Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance - George Bernard Shaw
The World is not only engulfed by the pandemic Covid-19 now, it is also being swallowed by the constant flow of misinformation from various sources. This chain of misinformation has not only friended the elite or educated section of the society who have huge access to various source of information. The lower strata of the society are becoming the easy target of this misinformation. So, along with fighting the deadly virus, we also need to fight against such misinformation.
However, this fight is not as easy as it sounds! The fake news and information spreads like wildfire and causes a huge roadblock in fighting the pandemic. Hence, to start with, we need to identify the wrong information passed to the community and then communicate the true information with easy and practical examples through right medium.
Two weeks before Corona entered the territory of India, SEED organized an Awareness programme on Health, Sanitation, Hygiene and Cleanliness with the 700 plus families members including children of Sanitation workers of Ambedkar Colony, Alipore, Kolkata. The purpose was to motivate them to adopt Healthy and clean lifestyle in their daily lives and to keep them safe from any such diseases. Dr. Madhumita Dobe (Director & Professor, All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health) joined us in this endeavor and conducted two interactive sessions with audio visual presentation for better understanding.
The Safai Karmacharis, who play a great role in keeping the city clean and its citizens healthy, are often taken for granted. They are often exposed to multiple occupational and environmental hazards. Recurrent news items about sewer deaths, pit collapses, and illnesses are often dismissed as isolated incidents rather than part of a systemic issue. Apart from these, they also risk the health of their families as they regularly come in contact with so many dirty things. They include the toilet cleaners, caretakers in domestic, public, and institutional settings, those who empty pits and septic tanks once full and other fecal sludge handlers, those who clean sewers and manholes and those who work at sewage and fecal waste treatment and disposal sites.
Dr. Madhumita Dobe started the session by interacting with the participants and tried to assess their daily lifestyle and habits and how they take care of health and hygiene. One senior female worker said that they heard about the missions of Central and State Governments on cleanliness but they usually forget to follow the directions when it comes to practical use. So, Dr. Dobe asked them to think of the health of their children and the consequences of not following the hygienic habits then they will never forget. She advised simple healthy habits like brushing teeth early morning, washing hands before cooking, serving and eating food, cleaning clothes daily and taking bath, covering the foods properly during and after cooking etc.
It was followed by a brief session with the women Safai Karmacharis and other female members of their families. They were informed about basic Menstrual Hygiene practices and the taboos and myths which they should avoid for better health and social life. The women were also informed about some gynecological problems that they may suffer if they don’t take care of proper personal hygiene in everyday life and especially during menstruation. The participants also had some queries which were answered by the Doctor and other experts present.
Dr. Somenath Bhattacharya, an Eminent Environmentalist and a key speaker at the programme, informed them how dirty surrounding can lead to the spread of various diseases that are also communicable. So, he asked then to keep their surrounding environment clean to destroy the breeding ground of such organisms. One of the bad habits is to spit anywhere which is neither pleasing to the eyes nor good for a healthy environment. He advised them to get rid of this habit of spitting at public places to keep surrounding environment clean and healthy.
Dr. Soumi Mazumdar conducted an interactive awareness session with the 150 children of Safai Karmacharis on cleanliness and hygienic sanitation practices.
She explained them basic points of personal hygiene which starts from washing hands and brushing teeth twice a day, covering their mouth when they cough, having regular baths or showers. She also discussed about the need of wearing fresh clothes every day, even if their old clothes don’t smell and cleaning underwear every day. The children enjoyed watching the animation video explaining all the hygiene needs of daily life.
All the participating family members of Safai Karmacharis were given “Hygiene Kits” (containing, soaps, hand wash, toothbrush toothpaste, hair oil shampoo, Dettol antiseptic liquid etc) in Cloth Bags along with refreshments. They were asked to use these products to stay clean and share with their family members.
100 senior “Safai Karmacharis” were felicitated to motivate them and honour them for the risks they take to keep our surrounding clean and hygiene. The programme was organized with support from BPCL (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited), Kolkata.
It was encouraging to find that the women Safai Karmacharis were more concerned about the health and sanitation issues of their family members. But the sad part was that they were not much interested or aware about their personal health issues and felt ignored. However, our aim was to motivate them to stay healthy as a family and society and for this we stressed on the motivation of women more as they take care of the overall family.
We tried to pass on correct information on healthy habits, personal hygiene and sanitation through this two days Workshop and hopefully it helped them to fight during this pandemic. As it is said “Knowledge is Power”; we believe that power will keep them aware to prevent the disease to spread in their area.