Submitted by Cindy Gracelyn Yeboah
With a new week came another wonderful class with the students at the Fulani camp! Despite the fact that the adults were unable to attend this week, I was encouraged to have the children to teach at the center. We are so thankful to have the opportunity to work with this community to take charge of their own health and even though we recognize that sustainable change is a gradual process, we are optimistic when looking at how far we have come and the lives impacted already.
As the focus this week was infection control, I introduced the children to small behavior changes in their daily routines to help them avoid potential infections. Many of the behavior changes discussed only require minimal effort and thus encourage sustainability. In this type of environment, small changes have the potential to be a catalyst and affect a much larger picture. Some of the topics we addressed are included below:
· Dental Hygiene: I encouraged the children to make an effort to clean their teeth at least twice a day in order to promote oral health. Children here in Ghana often struggle in the absence of regular visits to the dentist and these small efforts help prevent loss of teeth as a result of tooth decay and other dental disorders.
· Maintenance of their fingernails: The children in the Fulani camp, like many normal children, engage in activities such as climbing trees, playing in the sand, and chasing each other. They are also exposed to environmental factors like cow dung in their living areas due to the camp nature of their community. In order to minimize the effect of germs collecting beneath their nails, I expressed to the children in particular to keep their fingernails cut short. In addition to the germs beneath their nails, longer nails also have the potential to create scratches which can lead to infection.
· Proper Hand-Washing: I explained to the children the need to wash their hands with soap and clean water as often as possible in a day. Hand-washing should be thorough and done long enough to get rid of the germs between the fingers and underneath the fingernails.
· Environmental Maintenance: I discussed with the children about keeping their environment as clean as possible and, in particular, avoiding the rampant cow dung (which they see as harmless). Ideally, their compounds should be swept and kept clean of debris, thus limiting exposure to germs or potential injuries from the debris and cow dung. Due to specific local beliefs regarding the use of cow dung, I felt it necessary to emphasize that cow dung should not be used for the treatment of any insect bites or wounds.
· Appropriate Footwear: Our last topic focused on the need for the children to wear appropriate footwear at all times, but this is somewhat of a difficult topic. Most of the children walk through the bush in order to reach the center, but without any footwear to protect their feet. Wearing closed shoes can protect the children from being stung by poisonous insects or from being pricked by rusted metal pieces, tree branches, and other things laying about the environment that could easily cause wounds and infections.
Next week, we will continue to discuss good health practices with the students and I hope to see more of the adults and older students back to class.