Padraig McGuinness from our corporate
partner The Co-operative Pharmacy reports from Togo,
"Another 6.30am start today. The mossies didn't get me, and following a cauldron of the local porridge and the sweetest coffee I've ever had, we set off buzzing to make the journey north on a track to Pangouda.
Greeted by the headmaster, teachers, parents and children of the UNICEF-funded school in Pangouda, what struck me most about the headmaster was his positivity and commitment to make the most of the few resources he has access to. He even makes sure that his voluntary teachers get to use new classroom facilities, while he’s outside teaching on the benches in the sun. It was encouraging to see the pupils’ action plan on sanitation and John making use of the latrines!
Then off we set for Pangoura, one of the villages that is directly benefiting from our support. On arrival, we feel like we've been transported back 1,000 years as there's no access to water (other than the local river) sanitation or electricity, and houses are made out of mud bricks.
Here we saw how the community workshop, to help the village members understand the benefits of sanitation, is delivered in practice. But first we were asked to introduce ourselves and I realised mid-sentence that my French was somewhat rusty as I managed "Je m'appelle Padraig et I work for La Pharmacie."
We then saw community members mapping their village, where people live and where they go to the loo, which, without exception, was in the immediate vicinity of their home. From there, through the enthusiastic dramatics of the workshop facilitator, they explored the repercussions of these practices, and how open defecation can lead to infection and ultimately diarrhoea, which every family admitted to having.
He related this to the high cumulative costs in healthcare and community members soon collectively agreed to begin building their own household latrines and no longer to defecate in the open. I really enjoyed chatting to some of the kids afterwards too and, surprise surprise, we talked about the weather and football!
Padraig and Tom from The Co-operative Pharmacy visit a community sanitation project in Wolute, Togo. © The Co-operative Pharmacy
A thunderstorm and an even more remote mud track later, we arrived in Wolute, another of the villages we are directly supporting but which undertook the community mapping exercise a few months ago.
The chief proudly showed us the community map they had made together and their aim to build latrines in every one of the 150 households by 31 July. They've met that target although currently the latrines are surrounded by a temporary straw exterior and they hope to make a more permanent mud structure when the dry season begins in a month or so.
In this community I was particularly impressed by the enthusiasm of the chief, who genuinely seemed to want to the best for his community. And in the smiles of the village members you could see this enthusiasm had trickled all the way down. Overall this community already seemed miles ahead of the previous community, with children laughing and playing in the school playground.
What has struck me today is that people's priorities are so insanely different to our own. While we might want to ensure our children go to university, here it's enough of a struggle to ensure every child gets a primary education. Just to prove how remote we are, we tested the 4x4s to the limit with a flat tyre and another needing to be dug out by our local new friends. All in a day’s field trip in Togo."
Look out for updates from the trip on the UNICEF UK Twitter feed: @UNICEF_UK
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