A healthy day for everyone

07 April 2015
 mother and baby


water tank


parent and child

Today is World Health Day. But is it a healthy day for everyone? For example, how many of the world’s citizens can we truly say enjoy health and wellbeing? Many more of them, certainly, than 65 years ago when the World Health Organisation first decided to choose a day on which to highlight global health awareness – but it’s still not enough. That’s one of the reasons why the UN is proposing, among its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) ‘to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’. The set of SDGs will build upon the Millennium Development Goals. Summarised as simply as possible they will focus on dignity, people, the planet, partnership and justice. Goal 3 – which we quoted above – is very pertinent to World Health Day – and to what we do.

Healthy lives and well-being for all are among the fundamental aims of our work. And while we would never imply that our work will one day be unnecessary (nice though that would be), we have taken a few modest steps towards that day through the work that we do with people across Londiani and Kipkelion.

Take Friends of Londiani’s Healthy Schools programme. It's a very practical, very appropriate way of keeping children healthy at school. It’s also very necessary because if they can’t attend they may lose out on education.

The programme not only helps school children but involves them. Pit latrines and washrooms are installed, children form student committees that learn about health and hygiene, and everyone tries to spread messages about good hygiene practice. At the heart of this is the importance of hand washing, which like many of our joint efforts with the people of the area, involves a simple idea that can have dramatic results. Today 108 schools are involved in the prgramme. Another 30 schools are joining the programme this year.

Surveys of the schools in the programme – in Londiani and elsewhere in Kenya – show that cleaner environments have resulted in healthier schools, better attendance and improved behaviours around hygiene that have spread from school to home. This rather good case history looking at Kapkondor Primary School shows some of the benefits.

Equally simple in its basic message but equally effective is the Girls for Girls programme. You’ve probably read about it here before (and do check it out on the site if you haven’t) but the idea is that affordable sanitary towels and decent sanitary facilities in schools are simple but highly effective ways to ensure that girls can attend school at times when menstruation might otherwise make this difficult.

But healthy lives need to start even earlier, which is why Friends of Londiani has a long established partnership with Londiani District Hospital, which serves a population of some 228,000 people in this remote area. Funding for an ambulance and operating theatre has meant easier, closer access to treatment and, in particular, fewer deaths among mothers and newborns. A link with Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar has brought knowledge sharing and training, notably on obstetric care – particularly important when dealing with complications during home deliveries

You can tell, then, that health and well-being are subjects close to our hearts – and intrinsic to our work. Many of the links on this site expand on this theme. Do please have a look at a few. What’s important, however, is that many of the ways that lives can be improved – or even saved – are simpler than you think. For example, something as uncomplicated as washing your hands a bit more often or having access to sanitary products could actually help to improve health, school attendance, education, and possibly even earning power for many children.

Sometimes changing lives for the better is more about practical ideas, commitment and encouragement than complicated schemes. That’s why we’ll keep on building on the achievements of Healthy Schools and other simple but very effective programmes – and look forward to the day when World Health Day really is a healthy day for everyone.