Over 100,000 Kenyan children under the age of five die every year. Diarrheal disease and its complications, such as dehydration, are the number one cause of death, followed by pneumonia and malaria. Diarrhea and dehydration and treatable and preventable, which can save lives. The primary cause of diarrheal disease is using unsafe water.

Educating Villagers about Diarrheal Disease

In 2008, Imani Project volunteers were given intensive training and information about diarrheal diseas. Classes were taught in the villages to over 150 women in several villages, and information was distributed in English and Swahili. Mothers were instructed specifically about how to make oral rehydrating solution (ORS) instead of purchasing it. Women were also given several doses of zinc, a mineral supplement extensively researched and found to shorten the course and severity of diarrheal episodes as well as protect children from future episodes.

In 2010, the program was expanded to include distribution of special spoons to measure salt and sugar for oral rehydrating solution (ORS). With these spoons, making ORS is much simpler and more precise. The spoon and a handout with a simplified, pictorial explanation about diarrhea prevention, care and making ORS are distributed in the Imani Project health kits that we distribute when teaching in the villages. On even years, the Imani Project conducts medical clinics and teaches classes on first aid, diarrheal disease, tuberculosis prevention, and AIDS prevention. At these classes, we distribute the health kits with an ORS spoon. On odd years, the Imani Project focuses on HIV/AIDS education in the schools and villages, but we also teach diarrhea classes at two or more villages.

Causes of Diarrheal Disease

The primary risk factor for diarrheal disease is not having access to safe water and sanitation. Many villagers have to walk a long distance to find water, and it is not always clean. The Imani Project teaches villagers several techniques for purifying water before drinking it. Boiling water always works, but a simpler method is to fill clear plastic bottles and leave them in the sun for six hours. The UV-A rays from the sun kill almost all harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Another risk factor for diarrheal disease is unsafe hygiene and feces disposal practices at home. Conditions of poverty, including poor housing and crowding, contribute to these problems. The Imani Project educates villagers to make their latrine further from their house and to bury the feces. The Imani Project also constructed a new composting toilet in the village of Mashaheni that provides sanitary toilet facilities and a source of fertilizer. We are working to raise funds to construct more toilets. If you are interested in helping, we would love your support!

Did you know?

  • Almost 345 million people in Africa, and 800 million worldwide, don’t have access to clean water
  • Women and children may spend up to 1/3 of their day fetching water from the nearest water source
  • A 5-minute shower in the developed world uses more water than the average person in a developing country uses for an entire day
  • “[The water and sanitation] crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.” (UN report, 2006)