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Water, Sanitation & Hygiene

Learning How to Save Children’s Lives in Timor Leste

Thanks to a Plan-supported program, Anabelita now knows how to protect her children from illness.

Anabelita carries her 3-year-old daughter Joaninha carefully in her arms as she makes her way to an early childhood education center run by Plan International.

“I’m happy, because I can help my daughter to prepare for the future,” Anabelita said.

She is Anabelita’s only surviving child.

At the beginning of April, streams will dry out, the leaves of trees will turn brown, and the earth in the fields will crack. Children will have to dig deeper and deeper to find water from muddy holes, and the water will become dirtier.

It was contaminated water that led to the death of Anabelita’s first daughter.

“My daughter got diarrhea when she was nine months old,” she said. “I noticed that she was sick. I tried to nurse her and carried her everywhere in my arms.”

After five days of illness, her daughter suddenly went limp in Anabelita’s arms. She called an ambulance, but it was too late. Her daughter died on the way to the hospital.

“I was shocked and distressed,” she said. “It was very difficult.”

Mothers in the community rallied round to support and console Anabelita. They understood her sorrow, because many of them had also lost their young children due to diarrhea or other preventable childhood diseases.

When Plan’s early childhood education center opened in her village, she was able to take part in educational meetings for parents. There she learned that she should have taken her sick daughter to hospital as soon as she fell ill. She also learned that just boiling drinking water is not enough. It is also necessary to wash hands frequently, boil all water for household use, and build toilets farther away from houses.

“At the early childhood education center, community volunteers explain to the parents that they should not wait too long with a sick child before going to the hospital,” said Maria Beatriz Samento, who is in charge of the early childhood education center. “Often, parents wait for several days before taking the child to the clinic, and by then it can be too late.”

Anabelita is now determined that Joaninha will not experience the same fate as her first daughter. She now knows how to safeguard her daughter’s life and provide her a safer future.

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