How clean water helps children grow up strong and healthy. July 19, 2017 - Honduras
Corina came from a town where, like in many places, many members of the community were sick from drinking the same, unclean water.
When Corina* arrived at NPH seven years ago, she went through all of the normal entrance procedures that all new children pass through. Meetings with social workers and the psychology staff to help get emotionally ready for entering into a new home; tours of the NPH home and its many buildings, hills, and fields; and two weeks in the clinic to do a comprehensive health evaluation. While in the clinic, Corina learned that there was a reason for the frequent abdominal pain and weight loss she was experiencing in her previous community. Like many people in Honduras, she had water-born parasites.
Water-borne illnesses are common in the country, especially with children - prevalence of diseases such as Hepatitis A being as high as 41% for infants across Central America. It comes as no surprise, then, that most of NPH children arrive with some sickness originating from bad water, and the NPH has extensive plans in place to keep their kids healthy once here.
"We test kids extensively on arrival" explains Dr. Edwin Vallecillo, a former pequeño himself, and NPH's primary healthcare provider. "Along with several other examinations, we give pills for de-parasiting, which are re-administered to every child twice a year." Symptoms of these diseases include abdominal and chest pain, weight loss, and stunted growth in younger children, so it is a problem that is taken very seriously.
"These diseases can also pass through vomit, fecal matter, or other methods," Dr. Edwin continues, "so we also do a lot of education on clean, healthy daily habits, to keep kids from spreading any kind of sickness from one to another."
Apart from comprehensive medical care, NPH also seeks to root out water-based illnesses at their source. NPH water comes from a series of dams that store rainwater throughout the year, which is then pumped into a purification system. "We have a serious of several filtration processes," explains Stefan Feuernstein, NPH Honduras' national director, "that include different bacterial, safe chemical, and other filtration methods."
Different groups of water experts are invited to our home every few years to assess the systems and recommend ways to keep the water at a sustained level of cleanliness, and plans are always in place to ensure that every child drinks not only healthy water, but enough of it.
"We recently built one new dam and dug two new wells," explains Stefan, "to make sure that we can not only keep growing crops all throughout the year, but to make sure that everyone always has enough clean, healthy water to drink, even if a drought hits."
Health is taken very seriously by NPH staff in Honduras, and its importance is not lost on Corina or the other children in the NPH family. "Health is really important," says Corina, "just so we can all feel well. Just making healthy choices every day to not get sick is important. And not just physical health, but staying emotionally and mentally healthy as well."
Outside of medical checkups, health chats are given by NPH medical staff to the kids to help educate them on how to do the little things correctly to stay healthy, too. "We receive talks about health, nutrition, many things. It helps us with our future, so we know how to keep growing healthily and well, and also teaches us how to help take care of other people too."
The chats pay off. When Corina isn't studying for her favorite class, Spanish, or struggling through her least favorite - "Math is the hardest for sure, because ... well because it's math!" she says with a laugh - she enjoys going on runs or long walks with friends to stay in good, healthy shape.
NPH Honduras, like any other family, is not a perfect place, and everyone, from caregivers to children, are always looking for ways to improve and grow. But Dr. Edwin and the rest of the medical team take pride in knowing that they are doing an effective job in ensuring that for our kids, water-borne illnesses are a thing of the past.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
Alex Hanel Communication Officer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson