Thursday, September 25, 2014

My favourite part of the training? The poo calculation tool!

By Martina Tomassini

© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Martina Tomassini
In Damrei Chhlang village, health focal point Theara (23) is learning how to help others
in her community prepare for and respond to floods.
SIEM REAP, Cambodia, 18 September 2014 – In Damrei Chhlang village, Theara, a young lady with a gentle smile and a strong commitment to community engagement, giggles when asked, “what part of the training did you enjoy the most?”. Then, without hesitation, she replies, “The poo calculation tool!”. The importance of using toilets is one of the key components of the training she is completing along with 15 other village health focal points in Siem Reap province.

Raising awareness about sanitation and hygiene is part of larger efforts led by the Cambodian government, with UNICEF support and funding from the European Commission - Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), to reduce the risk of water-borne diseases during and after a flood emergency. Community members also receive training in well chlorination and well rehabilitation.

The so called ‘poo calculation tool’ enables trainees to reconsider their open defecation practice by visualising and measuring how much poo they and their entire village produce every year. This a powerful training tool used to raise awareness and inspire change from within the community.

The idea underlying the training is simple: gather representatives from 8 villages, train them on life-saving sanitation and hygiene practices and watch the knowledge expand when they return home and share their experience with their families and neighbours.

The poo calculation tool gets the trainees to estimate how much poo they produce individually each day. This figure is then multiplied by the number of people living in their village and by the number of days in a year. Trainees are then asked to identify where they usually poo by placing a small stone on a map of the village. It is with a mix of amusement, embarrassment and surprise that trainees suddenly realise that the village is covered by hundreds of thousands of kilos of faeces every year: that poo is everywhere and, most importantly, that open defecation affects their health.
“Thanks to this training I will be able to pass on important information to my people; I will be able to tell them what to do before, after and during the flood,” says Theara. “I wish we could extend this training to as many villages as possible so that a larger number of people can benefit from the knowledge I have been given,” she adds.

Clapping and laughter intersperse a very interactive three-day training, which covers topics such as the importance of washing hands and using a toilet to prevent water-borne and open-defecation-related diseases; the impact of floods in Cambodia; as well as what actions to take before, during and after floods. During the practical hand-washing session, some women show what they have just learned with pride: they smell their fingertips, pull a delighted face and laugh with the rest of the group.

© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Martina Tomassini
A village health focal point participates in the hand-washing exercise.
Observing the recent training event in Damrei Chhlang village were UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) staff and representatives of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) Regional Support Office for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. ECHO Rapid Response Coordinator, Bernard Jaspers Faijer, and Regional Programme Assistant, Phumphat Chetiyanonth , were pleased with the progress of the initiative."This Sanitation training In Damrei Chhlang is complemented with other training in the village such as repair of pumps and cleaning of wells. At the same time, concrete construction work is going on to raise well platforms and latrines above flood level. Altogether, an excellent example of an integrated WASH approach, which will benefit all villagers”, said Mr.Faijer.

© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Martina Tomassini
ECHO Rapid Response Coordinator, Bernard Jaspers Failjer (centre) and Regional Programme Assistant, Phumpat Chetiyanoth accompanied UNICEF staff to observe sanitation and hygiene training in September in Damrei Chhlang village, Siem Reap province. 
Following the devastating floods that hit Cambodia in October 2013, many rural water supplies were left unusable and unsanitary. These water points are used by some of society’s most vulnerable members, including children and pregnant women. This joint European Union, UNICEF and Government training initiative is being carried out in five different provinces throughout Cambodia and will benefit an estimated 98,000 households.

Learn more about what the EU-UNICEF partnership does at:

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