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PSI and World Vision Having Success in School Programs

WV2 Lydia Adidya and Greg 2 I’m back in Malawi.  It’s been more than a year since I visited Malawi.  During my last visit, I visited some of the school programs conducted by World Vision in collaboration with PSI.  On that trip, I was accompanied by the celebrity Joely Richardson and we were both impressed by the school program. 

Joely with school girls 2 Since that visit, I received a formal report of the program results and the success of the program was highlighted in an article in the Global Water Challenge’s Newsletter (Download Global Water Challenge PSI-Malawi Lisungwi School _Human Interest Story.)

World Vision reached about 6,000 students in 11 primary schools in their first effort in Malawi.  Not only did the students benefit, but the surrounding communities of about 27,000 people also experienced a benefit from the program.  Baseline studies in the health clinics and schools were compared to results after providing PUR for free in the schools and having women sell to the surrounding community.  The results showed a 53% decrease in diarrheal disease among the community and a 57% decrease in absenteeism in the schools.  Importantly, this effort led to an increased effort by the community to build latrines in schools, with pit latrine coverage in the schools increasing by 75%.

WV Shire River 2 Based on the results of this effort, we agreed to continue the effort in the first 11 schools as well as expand the program to an additional 28 schools.  We’re in the southern part of the Malawi near Balaka and the beautiful Shire River.  I’ve timed my arrival to coincide with the start of some of the new school efforts. 

WV sign 2 I start the day in Mgoma Primary.  I’ve been traveling with Mary Baloyi, the safe drinking water coordinator of PSI, and we meet up with the World Vision team.  It’s been a very long drive along bumpy roads after an early morning start.  I asked to get up long before dawn so I could see the students as they gather their drinking water and use PUR.  The drinking water source in this area is a river about a kilometer from the school. 

WV1 collecting 2 During this time of year the river is dry, so the students and surrounding community dig a pit into the dry river bed until they reach some water that they can scoop out into their containers.  A team of students collect enough water for the entire school for the day.  This team of students is called the “Water Club” and they volunteer to take the responsibility for the school’s safe water.

WV1 handwashing 2 When they get back to the school, the students start preparing PUR.  The students start by washing their hands with soap and water.  These good hygiene practices are an important part of the school program.

WV1 waiting 2 It’s a little disorganized as they’ve only recently started using PUR, so I’m full of suggestions about how to make the process easier for the students.  Within a few minutes, we’ve organized them into an efficient assembly line for adding, mixing, and filtering.

WV1 stirring 2 I ask to visit the home of Elena Chitanda, one of the students who is part of the “Water Club”.  Elena is 13 years old and in grade 5.  She’s the youngest of seven children.  She likes math as her favorite subject and both her parents are farmers.  Like many people in this area, they raise cotton for an income and have a garden for their own food. 

WV1 Elena Chitanda 2 Elena’s family has been using PUR for six weeks, and she and her sister make the PUR-treated water.  She tells me that she likes being part of the “Water Club” and learning about water and hygiene.

Back at the school, it’s time for drinking the safe water.  World Vision has provided each of the classrooms with a bucket with a lid and spigot so that the students can readily access safe drinking water throughout the day. 

WV1 girl with PUR1 2 Just like the previous efforts in schools, World Vision collected baseline data prior to the provision of PUR.  There were 77 cases of cholera in this area during the previous year.  In the previous 11 schools that we reached, following the provision of PUR in the community, there has not been cholera for two years.  We see signs in the area from UNICEF warning about the need to treat your drinking water because of cholera.

WV1 UNICEF cholera sign 2 The baseline study in this area showed that diarrhea is the top cause of students missing school during the rainy season with malaria being the top cause during the rest of the year. 

WV1 school drama 2 Before I leave this school, the students perform a drama about the importance of safe drinking water.  As typical of these dramas, there’s a key actor who is ignorant of safe drinking water practices.  The students have a good time laughing about this ignorant person who suffers from diarrhea before being educated about using PUR.

Our next stop is Mzeba Primary School.  We’re now very far into rural Malawi.  There’s very few “mazungu” or foreigners that travel this far into the region and I’m privileged to have the opportunity.  Because of time constraints, I’m encouraged to pass on the long walk to the water source.  I love a challenge, and suggest that we’ll have time if we just walk very fast.  I tell the PSI and World Vision staff that they don’t have to come along, but evidently they also enjoy a challenge, or perhaps they don’t trust me making it back.

WV2 water hauling 2 This becomes a fun game for the children and we end up jogging along the path to the water source.  They keep looking back and wondering if the “mazungu” can keep up and are surprised when I stay on their heels.  It takes us about 20 minutes to reach the water collection point.  We end up right beside the Shire River. 

WV2 water collecting 2 We speak with some local women farmers as we wait for the rest of the group to catch-up.  The women tell us that hippos and crocodiles are in the Shire River.  This wildlife presents a hazard as real as the diarrheal illness that kills their children.

WV2 hippo water hazard 2 To avoid this “water hazard”, the students and community members dig a pit into the ground near the river bank.  This allows them to collect the river water without having to venture near the bank of the river and avoid the wildlife.

WV2 Croc Water hazard 2 After encouraging the play with the children on the way to collect the water, I think it’s only fair that I have to carry back one of the buckets full of water.  If a little kid can do it, then surely I can make it.  This is definitely a case of easier said than done.  I don’t have the practice of caring water on my head and make quite a mess of the whole affair and soak myself losing about an inch of water from the bucket. 

WV2 Greg hauling water 2 After losing some of the precious water, I adopt a different approach of carrying the bucket by the handle.  This works pretty well and my long legs allow me to set a nice pace in front of the students carrying water.  But, I can tell you I wouldn’t want to do this two times everyday as my arms are worn out by the time we’re back.  It’s hard work hauling water!

WV2 adding PUR 2 Similar to the last school, this group can use a lesson on doing things in parallel instead of in sequence.  We decide to continue our good natured gaming and I ask the students to set-up with all 12 buckets in a row.  We hunt for enough stirring sticks and soon are ready to proceed.

WV2 stirring and singing 2 The students seem to like this new approach and it will save them a lot of time.  It’s also acts as good quality control to make sure that everyone stirs the water sufficiently to allow for PUR to work its magic.  The students break out into a song that they’ve prepared for my arrival and the singing makes the work of stirring go very quickly. (Download Singing and Stirring)

WV2 Adidya Twayibo 2 During the water collecting, I make new friends with Lydia Chisada and Adiya Twayibo.  Lydia tells me that she’d like to be a nurse when she grows up.  Adiya tells me that she likes net ball – a game like soccer but played with your hands.  They’re great kids and both have adoring smiles.

WV2 Lydia and Adidya with PUR 2 I’m glad that we can provide safe drinking water to these students.  Just in these two schools, we’re reaching nearly a thousand young people – with thousands more being reached in the total program area.  We’ll prevent a lot of diarrheal illness that would keep these children from attending school and probably help prevent cholera in this area when the rainy season starts in a few months.

WV2 children with barefeet 2 We have to take the time to make speeches and thank everyone.  I make sure to thank the traditional tribal leaders who have gathered to support the effort.  As I gaze out into the children who are singing for us, it’s clear that this is a very needy community.  Even though the children have worn their best clothes for my visit, they don’t have shoes and some have frank signs of malnutrition.  I’m thankful to PSI and World Vision for this effort that reaches deep into villages to help some of the children most in need. 


Greg - I am so excited to see the amazing work that you and your team have accomplished. This program truly is special and I wish you continued success!

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