There isn’t much to the town of Namwala itself – an assortment of mobile phone “talk time” sellers and wholesale farmer feed stores. But it’s 20 minutes outside of town before you arrive at Kalundu Primary School, which hosted the first facial cleanliness for trachoma elimination pilot in southern province. Students donned heart and star-shaped molds of glycerin soap hanging from strings for one month to reinforce hand washing and facial cleanliness.
“The first day it was hard to teach!” said grade one teacher, Mukena Fortress. “They were so excited to use the soap necklaces that they kept wanting to go use the latrine.”
Fortress demonstrated how to use the necklace, bringing a bucket into her 47 student-filled classroom to teach proper hand washing.
Seven-year-old Misika likes the shape of the soap.
“Our soap is like a heart,” she said. I like always having it to wash.”
Kalundu Primary School is located in Namwala district in southern province, a region in Zambia where trachoma prevalence reaches 37%. Trachoma, an eye infection caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium, is a major cause of blindness especially in areas with limited access to water and sanitation. Repeated infections lead to scarring of eye tissue. When this scarring happens, the eyelid eventually turns in on itself and eyelashes continuously scratch at the cornea, which may eventually lead to blindness. The infection can be spread by bacteria on hands and the legs of flies, and the common sharing of cloths to wipe the face, especially of children. It is responsible for three percent of global blindness.