Fri, Jul 13th, 2012 5:12 pm BdST
Nurul Islam Hasib
Dhaka—The government plans to raise awareness on water safety using textbooks in primary students to prevent infectious diseases that experts say can cause malnutrition.
Zuena Aziz, Additional Secretary at the Ministry of LGRD, said from the next year the back cover of the science book of class III, IV and V would be printed with pictorial messages on water safety.
“We have requested the Ministry of Education, they told us they will do it from the next year,” she said at a workshop on developing action plan for ‘improving hand washing behaviour linked to child feeding’ on Thursday.
Experts say many of the diarrhoea and respiratory infections of children under 2 years of age in Bangladesh are preventable if mothers and caregivers wash their hands with soap before feeding babies homemade food after six months of age.
But research suggests scanty knowledge about the link between hand washing and infectious diseases. An Alive & Thrive and ICDDR,B joint research showed over 80 percent mothers of under-2 children do not believe washing hands with soap before food preparation and feeding the child can check diarrhoea.
It also found almost none knew the link between respiratory infections –cough, cold, pneumonia – and hand washing.
Dr Khairul Islam, Country Director, Wateraid Bangladesh, told bdnews24.com that infections stunted children’s growth with severe burden of malnutrition despite progresses in different health indicators.
He said there were systems to follow from water collection to drinking to avoid contamination.
For instance, he said water might be contaminated even after it was safe at the source point ‘if the pot or pitcher is dirty.’
“Even after maintaining all measures water can be contaminated during serving, if proper attention is not given.”
He spoke of restaurants where waiter usually serves at least five glasses of water at a time dipping each finger in each glass.
“There are five points of water safety protocol,” he said, “from collection, transportation, storage, serving, to drinking.”
As Wateraid works closely with the Ministry of LGRD, the Country Director said the pictorial messages on the back of textbooks would focus on those five points.
According to Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey, 36 percent children under-5 are underweight, 41 percent stunted and 16 percent wasted or too thin for their height.
The National Nutrition Services is developing the action plan with the help of Alive and Thrive to ensure hand washing before child feeding.