Family Health Training

Every year in Benin, approximately 1,500 mothers die from preventable complications during pregnancy, birth, or in the six weeks following birth. In Togo, the infant mortality rate is 77 out of every 1000 surviving baby born. The root cause of many of these deaths is a lack of clean water, and an ignorance of basic health and hygiene practices. Mothers who wash their hands with clean water and soap before handling their newborn children reduce the risk of the child’s death by 44%, however, it is easy to understand how mothers who are used to dirty water, which often does more harm than good, would not know about such a simple practice.

Water for Life Initiative’s Family Health Teams are designed to encourage, educate, and advise families in basic health and sanitation practices. Teams are trained to recognize, treat, and prevent various ailments that can come up in a family’ daily life, from pregnancy to childhood. They are also taught standard procedures to deal with a variety of situations, such as how often a pregnant woman should visit a health centre or when and how to wean a child off of breast milk. Perhaps the most important training teams receive is in how to support and encourage their fellow villages in forming new sanitation habits that can significantly improve their standard of living.

While both men and women in villages are trained in basic family health practices after a well is drilled, the Family Health Teams are composed of groups of five to ten women. This is for two reasons. In rural Benin women are responsible for water collection, hygiene and sanitation, child rearing and caring for the sick. As a result, they already have the opportunity to positively influence the wellbeing of the community, particularly children and youth. The Family Health Teams program trains and equips women in the village to actively improve the health and hygiene of their families and communities. Putting women in leadership roles like the Family Health Teams also provides an opportunity for women to develop new skills, and reinforces the principles learned by villagers in the Gender Sensitivity Training.

So far Water for Life Initiative has held family health training in 56 villages throughout Benin, and has trained 2,270 people (37% men, 63% women). By providing villages with clean water, and training residents with the skills to improve their health and lives, we are starting a new cycle of growth and development within rural communities across Benin.