News Story: Improving Access to School Health Services for Children and Adolescent Girls in Buner, KPK

Date: Apr 24, 2023

Focus on child health is a very important component of the HDF Education & Literacy and Health & Wellness program.  Human Development Foundation – HDF has been successfully running a large-scale student-centered School Health Program since its inception, a key component of which caters to children, especially adolescent girls. Under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development – USAID’s New Partnerships Initiative (NPI EXPAND), HDF instigated a Human Development Activity (HDA) to improve health, hygiene, and nutrition among the 25,000 school children and adolescent girls in Buner district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province through implementing a school health program.


Heath, Hygiene & Nutrition Screenings of Children


HDF has conducted health screenings of more than 9000 children so far, 49.9% of which are girls, in 36 public schools. The project aims to put a special focus on girls by screening 10,000 female students enrolled in all the 74 girls’ primary, middle, high and higher secondary schools in Ghagra tehsil, Buner district. Apart from screening for acute malnourishment, general physical examinations of these children are also being conducted to exclude any cardiac problems, mental health issues, and any other illness. Additionally, more than 200 students have been identified with sight error and provided with free-of-cost spectacles during hearing and vision checks being performed while screening. We are also conducting personal hygiene sessions and providing these children with iron/IFA supplements and multivitamins to improve their immunity and protect them from chronic illnesses. Furthermore, the health teams are administering deworming of all children aged between 5-15 years in coordination with the KP Health Department. So far, 4 students have been referred for hearing aids to the Pakistan Institute of Rehabilitation Sciences (PIRS), while 2 students were identified for eye surgeries during the screening and were referred to the district headquarters hospital.


Teachers’ Training


HDF also trained 300 public school teachers, 49% of which are females, as master trainers to conduct health & hygiene sessions in their schools for sustainability beyond the life of the project. The teacher training module that HDF adapted was based on the WHO Guidelines for School Health Services 2021, and National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), and UNICEF guidance on menstrual health and hygiene, 2019. The training included; Health education of school children on personal hygiene, and nutrition; Adolescent health and hygiene including menstrual hygiene management; Introduction to child health problems; Prevention of anemia including deworming; Prevention and treatment of malnourishment; Basic health screening techniques that can be used by non-technical staff for vision testing and detection of hearing impairment.


AGAH Campaign on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM)


HDF is also focusing on promoting adolescent health, especially awareness on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), through organizing AGAH (Adolescent Girls Awareness on Health) behaviour change communication campaign to encourage personal health and menstrual hygiene management.


The stigmas and taboos linked with menstruation lead to a culture of silence on the topic resulting in limited information on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) for adolescents, affecting girls’ health and education, and their social lives. It also leads to school dropouts and poor attendance. The campaign title, ‘AGAH’, is inspired from the Urdu word (آگاه) meaning ‘awareness’. AGAH is designed as a behavior change communication (BCC) campaign for this project to promote awareness on MHM through radio, 2D animated videos, and interpersonal communication. HDF is conducting this campaign in all 74 primary, middle, secondary, higher, and higher secondary girl’s schools and will reach 3,700 adolescent girls. HDF plans to reach the total population of district Buner, which is 895,460, (Census 2017) through radio messages during the AGAH campaign including 449,555 females, 445,872 males, and 33 transgender people.


The improved knowledge of the community on health hygiene and MHM will provide an enabling environment for the children to adopt and continue these best practices. The project aims to support the Government of KP by increasing the availability and use of quality education, health, and family planning services