made the most of community volunteers and members of village committees in order to raise awareness locally. Health workers also engaged by raising awareness during prenatal appointments and vaccination campaigns.
Simple acts which save
Wearing a white t-shirt on which is written ‘healthy village’, Pascal Katako, a man in his thirties who is the father of 5 children, states : “If my family has been spared from cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases, it’s because I remind them every day of the hygiene habits which we learnt through the Healthy Villages programme”.
In the entrance to Katako’s house, you can see a hand-washing station which is made of simple materials, adapted to the local context: a plastic water bottle suspended from the roof by a clothes hanger and a container with ash for washing your hands. Lokalinga, aged eight and the oldest son, explains that hands have to washed at five key times each day: before preparing a meal; before eating; before feeding an infant; after going to the toilet and after handling a child’s nappy.
But that is not all, expands his father: “Sanitary facilities also have to be clean. My latrines are hygienic ; you will always find a broom, a container of water and a stock of ash. The hole is covered after use and none of that requires money”, he continued.
Maintaining water sources in order to prevent waterborne illnesses
Katako village has also set up nine sources of drinking water, which even serve the inhabitants of Kindu town. “Twice per month, we come and weed, make channels and drain away stagnant water so that our water sources remain clean and healthy” revealed Ekomba Mauwa, the person responsible for hygiene and a member of the Healthy Village committee.
According to Jeanne Ulimwengu, one of the very few women to assume the traditional responsibilities at the head of the chiefdom of Bangengele, the learning from this programme must be perpetuated. “I am personally committed to following this up properly so that Katako remains the model village in Maniema, and that our example will be followed everywhere else for the wellbeing of the population”, she declared.
Reducing child morbidity and mortality by 25% by the end of 2017
In Maniema, the national Healthy Villages and Schools programme covers 612 villages and 180 schools in 11 health zones. It aims to improve the provision of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for rural and peri-urban communities in the DRC.
“By helping communities to clean up their environment and access safe drinking water, we wish to reduce by at least 25% child morbidity and mortality in the under-fives caused by waterborne illnesses and lack of sanitation in rural areas, by the end of 2017” explained Thierry Dentice, head of the UNICEF office for the Eastern Zone.
More info about cholera
Chadrack est un journaliste de carrière, actuellement Rédacteur en Chef au sein de MEDAM asbl, un collectif de médias partenaire de l’UNICEF au Maniema. Au-delà d’être une passion, le micro est pour lui un moyen d’éduquer et de divertir ses auditeurs. Son slogan est ‘’Consacrer sa vie à la vérité’’
Chadrack is a career journalist, currently Editor in Chief of the nonprofit MEDAM, a group of media organisations who are partners of UNICEF in Maniema. Beyond being a passion, he considers the microphone to also be a way of educating and entertaining his listeners. His motto is “Dedicate your life to truth”.