December 18, 2013 | The Editors

Supporting PATH and stopping diarrhea

A woman in a blue jacket stands in front of wooden tables where women and children are seated, listening.
The mothers’ group in Chorm Trach meets to discuss preventing and treating diarrhea. Photo: PATH/Anne Aumell.

PATH’s Anne Aumell, a member of our Development team, traveled recently in Southeast Asia, where she saw some of the innovative work our generous donors have made possible. Here’s her report from Cambodia on our efforts to help mothers protect their children from potentially deadly diarrhea.

When I plan a trip, I think a lot about my shoes. They need to be solid for city sidewalks, sturdy for muddy and dusty roads, and fashionable in case I decide to wear a dress. And I must have red Mary Janes whenever possible.

Last week, when I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a man offered to clean my shoes. They needed it, but I declined. I wanted the dust and mud to be with me a little bit longer. I wanted this evidence of meeting the people of Xem in Vietnam and Kampong Thom Province in Cambodia to remain.

Meeting the mothers’ group

Young girl places her hand over her upper arm where she's received vaccination, with the words "Share the health: donate now for 1:1 match."A few days earlier, I stepped out of a PATH truck in the Cambodian village of Chorm Trach. I was there to attend a mothers’ group, a quarterly meeting led by the village leader, who in this case is also the village health worker. My PATH colleagues, Vichit Ork, Thunvuth Nop, and Mary Prum, stepped easily into the wooden building with the corrugated metal roof and took seats on the opposite side of the room. I hesitated because, frankly, I was overcome with emotion: I was actually attending a mothers’ group in Cambodia.

A year ago, two PATH donors said yes to my request that they fund our diarrheal disease program in Cambodia. One, Susanna Cunningham, is on the nursing faculty at the University of Washington and has traveled to Cambodia to train nursing students. The other, Laurie Michaels of Open Road Alliance, funds high-potential projects that need fast, flexible funding. I had never been to Cambodia, but when the two of them decided to support our work, I imagined the mothers who would learn to recognize diarrheal disease in their children, obtain treatment for it, and even prevent it. Now here I was, sitting among them.

Benefits of a latrine

The meeting began with a presentation on how to get oral rehydration solution and zinc treatments and continued with information about acquiring latrines. The quarterly mothers’ group meeting presents information like this as part of PATH’s work to prevent diarrhea in the community.

A path leads to a small brick building with white door.
Hem Taing Oy’s latrine. Photo: PATH/Anne Aumell.

After the meeting, Hem Taing Oy showed us her latrine, purchased for US$450 by her son, a construction worker, and her daughter, a house maid. Both work in Phnom Penh. When they return home, they want a safe and clean place to “go.” Her latrine is one of only six among 106 households in this village.

As we walked along the road in Chorm Trach, children waved from their yards, and we saw that a new wing for the school is being built. In a couple of years, there will be more latrines, more water filters, and fewer cases of diarrheal disease. As I said in my earlier post from Vietnam, PATH’s in this for the long haul. Our donors are too.

More information

•    Donate to PATH.
•    Our work in diarrheal disease.
•    DefeatDD website.

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