Students Educate Local Communities in Rwanda About the Importance of Hygiene in Improving Health
University of Rwanda-One Health Students Club in Response to Hygienic Problems in Communities Around Nyagatare District, Eastern Province of Rwanda
The University of Rwanda-One Health Students Club (UR-OHSC) is a multidisciplinary team of undergraduate students and alumni of the University of Rwanda. The club unites students and alumni from the College of Agriculture, Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine, College of Science and Technology, College of Medicine and Health Sciences and College of Business and Economics.
In its programs, UR-OHSC reaches out to communities after receiving knowledge of how they live on a daily basis, and then the students generate ideas on how to improve some of the health burdens that disturb these communities. During the outreach activities, the club members use various education strategies to help the communities understand their role in improving their health and how to become health advocates for other local communities.
One activity planned by this very active club was a hygiene and malnutrition campaign where the club visited two refugee camps located in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. These included two sectors of the Nyagatare District, namely the Rwempasha and Ryabega sectors. Here you find communities living in refugee camps since they left Tanzania. Camps are areas that have been known to have a large number of cases of communicable diseases, as well as diseases of poor of hygiene.
Hygiene is a major driver to improve health. Most diseases are an outcome of various human behaviors that are practiced by people living in areas very close to one another. These behaviors include not washing hands after coming from the toilets, eating with dirty hands, defecating in open areas, not disposing garbage in appropriate places, drinking poor or undercooked food, and other related behaviors practiced by humans.
Another driver to poor health is malnutrition. When this condition arises, there is a higher chance that disease-causing agents will impact the person since the human immune system would have been compromised.
Objectives of the Campaign
The objectives of this campaign were to increase community awareness on how to save their lives through better health practices, to teach them about balanced diets, to prevent malnutrition, and through drama, help communities better understand how to put in practice the lessons learned during the day.
In both sectors visited during the campaign, the students passed out brochures written in Kinyarwanda, the local language, to the community members. These materials included lessons on practices that communities should avoid to prevent disease contaminations. The photos illustrated the behaviors done on a daily basis that can be potential sources of diseases.
Furthermore, families were given food (sacks of maize flour), soap sticks, and toilet paper to help them implement what they learned from the club members.
Among its usual programs, the UR-OHSC positively impacts communities where club members visit people within their respective communities and educate them on various behaviors and precautions to follow in order to make changes in their lives with the goal of preventing zoonoses transmission.
“Together we will create a positive impact on the community and, indeed, on the profession. Now is an especially critical time as we face off against emerging potential epidemics, and we will need to work together to quickly get policy makers on our side, to be able to excel at creating the needed One Health workforce,” said William Bazeyo, Dean of the Makerere University School of Public Health in Kampala, Uganda and One Health Central and Eastern Africa Network lead.
About the Authors
Mapendo MINDJE and Benjamin NDAYAMBAJE are both alumni and now advisers for the University of Rwanda-One Health Students Club associated with the One Health Central and Eastern Africa network, a network supported by the USAID One Health Workforce project.