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Dish racks lead to healthier children

Liberia, March 17, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nancy Farese for Mercy Corps  </span>
    “I give thanks,” says Annie, “because through the opportunities of Mercy Corps I learned a lot of good things.” Photo: Nancy Farese for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Annie recently learned to write her name — an accomplishment of which she is enormously proud. Photo: Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps

Of the 12 children that 50-year-old Annie Dolo gave birth to, seven are living. The other five died of malaria and measles. Annie has had a hard life, but she has learned useful skills in the past couple of years, thanks to Mercy Corps’ Community Peacebuilding and Development (CPBD) program, that are making life better for her and her family.

“I give thanks,” says Annie, “because through the opportunities of Mercy Corps I learned a lot of good things.” One of her classes was in hygiene. Annie learned about the importance of hand-washing before eating. “Before, when the children came in from the latrine, or from playing in the sand, they did not wash their hands. They would start eating. Then they would get the running stomach. As a result, they were malnourished. And many of them became swollen and died. This is one of the causes for children to die.”

Annie continues, “The dog and the chickens used to play in the cooking utensils [lying on the ground]. Then Mercy Corps taught us to build dish racks.” Now she can keep her dishes clean — and her children healthy.

“I was not privileged to go to school when I was small,” says Annie. “And I never thought how to take good care of food. Now I have learned how to save our children from malnutrition. We have a latrine, we are washing our hands, and we are not experiencing the running stomach.”

Annie is also helping to feed her family. “Through 14 years of civil war, we sold vegetables to support ourselves.” Now, as many men cannot find work, women like Annie are often breadwinners for the home. “I want to see development and investment come to our country, so my husband can be employed and help support our family,” she says. Meanwhile, Annie grows corn, peppers and the local vegetable called bitter ball so she can send some of her children to school. She wishes all of them could go, but her “money is small.” It costs about $72 to send a village child to school for a year.

Annie knows education is the key to a better future. She herself is studying her letters, and recently learned to write her name. It’s an accomplishment of which she is enormously proud.

“I don’t want my children to be blind,” Annie says firmly. “To not know how to read and write is blind. If I am blind, I cannot do anything. My child cannot do anything. I can see it [the paper] but I don’t know it [what the words mean]. If they don’t know how to read, they don’t know how to see.”