On the occasion of World Health Day (7 April), Aide et Action looks back at the essential contribution of the education sector to promoting better health and well-being for all and Calls for a rapprochement of education and health actions in the framework of development projects, especially those carried out in crisis situations.
To offer the children breakfast on arrival at school The morning meal is a common practice in educational projects conducted by Aide et Action in many developing countries. Not only does it guarantee the youngest children a meal a day, but it also helps them to learn about good nutrition, avoid the risk of malnutrition, and enable them to concentrate better to follow the lessons at school. The practice is now being emulated by the France has announced that it will introduce this measure in many schools for the most vulnerable families. No chance there! How can you learn, work and study on an empty stomach when you are malnourished or ill? You can't! And indeed, it has been proven that aEnsuring basic health needs was an imperative before any efficient and effective educational action could be considered.
Be healthy to learn well and learn to be healthy!
But the cause and effect relationship between education and health does not end there. Going to school means learning the knowledge needed for good nutrition, how to prevent disease and how to recognise certain pathologies. It has been shown that a child whose mother can read is twice as likely to live past the age of 5, is 1.5 times more likely to be vaccinated, and is twice as likely to attend school.
With the years of study, we know better how to eat, what behaviour to adopt in order not to fall ill, when to take care of ourselves, which medicines to take and above all how to take them since we know how to read and understand the dosage. Educated parents are thus better able to take care of their families and to pass on the right gestures to their children. Women with more than primary education are five times more likely to have knowledge about HIV and AIDSIn this sense, education acts as a health intervention and is a real development factor as it provides tomorrow's citizens with the knowledge and attitudes to lead a healthy life. This is particularly important in crisis situations, as the recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown.
Education and health: coordinated action needed in times of crisis
The educational disruption caused by the sudden closure of schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a brutal impact on children and young people. Not only did they lose overnight access to knowledge and learning, they also lost the only hot meal they had per day, access to medical check-ups, nutritional monitoring, vaccination programmes, etc. From the very beginning of the crisis, NGOs specialising in education therefore immediately understood the importance of restoring access to health and nutrition services for all before considering any educational activity.
Within the framework of its response to COVID-19, Aide et Action has adopted an integrated and multisectoral approach, acting simultaneously on all the needs of the populations in order to ensure pedagogical continuity. In particular, it has developed, for example in VietnamIn addition to the water, sanitation and hygiene activities, it was considered essential and necessary, for obvious health reasons, to ensure that the population had access to awareness-raising on the danger of the virus and the importance of barrier measures, fixed and mobile hand-washing facilities, soap- and alcohol-based cleaning products and a reliable water supply. It has also provided more widely, in Cambodia for examplecomprehensive support for food aid, nutritional monitoring, support for the resumption of primary health care and vaccination.
Our coordinated action in South Asia on COVID-19
In India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Aide et Action worked to restore access to essential services as quickly as possible by raising awareness of barrier gestures and social distancing measures, by distributing health, nutrition and menstrual hygiene kits... The project also included an important psycho-social protection component, particularly for the most vulnerable. The psychological support provided mainly by telephone to more than 6,518 people helped people in traumatic situations and prevented many suicide attempts. The results of the project in India prove the importance and effectiveness of this inter-sectoral approach: 380,000 people have been sensitized to barrier gestures, 6,615 people have received psychosocial support, more than 197,943 people in internal migration situations have received food and 96,647 people have received hygiene kits. In many vocational training centres and schools supported by Aide et Action, access to health care and nutrition has prevented school dropouts and ensured the resumption of educational activities for the most vulnerable populations, especially girls. Such results prove how much the links between education and health must now be strengthened. The recent COVID-19 crisis demonstrates the benefits of a complementary education-health approach and the need for coordinated action by all sectors to ensure that people have access to the most basic rights.