Every day, community members across Africa are working towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In recognition of this year’s MDG week, we will be posting a story each day about how communities are working together to achieve each of these goals, leading their own development from the grassroots.

Millions of people every year are affected by the spread of malaria and other diseases that could be easily prevented. Through the Community Empowerment Program (CEP), Tostan’s nonformal education program, we teach communities how to reduce the spread of these diseases by encouraging healthy behaviours.

In Senegal, the Tostan program has been especially successful in promoting community health. One of the first steps in preventing potentially fatal diseases such as yellow fever, tetanus and tuberculosis is by getting vaccinated. Through the efforts of democratically selected Community Management Committees (CMCs), 20 communities in Kaolack have now delivered almost 1,500 vaccinations for children under five years old.

In addition to reinforcing the importance of vaccinations, the CEP also spreads awareness on other ways to prevent getting sick.  In Kaolack, CMCs trained in project management and social mobilization skills organized 27 outreach activities this year about different health issues. At these events, the CMCs shared strategies for preventing and treating malaria and tuberculosis, how to use  mosquito nets, and the importance of hygiene measures such as washing your hands before and after a meal.

As a complement to these outreach activities, health-related materials were also distributed to the 20 CMCs in the Kaolack region. These materials were used by the communities to put into practice some of the hygiene measures recommended by the CEP. Since January, over 6,000 mosquito nets have been used by communities prevent malaria. Along with community discussions on how these nets can help prevent the disease, this effort will help protect people from contracting malaria,  which is a serious danger in this wetland delta area.

Other activities are also being undertaken by the CMCs to promote sanitation and healthy behaviors, which can lower the chances of getting an infectious disease. 41 new toilets were built in communities around Kaolack and in Keur Galo Débo, CMCs distributed 18 basins with kettles so that people were able to wash their hands in hot water, to prevent the spread of germs.   

It is everyone’s right to have the knowledge and the access to materials that can help them stay healthy.  These communities in Kaolack are putting what they have learned during the Tostan program into practice and setting in place the sustainable measures for best community health.

Story by Olivia Caverly, Tostan