In rural Turkmenistan communities face huge health challenges, ranging from clean water shortages and drug abuse to a lack of first aid skills or knowledge about diseases and maternal health. That’s why the British Red Cross is backing community-based activities that help thousands look forward to a healthier future.
Life expectancy in this central Asian country is relatively low compared to the average for the region (WHO), with many people that live in remote areas affected by infectious diseases. A lack of clean drinking water means people are more likely to fall ill, increasing the chance of water borne disease epidemics. Injuries such as burns, poisonings and insect bites can also be a huge risk when little or no basic first aid information is available.
Many people living in rural areas do not know how to prevent common infectious diseases, and sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis and gonorrhoea, which are often left untreated. Many young people also lack information about the harmful effects of drugs.
The Turkmenistan Red Crescent delivers vital education in rural areas through its community based health and first aid programme. Volunteers learn to educate others within their own community including school children, who share knowledge about key health and first aid messages at talks and training sessions in secondary schools. The Red Cross also works closely with local authorities to gain access to vulnerable groups. The programme's actvities, which are funded by the British Red Cross, reached 31,549 people in 2013.
Over 691 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are educating people and sharing important health and first aid messages, and have delivered leaflets and booklets about first aid and drug abuse. The programme allows volunteers, who work hand-in-hand with local people to plan and monitor the projects, to pass on knowledge that saves lives and protects livelihoods in their own community. And as the volunteer network grows, more and more people are willing to get involved.
Children have taken part in road safety sessions and public campaigns have marked events including World First Aid Day, International Red Cross Red Crescent Day, International Children’s Day and the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The programme brings simple but potentially life-saving health knowledge to the communities it reaches. In 2013, 88 per cent of people reached learned the basic symptoms of the most common diseases and prevention measures. And 82 per cent of pregnant and breastfeeding women followed important nutrition advice to give their children the best possible start in life.
Just under half of those reached were children, 89 per cent of whom later showed knowledge about personal and domestic hygiene and disease prevention. This learning could prove vital in an area with a heavily polluted river and where few households have their own toilet.
Programme co-ordinator Aynabat Muhamova says: “We recruit volunteers whom we train to reach out to their own community. They spread messages of diseases prevention, health promotion, trauma reduction and basic first aid. Just simple things like learning how to disinfect water can save many lives.”