Tuesday, September 23, 2014

LOEP speaks about the Handwashing Hygiene Project on Georgia Public Broadcasting

We were pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the LOEP Handwashing Hygiene Project this afternoon with Georgia Public Broadcasting. You can listen to the interview online here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Clean is not the same as Sanitary

The last distribution of Handwashing Hygiene stations included stations placed at two clinics where women were in labor and there was no access to hand washing.   A number of LOEP donors were shocked to see that and want to understand how such a situation could exist.  

It all relates to water quality and accessibility in Africa  -  Liberia in particular.

In Liberia running water is not available in most homes.  There are no water treatment plants or sewage treatment facilities.  Household water for cooking and washing is ground water accessed by pumps and pulled from depths that would not meet health standards in other parts of the world.  Ground water is not drawn from deep wells but is close to the earth’s surface and vulnerable to contaminants.  In Liberia, conventional plumbing is uncommon, latrines are everywhere and open defecation is practiced.  Bottled water is only available to very few who can afford it and everyone else uses what is available.  The World Health Organization estimates that up to 40% of Liberians have no access to safe, clean water protected from outside contamination, particularly fesces.  It is common in Liberia for clinics and hospitals, including those treating Ebola patients, to use water that is accessible - there are no alternatives to contaminated ground water.

The lack of access to safe, clean water is, in and of itself, a health crisis in Africa.  According to WHO statistics, more than 65% of hospital patients in African hospitals are treated for illnesses related to contaminated water.  In this time of Ebola that statistic is chilling considering how unsanitary water is in Liberia.  Washing with ground water can remove dirt or blood, for example, and the skin surface may appear clean.  But water alone does not remove bacteria and viruses and only bleach can remove Ebola virus!  Clean is a woefully insufficient standard when ebola is a threat, especially in a setting with sick patients.  Clean just is not the same as sanitary.  
Health officials are looking closely at Nigeria where the Ebola virus seems to have been successfully contained.  According to Michael Ojo, country representative of global water charity Water Aid, a handwashing campaign was immediately put in place as a direct response to the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.  Ojo believes the handwashing campaign may have played a major role in Nigeria’s (so far) successful containment Ebola.

There is no data directly linking the ebola outbreak to lack of access to clean water, but there is plenty of data that proves hand washing with soap in clean water is the first line of defense in basic disease prevention. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

No School and Teaching Tools

This time of year these teachers would normally be getting ready for opening day at Lott Carey Mission School.  All the excitement of setting up classrooms, planning new and exciting lessons, anticipation of greeting new and returning students – it is part of the rhythm of school life for teachers everywhere.  This year is different. 

Liberia’s teachers are idled and facing the hardship of no income during a national emergency.  School in Liberia has been suspended indefinitely as part of the government response to Ebola.

Some teachers at Lott Carey Mission School have put aside their own hardships and volunteered for the LOEP Team to plan and carry out LOEP's Handwashing Hygiene Project.  The project, funded by LOEP, is being led on the ground in Liberia by LOEP Volunteer Field Officer, Rosa Allen (at left in photo).  Mrs. Allen is vice principal at Lott Carey Mission School and a longtime LOEP volunteer and Team Leader.  She has developed a highly effective plan for distributing hundreds of LOEP Handwashing Hygiene Stations to rural communities in Liberia and recruited a volunteer corps of teachers from Lott Carey to carry out the project. 

Ebola education efforts by government and health care workers have encountered confusion, fear and suspicion in rural areas where Liberians have little understanding of disease prevention or the deadly virus.  Some believe the epidemic is a government plot, others suspect it is a curse, and others simply do not believe it exists.  Teachers are familiar and trusted community helpers, however - not intimidating to villagers in rural areas.  The teacher team seized on the LOEP project as a teaching tool and built a simple education plan into the project.  

Each Handwashing Hygiene Station is delivered with a lesson on basic hygiene and disease prevention with emphasis on handwashing and Ebola awareness information.  They also do a one month follow-up session to make sure each station is being maintained and that the water is properly sanitized.  LOEP volunteer teachers report remarkable success with the Handwashing Hygiene project as a tool for educating about basic disease prevention and raising Ebola awareness and word has spread.
The project has gained traction and Handwashing Hygiene Stations are in demand.  Mrs. Allen recently returned home from distributing more than a hundred LOEP units to find a delegation of women waiting respectfully at her front gate.  They had traveled considerable distance on foot to ask that a LOEP Handwashing Station be placed in their community. There were no more units left. She had to put their names on a waiting list - the list is growing every day! 

LOEP Handwashing Hygiene Project is supported totally by LOEP donors.  Each unit costs $20 for a station, one month supply of sanitizer, education on disease prevention and one-month follow-up. 

Women from a rural community arrive to ask LOEP Volunteer Field Officer Rosa Allen, to place a LOEP Handwashing Hygiene Station in their village.  No more units are available and they have been wait-listed until more units can be purchased.  Donate NOW!

DONATIONS via PayPal at www.loeproject.org