By Muhammad Haseeb Khalid
Islamic Relief has distributed almost 5,000 hygiene kits to flood-hit communities in Mirpur Khas, Thatta and Badin. Hygiene kits are important as they help in preventing disease outbreaks and enable those affected by disaster to carry out everyday requirements. Some items like soap are essential but other items such as toothbrushes may simply contribute to people’s sense of dignity in difficult circumstances.
In marginalised communities distribution is only half the job; encouraging women, children and men to make the best use of hygiene items is important so that aid is utilised in the best possible manner. Hygiene awareness raising requires real effort to be focused, as I learnt during my visit to Islamic Relief camp for families displaced by the floods at in Makili, Thatta Sindh.
I found children not using their tooth brush correctly because the communities in Sindh including children use Gutka, catechu, paraffin, which is consumed much like chewing tobacco to clean their teeth but which is considered responsible for oral cancer and other negative health effects.
This gave us the opportunity to help provide some hygiene training to the children even in this disaster setting. I asked Islamic Relief local team member to bring the children to one spot where I and the Islamic Relief team started involving flood-affected children in games teaching them how to brush their teeth. We also showed them how to wash their hands with soap. It was quite a new experience for them. For many of these children, this was the first time in their life they had used a toothbrush.
We also engaged all the children in hand washing activities because although hand washing is generally considered one the most important measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Islamic Relief staff held sessions with parents to help spread the message of cleanliness and how it could prevent the spread of disease. We found that this was the first time that this message had reached many of the parents in the camp who are mostly poor tenant farmers or day labourers.