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From: Partnership in health – Footsteps 12

Preventative healthcare in community settings

Jean-Pierre, Toussaint, Patrice and Raphael supervise a group of health workers in Rafai, Central Africa Republic. Their task is to teach how to avoid some diseases. One of the commonest diseases in the area is diarrhoea. To make the teaching more effective, a ‘diarrhoea doll’ is used! Toussaint tells us how it works... 

Our body has been made in a very wonderful way, but if we introduce dirty things into it then it won’t function very well anymore. Water is a good example. Often we can’t see that the water is dirty, but if the water is boiled for long enough, we can see on the sides a grey deposit that is not clean. If this dirt enters the body, it may cause diarrhoea. The diarrhoea, in turn, may cause dehydration and sometimes even death.

The ‘diarrhoea doll’ is used to show what happens when we replace dirty drinking water with clean boiled water. It also shows the effects of dehydration. This is how you can make the doll:

  • Cut the doll shape out of a piece of thin wood. Cut out a hole for the tummy and make two small holes just above this.
  • Cut both ends from a small tin (or use a hollow piece of bamboo). Place a clear plastic bag inside the tin and fold the top over the tin. Tie this behind the doll firmly with string, using the two small holes to attach it. Water can then be poured into the doll.
  • Make a very small hole in the bottom of the bag to let the water run out and to show the effects of diarrhoea.

You will also need containers of clean water and dirty, muddy water. 

The cause of diarrhoea 

Pour dirty water into the bag until it bulges like a real baby’s tummy, filling up the hole in the doll. Let the water run out of the doll. This shows what happens when a baby gets diarrhoea from dirty water.

If we block the hole at the bottom of the plastic the dirty water stays inside. This is similar to what happens when we give a drug to stop diarrhoea. The dirty water stays inside - which is not good.

As the dirty water runs out, the bag deflates - the baby becomes dehydrated. The water that is lost through diarrhoea must be replaced or the baby may die. Should it be replaced with dirty or clean water? Encourage people to participate so that they will understand better. 

The cure for diarrhoea

The dirty water must be replaced by the clean water in oral rehydration solution or breast milk. Pour in clean water slowly so that people can see the water inside the baby’s stomach becoming cleaner until all the water inside is clean - the diarrhoea has gone.

We teach this in the form of a question and answer system with people to make sure they have really understood. Here in Rafai, people now know how to reduce the dangers of diarrhoea - may God help us now to put it into practice!

Sent in by Marie-Christine Lux, who works for Tear Fund in Rafai, CAR. 

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