26 enero, 2007

Chagas, Children take the initiative

Churicana (Chuquisaca) is the first community to receive us two journalists, with temperatures soaring above 30 at midday. A puppet theatre is being set up with its main character being an enormous sponge Vinchuca beetle that is hated by the children. Through play, it is hoped that the children and their families can understand and change their knowledge, attitudes and practices related to their housing and endemic diseases, especially Chagas. Miguel Pimentel, Regional Coordinator for the Chagas Program in the Sucre Program Office and others working alongside him believe the children will beat Chagas. They are learning that animals should not sleep alongside people, that each room has its specific use and that the Vinchuca beetle, in contrast to what their grandparents believed, does not bring good luck or money but rather death and disease, and not just to the poorest. The intensive education program includes workshops with children, adolescents, young people, school teachers, health workers from the municipality and inhabitants of the communities where the housing improvements will be carried out. The program also includes regular training to promote better communication among community members and to increase understanding of the difficulties that communities face. They will know when, how and with whom to talk, which is essential to gaining the trust of the communities. “What is most satisfying for us is seeing the children understanding the need to eradicate the Vinchucas and teaching basic hygiene to their parents,” said Miguel. “We want the Chagas control and prevention program to be included in the school curriculum.” The children play an important role in the process, not only because they need to be treated when they are infected but also because they are easier to educate in the prevention of the disease and so to promote change within for their family and community.