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 the central Asian country is relatively low compared to the average for the region (WHO), with many people that live in remote areas suffering from infectious diseases. A lack of clean drinking water means people are more likely to fall ill, increasing the chance of epidemics. Injuries such as burns, poisonings and insect bites also put their health at risk.
Many living in rural areas are unaware of how to treat injuries with first aid or how to prevent common infectious diseases. There are growing problems with sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis and gonorrhoea, which are often left untreated, and many young people lack information about the harmful effects of drugs.
©InfoThe 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 programm's actvities, which are funded by the British Red Cross, reached over 22,000 people in 2011. Over 400 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are working to educate people and share important health and first aid messages, and have delivered 15,000 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 programme’s reputation 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.
©InfoThe programme brings simple but potentially life-saving knowledge to the communities it reaches. In 2011, 89 per cent of pregnant women involved with it regularly visited antenatal clinics – and 81 per cent of pregnant and breastfeeding women followed important advice on nutrition to give their children the best possible start in life.
Of 3,000 children reached by the programme, 95 per cent later showed knowledge about personal hygiene and preventing common diseases. This learning could prove vital in an area with a heavily polluted river and where few households have their own toilet.
Programme coordinator 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 training. Just simple things like learning how to disinfect water can save many lives.”