WASH United is a global campaign that uses the sport of football (soccer) to promote safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene for all. Its launch corresponded with the start of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to take advantage of World Cup fever. WASH United’s campaign targets a wide range of groups from schools, youth football clubs and local communities to politicians, governments, civil society organizations and the media. By uniting all stakeholders, WASH United hopes to promote water and sanitation as a basic human right.
In Kenya, universal access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is still far from being achieved. According to official figures, 76% of residents in Nairobi’s informal settlements do not have access to toilet facilities at household level. Instead many use open spaces or flying toilets (human feces placed in a plastic bag which is then thrown outside). Hand washing with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhea by 35-50%, but only 5% of Kenyans use it consistently. Diarrhea-related diseases kill more Kenyan children under the age of 5 than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.
It is crucial for Kenya’s development to have a well educated and healthy workforce to improve the struggling economy. Yet it is estimated that 50% of all hospital visits in Kenya are due to preventable water, sanitation, and hygiene related illnesses. These illnesses prevent children from attending school and adults from going to work. The need for clean water, bathroom facilities and for all Kenyans to wash their hands before eating and after going to the toilet are essential in improving the country’s economic and social well being.
On July 3, 2010, WASH United held an event in Raila, Kibera to teach children the importance of using a toilet and washing their hands. The event had many different activities for children to participate in. First was the World Toilet Cup game. The object of the game was to kick a poo ball (soccer ball) into a toilet or latrine to win a small prize. Another activity was the Blue Hand game which illustrates how germs spread. Some of the children had blue chalk on their hands while others did not. Both the children with blue hands and the children without blue hands formed a circle and tossed a ball to one another. After the game the children that originally didn’t have blue hands noticed that their hand were blue. The last game was the charcoal game where children washed charcoal off of their hands to learn how to properly wash their hands so that they were germ free. After they were done washing they wiped their hand on white paper towels to see if they had got their hands completely clean.
Brenda, a student at Olympic Primary School in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, speaks about what she learned at a WASH United event on July 3, 2010.
With the help of groups like Hakijamii WASH United hopes that individuals, communities, and the government will increase their efforts to make safe water, sanitation and hygiene available to all. Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a fundamental human need and therefore, a basic human right. With campaigns like WASH I am hopefull that someday soon everyone will have access to this basic human right.
Posted By Louis Rezac
Posted Jul 15th, 2010