A Health Education Initiative in the rural communities of Copán Ruinas, Honduras.
Nearly three out of every five children living in the rural Honduras do not live to see his/her first birthday. A large proportion of child mortality is caused by easily preventable diseases such as diarrhea and other gastrointestinal diseases. Lack of access to potable water,ic hygiene knowledge and an understanding of diseases is a major barrier to the effective reduction of these life-threatening ailments in children. Despite government and non-profit efforts targeting the learning needs of underprivileged children, health and sanitation education is still largely under-emphasized in Latin America.
Historically marginalized by the Honduran government, the rural communities of Honduras, including the four thousand remaining Mayan indigenous Chortí, have little access to healthcare, potable water and electricity among other necessities. Life in these rural communities is a harsh one – one of exploitation from landowners and a day-to-day struggle for survival. Living in the Copán department of western Honduras, well-known for its ancient Mayan ruins, most of these villagers live off of less than a $1 a day.
UT for REED has embarked on a new initiative called The Honduras Project that aims to improve the standards of life in rural Honduras and support the self-sustenance of communities through the improvement of local infrastructure. For the first phase of the project, we are partnering with the communities of El Zapote and Las Brisas de San Juan to improve their water system, conduct a health and hygiene campaign and improve their education system through a library.
Implementation I: July 2011
The Honduras Project team traveled to El Zapote and Las Brisas de San Juan during December 2010 to assess the needs of these communities and establish contacts with local NGOs. We performed water quality tests at various point-of-use sources in these communities and after discussions with the community leaders established that clean water and proper hygiene should be primary focus of our project. The Honduras Project team also conducted interactive heath and sanitation workshops that facilitated discussions within the classroom and actively demonstrated the necessity of proper sanitation practices.
Implementation I: July 2011
The Honduras Project team returned to Copán Ruinas, Honduras in July 2011 to implement the first phase of the project. Over spring 2011 the team members have been developing further health education material that was then used in July to reinforce the concepts taught during the assessment trip. The group extended the health education training to the adults of the community, touching issues such as nutrition, water treatment and women’s health. The main topics that were covered include:
- Waterborne diseases – how to prevent disease, symptoms and basic treatment methods.
- Water supply – the importance of using potable water for human consumption, how to manage their water distribution and treatment systems.
- Parasitic diseases – how to prevent disease, symptoms and basic treatment methods.
- Women’s health – issues such as menstruation, pregnancy, labor and breast-feeding.
- Nutrition – discussion of readily available food products that will constitute a complete diet, for the adults and the children.
The Honduras Project partnered with a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Copán Ruinas to educate the communities of El Zapote and Las Brisas de San Juan on the maintenance of their water systems and on issues related to water and hygiene.
Through a partnership with the MAMA Project, a Honduran NGO, The Honduras Project members educated community members on parasitic diseases and prevention mechanisms. The Honduras Project and the MAMA Project plan to initiate a parasite control program in the coming years to eradicate the occurrence of such diseases in these communities.