Accident or sickness: causes of poverty
In Vietnam the network of clinics is dense and relatively efficient for curative or preventive services. But hygiene is often deplorable. For the poor any accident or disease can make the whole family plunge into extreme poverty: in a panic and ill guided, poor people often sell their assets at a low price, borrow at horrendous rates...
In Cambodia the services are far less and the situation is much worse.
In any serious case people often do not hesitate to travel to the city, at high cost, the trip alone may amount to the total family budget for the month. The peasants are quite lost, and are being ripped from off the bus.
Besides... just stopping work is already a disaster, people have no insurance and can only count on their neighbors.
Hoa suffered from asthma
Hoa was abandoned by her husband and supports her 3 young children alone. She does not have a single piece of land. She can only work as a daily laborer. Unfortunately she was suffering from asthma, as work is scarce, of course she was the last to be taken. Hàng, in charge of the Dúc Linh project, took her to a specialist in Saigon : Hoa is now a lot better, her astma has receded, all this only costed just 10 Euros. Hàng also gave her a microloan to raise pigs.
A good diagnosis
Villagers are very confused and ill informed; medical staff often make the wrong diagnosis. Sometimes the doctor will frighten them: "You need a surgical operation immediately, or the worst will happen!" The people then rush to sell land or other assets in a panic.
Mekong Plus offers them a second opinion; we have a network of specialists in the city, who can examine them for a second opinion. Every month or so, a minibus is hired to take patients to the city, Mekong Plus covers the cost.
Good hygiene and prevention
In the Cambodian villages very few have a proper latrine. In Vietnam access to clean water is difficult.
After many years, we have succeeded to reduce these problems. Today in Dúc Linh a majority has a clean latrine. Infection from hookworms has fallen from close to 90% to less than 9%!
In the Mekong delta the tradition is still to put the latrine above the fish pond "to feed the fish!". This spreads worms all around. We propose instead hygienic latrines at a low cost: just 26 Euros.
For the very poor we give a little subsidy so they could afford this investment.
In Vietnam we work in all primary schools and kindergartens in the 5 districts, in total 220 schools. In Cambodia we work in 13 schools. In total 68.000 children are covered. We proceed in steps:
- Training of primary school teachers: more than 7000 up to date
- The topics are: oral hygiene, intestinal diseases, infection with worms, mosquito-related diseases (malaria, dengue), immunizations, clean water, waste management, nutritional value, the importance of breastfeeding...
- We have introduced modern pedagogy: practical teaching, group work, games, practice: eg every week the children brush their teeth on the school playground. Then they rinse their mouth with fluoride. The children are responsible for the cleanliness of the school, toilets etc.
- 2 times a year an evaluation committee makes a surprise visit: knowledge test, examining the hygiene, the dental plaque, the overall cleanliness of the school ... When a school has no source of water, the pupils are invited to should come with a bottle of water ... The best schools are rewarded with a co-financing (30-50% of total) to improve the sanitary: toilets, water tank, improvement of the playground...
Program results are excellent, not only for the pupils but for the whole community. The cost of the program comes down every year, as it is run entirely by the schools with decreasing support from Mekong Plus (about 1 Euro/child/year).
Malaria has been almost eradicated in the plains, but migration to/from the mountains remains a risk. The best remedy is to impregnate the mosquito nets with an insecticide. Often, especially with the poor, the whole famile squeezes in just one net. The government offers this for free but then not all villages can be covered. We prefer to ask a 75% contribution from the people, so they value the service even more.