One of the simplest strategies for promoting good health is also one of the most effective; by keeping their environment clean, community members can drastically reduce the spread of diseases such as malaria, cholera, and various parasites.

During the Kobi module of Tostan’s holistic Community Empowerment Program (CEP), participants learn how keeping their community clean can keep them healthy, along with lessons on germ theory, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy. The Community Management Committees (CMCs) that are established in each village at the beginning of the program to lead development activities are encouraged early on to hold regular ‘cleaning days’, reinforcing the lessons learned in the CEP and demonstrating how to implement a practical solution to solve common health problems. Every community is unique, and different CMCs will use these problem solving skills to address their own particular needs.

In the village of Tounny, Guinea, malaria has been a common health risk and a source of frustration for many people. Tounny is perched atop a low hill in the Fouta Djallon Mountains, in the center of the country, just above a small creek which floods during the rainy season. Standing water in the community provided a breeding ground for mosquitos, and a lack of sanitation infrastructure had also facilitated the spread of cholera and intestinal parasites.

Through applying what they had learned in the CEP, the people of Tounny have since been able to address these issues. Harouna Bah is the Coordinator of the CMC and imam at the village mosque. “We now organize cleaning days in our village for each Saturday, at least four times a month. At first only people in the CMC would help out, but today, even the younger people in the village are taking the lead.”

Harouna Bah and the other members of the CMC used what they learned about health to prioritize their cleaning efforts. In the Kobi, participants learn that malaria is caused by mosquitos, which reproduce in stagnant pools such as those left in Tounny by the flooded creek. “We get together and clean our homes and public spaces, including the local mosque, health center, school, and market. We clear up puddles of water, household garbage, and certain plants which mosquitos responsible for malaria are attracted to. Our health is much better now – there are less cases of diarrhea, less malaria, and now the use of mosquito nets has become a habit for us.”

Story by Matthew Boslego, Tostan.