Andi Tuo is a volunteer Community Health Promoter in Palu, Central Sulawesi, where an earthquake, tsunami and land liquefaction devastated her town and dozens of surrounding villages last year. In mid-August, Andi and her colleagues joined a CWS-led skills training to support their work in a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) initiative led by Indonesia’s Ministry of Health. “It is part of our culture in Palu to help each other. So being a part of this program feels natural to me”.
Unlike some other trainees, Andi Tuo brings experience to the Promoter team because has worked part-time in her village health clinic for the past 10 years. There she shared health-related information at clinic events. “The most common illness I saw was diarrhea, especially in children and babies, which has long-term consequences”, explains Andi. The prevalence of diarrhea was related sanitation issues, including open defecation and no waste management. Added to this, many people simply do not wash their hands regularly. Not unlike her work in her village, Andi’s new role is to share information at monthly community gatherings where all mothers are invited to bring their under-five children, especially. Some get immunizations, if needed, and all who join get weight-for-height and upper arm circumference measurements to track their wellbeing.
As in all Palu area villages even before the complex earthquake disaster one year ago, Andi adds, “One continuing problem is that not all mothers join us each month, and behavior change is not an easy task to accomplish even if everyone does join monthly!”. Still, Andi persists and invites mothers to cook together to learn more about good nutrition and, importantly, to talk about their children’s health. Andi uses these gatherings to reinforce healthy hygiene practices; “At the last gathering, before we ate, I jokingly said, ‘Wash your hands first, or you will not get corn’. The mothers all laughed, but it worked! They all washed their hands”.
Assessing that monthly gatherings are not enough, CWS staff, Andi, and the other Community Health Promoters are now forming weekly “Clean and Healthy” groups to increase the frequency of information-sharing, learning and changing daily hygiene habits. Together, CWS staff and community volunteers are hopeful that changes will come, and families will be healthier as they continue their recovery from last year’s disaster.
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