Immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases, and it is estimated to prevent between 2 to 3 million deaths each year. It is one of the most cost-effective health investments, with proven strategies that make it accessible to even the most hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations.
Nepal is a landlocked country with varying geographical and social-cultural proximity. Cholera, which is defined as an acute diarrheal disease caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium known as vibrio cholera, outbreaks have been recorded in rural and urban areas. These outbreaks have occurred across the country, including in regions that are remote and difficult to access and which have compromised water sanitation and poor hygiene conditions. Thus, cholera outbreaks are a major concern for Nepal. Not only does Nepal face natural disasters, like floods and landslides during the rainy season every year, but it also faces a steady increase in urban population density, accompanied by inadequate supplies of safe drinking water and high rates of open defecation, especially right after a natural disaster occurs. To better control, these kinds of problems, access to potable water, timely management of cases, food hygiene maintenance, environmental sanitation, and community engagement are a must.
However, the maintenance of these complex environmental and health factors is difficult, making the prevention and control of future cholera outbreaks challenging. Thus, Nepal must take steps to improve its outbreak preparedness by strengthening its early warning and response system, expanding health education, increasing its case management readiness, ensuring the adequate distribution of rehydration supplies, and giving consideration to the provision of the oral cholera vaccine in high-risk communities. Therefore, in this regard, Group for Technical Assistance is working with the Ministry of Health and other relevant partners on implementing the aforementioned activities to prevent and control cholera, as well as other enteric diseases.
Similarly, the Water Aid hygiene promotion through immunization, which is a groundbreaking approach to hygiene behavior change, worked with the government of Nepal?s Ministry of Health to reach thousands of mothers and babies at immunization clinics. This is another example of an effective result-based approach, where Group for Technical Assistance had a role in supporting this effort, primarily by conducting formative research.
The practice of good hygiene is the key to a healthy life. However, changing people?s hygiene habits is easier said than done, especially for people in remote communities, who have had less exposure to these practices. With that being said, there is always a solution, even to challenges such as these. By using motivational, engaging, attractive, and surprising intervention strategies and novel approaches, we can successfully elicit behavior change.
Also, these kinds of activities will not only help in improving hygiene practices, but they will also strengthen Nepal?s routine immunization system by improving immunization coverage and people?s trust in immunization services.
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