In much of Africa, including in the landscapes that are home to chimpanzees, health issues and lack of health care are of great concern to the local people. HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases threaten lives. Poor sanitation results in unsafe water, making daily activities like drinking, eating, cooking and bathing risky. Lack of access to health information, including family planning counseling and services, make it impossible for women to plan for pregnancies, ultimately compromising their health and the health of their children.
JGI works in communities adjacent to chimpanzee habitat to improve the health of local communities by:
- Providing family planning services, including education, to help women plan the number and spacing of their pregnancies
- Increasing awareness about HIV/AIDS through prevention education and efforts to reduce the stigma associated with the disease
- Establishing public health dispensaries that provide basic care as well as information about preventing the spread of disease
- Providing infrastructure support. JGI helps communities gather resources to build needed facilities -- housing for nurses or doctors, school buildings, and water catchment devices. We also provide planning support and technical expertise.
- Encouraging better water and sanitation practices to improve the health of the water used by children and adults
Water and Environmental Sanitation projects have been a key component of the JGI’s work in Tanzania since 1999, and address one of the most pressing public health concerns in rural Africa. Reducing the transmission of water borne communicable disease, especially cholera, was identified as one of the region’s top public health priorities in a participatory rural assessment conducted by JGI staff in Kigoma. Most of the villages in the areas of western Tanzania where JGI works rely on unprotected springs, rivers, shallow wells and Lake Tanganyika itself as their primary water sources. All of these can be heavily polluted and serve as focal points for water borne disease transmission, while poorly constructed traditional household latrines and poor waste disposal methods contribute to enteric disease transmission in many villages.
Over the last decade, JGI has worked to construct gravity based water systems, rainwater collection tanks, and wells while protecting springs and other water sources in rural villages in Tanzania. More recently, the organization has also constructed water wells in the villages near the Tchimpounga Natural Reserve in the Republic of Congo. Local water committees have been organized and trained in communities where projects have been implemented, building the residents’ capacity to maintain and manage the facilities that have been constructed. Basic hygiene training, following the PHAST (Particpatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation) model, offers local residents the knowledge and skills they need to continue to reduce the rates of water-borne disease transmission.
One of the most important factors that influences the overall health of an ecosystem is the health of the human population, while unchecked population growth offers one of the greatest existing threats to the chimpanzee habitat JGI is trying to protect. JGI’s community-centred conservation programmes attempt to address these vital concerns by incorporating activities designed to improve knowledge of reproductive health issues, increase access to family planning supplies, while also addressing basic issues of public health. Voluntary counseling services are provided to both men and women in conjunction with the distribution of family planning/reproductive health products.
Local community members selected by their peers are also trained to serve as Community-Based Distribution Agents (CBDAs), who are entrusted not only to educate the community members on reproductive health issues and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, but also to provide family planning methods and refer cases to health centres. JGI provides both trained CBDAs and health care workers with contraception (including condoms, oral contraceptives, IUDs, Depo-Provera®) that they can distribute in conjunction with counseling. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), JGI’s programme includes valuable training sessions for health workers on family planning tools and techniques, and the distribution of treated mosquito nets to assist in malaria prevention. We are the first and only provider of family planning services in many of the North Kivu villages in the DRC.
Our CBDAs carry their information and services to often remote rural villages in creative ways:
- Making house calls to provide information to people living in rural areas
- Speaking at family planning centres
- Conducting private peer counseling sessions
- Raising awareness through village Family Planning Days, market speeches and public meetings
- Educating through the use of other media (such as videos, calendars, t-shirts) and performance, including plays and traditional singing and dancing
One of the most pressing health issues facing the African continent, and indeed the entire world, is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In Tanzania, CBDAs are trained in home based care for HIV/AIDS patients, and in turn they train households who are taking care of HIV infected people and help identify families that need financial assistance to buy medication. JGI has organized mobile, voluntary counseling and training units that work with local community members to obtain their HIV status, as well as refer those who are HIV+ to the local regional hospital for further counseling and treatment. Other programme activities have focused on working in schools and universities to increase the level of understanding of HIV/AIDS and reduce the stigma associated with the disease.