A healthier future in Liberia
Concern is working with children in camps and communities in Liberia to promote hygiene. This programme aims to prevent disease, improve general health and create an environment where children, with the support of adults, can encourage their communities to use good health practices.
Concern has been working in Liberia since 1996, during much of Liberia’s civil war. When the war ended in 2003, Concern’s work slowly moved from emergency work to development work. As part of this, health education was seen as important to returning communities who were displaced during the war.
In 2005, Annie Lloyd, an external health consultant, carried out an evaluation of health, hygiene and malaria programmes for Concern in Liberia. Following on from this, it was decided that the Child-to-Child programme should be introduced to camps for people who had been forced from their land, and for the communities who were then hosting them in Bong County. The health education initiative was also incorporated into Concern’s programme to fight malaria.
Child to child
All children should have access to health education, and a safe and hygienic environment in which to grow and play. The Child-to-Child programme is based on this principle and several other key ideals: teamwork, non-discrimination and equality. It uses drama and song, taught by “animators” or teachers, to spread important messages about hygiene.
Mamala Kanneh, aged 12, has been participating in the Child-to-Child programme for two months and has already seen a difference in her community. Mamala said that her family and friends are healthier, because the community is cleaner. William Matthew, aged 13, said that children learn about and understand the importance of health and hygiene through the singing, dancing and drama. They also realise the importance of sharing what they learn. One of the most popular songs amongst the children is one called “Sanitation is everyone’s business”. The message is clear and the song grabs people’s attention.
Noticing a difference
The advantage of working with children is that the knowledge they gain will eventually be passed on to their own children, building a better culture of hygiene and health within their communities. This is something that Concern in Liberia is looking to focus on, using the programme to develop sustainable health practices. This has already had an impact with children and parents noticing an improvement in the health of communities and recognising the benefits of the approach.
Kpaingbah Vorokpor is from Velenyan, Bong County and a grandfather to several children who take part in the Child-to-Child programme. “My grandchildren have taught me different practices, and I use them. My youngest grandchild is always correcting me, which is strange because normally the adults teach the children. I do not mind the change of role, Concern did well for us, our eyes were blind, but Concern opened them,” he said.
Henry Konkellay, an animator for the programme, explains that, “it focuses on children rather than adults because children learn easily and translate the message across the community. Hopefully they will become the future leaders and provide a healthier future.”