Say Cheese: Nearly 8,000 primary school children brushing their teeth and washing their hands to prevent disease

27 March 2013

Phnom Penh, Kompot, Takeo, Kompong Thom, and Kompong Chhnang Provinces, Cambodia – Children throughout Cambodia are busy washing their hands and brushing their teeth in efforts to prevent disease and promote good hygiene.

“Thanks to the programme, primary school students are now washing their hands with soap and brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least once a day on every school day.”  Mrs. Ayphalla Te, Country Project Manager, Regional Fit for School Programme said.

GIZ’s Regional Fit for School Programme with a focus on Pandemic Preparedness has been supporting the School Health Department of the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS) of Cambodia with the programme implementation since December 2011. Regional partner of the programme is SEAMEO INNOTECH a regional center of the South-East Asian Ministers of Education Organization. Since its inception in Cambodia, the programme has benefitted nearly 8,000 students in ten public primary schools in Phnom Penh and other four provinces: Kompot; Takeo; Kompong Thom; and Kompong Chhnang.

The programme also works with schools to ensure students receive and take a deworming tablet twice a year.

Lack of hygiene leading cause of death of children

Diseases related to lack of hygiene, such as diarrhea and respiratory infections, are still the leading cause of death for children living in Cambodia. By the time children enter school, more than half have intestinal worms and a vast majority have dental caries –  virtually all untreated. Children’s health is closely related to their academic progress and performance in school. Students suffering from pain and disease are frequently absent from school, sleep less, and show an overall lower academic performance compared to healthy pupils.

GIZ’s Regional Fit for School Programmeaims to prevent infectious diseases with three simple and low-cost interventions: 1) daily hand washing with soap; 2) daily tooth brushing with fluoride toothpaste; and 3) bi-annual deworming.

The programme is designed based on the Fit for School approach pioneered in the Philippines with a great success by the Department of Education (DepED) and with support from the local NGO Fit for School Inc. as well as GIZ.

By working with the schools to construct washing facilities and ensuring availability of a functioning, running water system and providing soap and tooth brushing kits to students, the programme supports an enabling environment for students to practice daily hygiene activities together.

“The students clearly enjoy the daily hand washing and tooth brushing activities. Their breath smells better, and the homework papers they hand in are much cleaner because of their freshly washed hands,” said the teacher of a participating primary school, whom was trained by the Regional Fit for School Programme to implement the daily group hygiene activities with students.

Water and soap – a simple way to prevent disease

Hand washing with soap and water is one of the most effective preventive measures against major infectious diseases. GIZ’s Regional Fit for School Programme is encouraging a change in primary school students’ hand washing behaviour by practicing this everyday. Subsequently, good habits are ingrained at a young age and the students are more likely to continue good hygiene as an adult.  The students’ knowledge also sparks their interest to change their hygiene practices at home.

In the long-term, the programme aims to work with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport of Cambodia to institutionalize the programme approach and principles into the national school health system, so that the programme can be scaled-up to benefit many more public primary schools and students in Cambodia.

For more information on GIZ’s Regional Fit for School Programme contact:

Ayphalla Te

Country Project Manager

Email: [email protected]

Mobile phone: +855 12 906 908

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