Why are these kids so excited? Handwashing!
Oscar Ntakarutimana, a Maternal Child and Health Coordinator from PSI/Burundi, taught kids at a school in the suburb of Bujumbura City, Burundi, how easy it is to prevent diarrhea. With fun games, skits and quizzes, he taught all the children the importance of washing hands with soap and using chlorine solution to clean drinking water.
Jean Chrisostome Rukundo, a 10-year-old in the class Oscar taught, lives in a mud house with 11 family members – his parents, two siblings, an aunt and her two children, and four other cousins.
Even though they live in the city of Bujumbura, they have no running water in their neighborhood, leaving them at the mercy of the seasons. When the rains come, they collect water from their roof. But during the dry seasons they walk 40 minutes up the hill to a small river to get just one pot of water. The family uses this water for everything – cooking, drinking and bathing. In a household of 12 people, this one pot of water does not last very long.
This water from the river also makes the people in their community very sick. Everyone has diarrhea and worms, especially
Toilets may not be a topic that get as much attention as others, but over 1 billion people around the world must defecate out in the open and over 2 billion people do not have access to clean and private toilets. That means that billions are at risk of diseases that are spread through fecal matter such as diarrhea and cholera.
Today’s World Toilet Day is meant to make some noise about the issue by raising awareness. The stakes are high and the issue is serious. According to the WHO, the areas with the lowest access to proper sanitation are sub-Saharan Africa (31%), southern Asia (36%) and Oceania (53%). “World Toilet Day has a serious purpose: it aims to stimulate dialogue about sanitation and break the taboo that still surrounds this issue,” says the World Toilet Day website. “In addition, it supports advocacy that highlights the profound impact of the sanitation crisis in a rigorous manner, and seeks to bring to the forefront the health and emotional consequences, as well as the economic impact of inadequate sanitation.”
Last week, PSI/Kenya joined the Kenya Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) to launch a national behavior change communication campaign that will seek to educate Kenyans on Fortification and its health benefits. PSI/Kenya has worked with The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, The Kenya National Food Fortification Alliance (KNFFA) and partners in the design of the consumer awareness and education campaign that will teach Kenyans about the benefits of food fortification and how to identify the fortified foods by looking out for the Food Fortification Logo (attached). The fortified staples include; Maize meal, Wheat flour, Sugar and Edible oils. GAIN is providing financial and technical support to the overall Fortification program.
The following post is by Myriam Sidibe, Global Social Mission Director, Unilever-Lifebuoy. It originally appears on the CSRwire blog.
It’s common knowledge that prevention is better than cure; yet, every year an estimated 2 million children don’t reach their fifth birthday due to the largely preventable diseases diarrhea and pneumonia. Prevention need not be complicated; for diarrhea and pneumonia the simple practice of regular handwashing with soap is one of the most effective and low-cost public health interventions available.
From a health and hygiene perspective, the power of prevention is massive.
Saving 600,000 Lives Every Year
Research demonstrates that handwashing with soap reduces the risk of diarrhea by 45 percent,pneumonia by 23 percent, and improves levels of school absenteeism by approximately 20 to 50 percent. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimates handwashing with soap could save the lives of over 600,000 children every year – the equivalent of 10 jumbo planes of children saved every day [UNICEF].
A cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone has worked quickly to kill dozens of people and make its way into the capital city of Freetown. The health ministry reported 62 deaths in the period between June 23 and July 17. “Emergency referral centres have been set up and hospitals and health clinics have been boosted with drugs to combat any escalation of the problem,” the ministry said in a mid-July statement.
|Children fetch later in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Credit|
In the weeks that have followed, the government and NGOs have ramped up operations to reduce the spread of cholera. The Red Cross deployed 400 volunteers and MSF announced it would open two additional centers in Freetown at the start of August. “Our present cholera treatment facilities are stretched to the limit with patients. The patients that we see are of all ages, so it’s not just children or already weak people that are at risk,” said Karen Van den Brande, MSF head of mission in Sierra Leone.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee made an important decision last week when it sent the Water for the World Act for a vote on the Senate floor. The bipartisan bill cosponsored by Senators Reid (D-NV), Roberts (R-KS), Cardin (D-MD), Isakson (R-GA), and Leahy (D-VT) seeks to further support efforts that will ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation around the world.
The bill, introduced by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), will accomplish the following:
- Target underdeveloped countries with focused initiatives to improve access to clean water and sanitation;
Foster global cooperation on research and technology development, including regional partnerships among experts on clean water;
- Provide technical assistance and capacity-building to develop expertise within countries facing water and sanitation challenges;
- Provide seed money for the deployment of clean water and sanitation technologies;
- Strengthen the human infrastructure at USAID and the State Department to implement clean water and sanitation programs effectively and to ensure that water receives priority attention in our foreign policy efforts; and
- Includes a 25% nonfederal fund cost share provision to leverage philanthropic and other donor support for the programs
“Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is a right that everyone in the world ought to enjoy but too few are able to realize,” Durbin said. “Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue. I hope the Senate can pass this legislation before this problem reaches a devastating tipping point.”
Myriam Sidibe, Global Social Mission Director, Unilever-Lifebuoy
Being able to live a clean, active and healthy life should be a basic human right. Yet, this is not a privilege that everyone has – a point underscored by two high level reports last week.
UNICEF’s latest report  reminds us that pneumonia and diarrhoea are the biggest killers of children globally, causing the deaths of approximately two million children under the age of five, every year. Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that despite significant progress, the world is unlikely to meet the fourth Millennium Development Goal  – to reduce child mortality by two thirds from 1990 levels.
Both reports come at a critical point in time: the world has less than three years to scale-up efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. At Unilever we want to scale-up our own efforts on this front.
UNICEF’s report points to areas where business can help achieve the fourth Millennium Development Goal. Not only can diarrhoea and pneumonia be prevented through basic best practices, including frequent handwashing with soap at key occasions, but also more awareness raising campaigns could reduce deaths caused by pneumonia by 30 per cent and diarrhoea by 60 per cent – potentially saving more than two million children by 2015. This would be a significant progress in the aim to achieve the fourth Millennium Development Goal and reduce infant mortality.
Two weeks ago, World Water Day was recognized. We sat down with Katharine McHugh, PSI’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Technical Advisor, to discuss some of her reflections on WASH and how PSI is partnering with countries and organizations to achieve the WASH Millennium Development Goal targets.
Katharine has worked in the WASH sector for eight years, including on programs in Congo, Benin, Haiti, and India. She has an MSc in Control of Infectious of Diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Healthy Lives: Given the recent global success on the clean water MGD, why is sanitation still lagging?
Katharine Mchugh: We have a big job in sanitation: to ensure that every household has improved sanitation. Even if we hit the MDG for sanitation there will still be 1.7 billion people without access to hygienic place to use the bathroom. Right now there are a billion people who practice open defecation. Going forward I think we need to focus on the behavior behind use and maintenance of latrines more. Its not enough to just build someone a latrine, we need to understand why or why not they use and maintain it and incorporate this into our communications campaigns. We also need to engage the private sector in the creation of sustainable solutions that respond to consumer needs for latrine construction and servicing because building latrines for a few billion people isn’t going to be cheap, not to mention emptying them. There is also evidence that shows that households are willing to invest in latrine construction because they view it as a home improvement that gives them a sense of pride. Households won’t go up the sanitation ladder, from having a simple pit to a sparkling toilet in one day, so we need to a variety of products and services as well as finance options that fit the needs of the myriad of consumers out there.