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WASH and CHE Join Hands

A Letter from Jim, serving in Niger and South Sudan

Summer 2021

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Dear friends and family,

For the first time, I am writing as a single appointee with PC(USA) as Jodi and the family have remained in the U.S. so that John and Joseph can finish high school in Decatur, GA. I returned to Niger on June 12th to continue ministering with the Eglise Evangelique de la République du Niger (EERN) in improving its Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) work. We do appreciate your prayers for our family as we discern our way through this period where we reside on different continents.

Despite 2020 showing little progress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to source funding that will allow the EERN to continue its work in training production of low-cost, but high-quality WASH products. Most importantly we are building the EERN WASH Team to be able to independently address the WASH issues of the Church, and to address the WASH needs of those of whom the Church is serving. The first step in forming this Team began with hiring a qualified business manager and Team leader, Mme. Saratou Djadi. Mme. Saratou will begin focusing on Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) at the EERN school in Banifandu within Niamey and will be coordinating with other organizations working with MHH here in Niger. Mme. Saratou will be based at the school and be taking on WASH Team managerial responsibilities, bringing much hope for the future service of the WASH Section to the EERN.

Our WASH Section is now completing the first phase of construction of the Simple, Market-based, Affordable, Repairable Technologies (SMART) Centre for WASH training, and as well completing two Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) latrine facilities at EERN-owned schools, while beginning a third MHH latrine at Tibiri primary school near to Maradi. We are also going forward with testing the latest technologies of small water pumps that can be run off solar panels. The SMART Centre engages in testing of many other WASH products, including water filters, all kinds of pumps, latrines, and septic emptying devices to demonstrate options that allow people to see how best they can match what they desire with what they are able to support.

One such option that I would like to share is the production of a ‘pedestal’ toilet that is made from waste plastic bags and sand. In order to produce the plastic pedestal, a metal mould was needed as the fiberglass pedestal mould used to make cement pedestals would not withstand the heat of the molten plastic/sand mix. There is a recycled aluminium industry within the Grande Marche that is able to make a one-use mould that will produce a copy of any item, including our fiberglass pedestal mould. The new aluminium mould allows those interested to produce cheap pedestals by recycling the tremendous amounts of readily available plastic waste that is found throughout the country.

Along with the formation of the WASH Team, the WASH Section is now being advised by a Community Health Evangelism (CHE) and WASH committee that was established within the EERN to prioritise and plan the work of both CHE and WASH for the Church. A two-day meeting was held in July 2021 to bring the committee up to date of the work that the CHE and WASH Sections have been involved in over the past couple of years. Although both CHE and WASH Sections are involved in improving the livelihoods of the people, their roles within the community are quite different. CHE encourages communities to address their needs one at a time through becoming aware of assets that are available within their community that will resolve the need. The WASH section works more with skilled technicians and businesspersons to build up a local private sector of WASH product producers using locally available materials.

The intersection between CHE and WASH within the EERN has allowed the EERN to make a public commitment along with 80 other international organizations to improve WASH in Health Care Facilities (HCFs). The commitment the EERN has made is to use their trained Community Health Evangelists to fill a gap found in almost all HCFs between the medical staff that identify when there is a WASH problem, and the WASH professionals that are able to repair the problems. The EERN has committed to train several Community Health Evangelists in basic WASH and will support these WASH-CHE evangelists to provide the link between Health and the WASH professionals. The WASH-CHE evangelists should be able use their training to resolve the most common problems. When a repair is beyond their capabilities, they then contact the WASH professionals who are supported through the SMART Centre, who can then rectify the problem.

Perhaps the most significant part of the WASH-CHE evangelist’s role is that it becomes their job to follow up with any patients who come to the clinics with a water-borne disease. This gives the WASH-CHE evangelist opportunities to visit and get to better know families in the community. The WASH-CHE evangelists will follow up at home to assess the situation, and then can work within CHE if the community is able to resolve the issues that produce water-borne diseases within their community. When the WASH problem is larger than a community can independently address, the problems can be brought to the WASH Section who can then begin to find whatever resources are required to eliminate the problems.

With prayers for peace, and with thanks to all,

Jim


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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