According to the World Heath Organization (WHO), across the globe nearly 800,000 children die of diarrheal diseases each year. What’s more, these deaths are preventable with access to proper sanitation and hygiene tools. Fortunately, a new innovation from the nonprofit WaterSHED offers a solution: portable sinks.
Hand washing, WaterSHED asserts, is key to preventing diarrhea. However, in a country like Cambodia, where 80 percent of the population lives in impoverished rural areas, hand washing often gets left by the wayside.
Enter the LaBobo, a portable, inexpensive sink whose bright colors are designed to engage children in the hygiene process. Each unit costs $15 and is capable of dispensing up to 15 liters of water.
The LaBobo, which was designed with input from Vietnamese families in the Mekong Delta, is built with a low-flow spout that acts as a means to conserve water. The sinks are designed to be child-accessible and are also outfitted with a soap dish, which promotes the full hygiene routine.
WaterSHED asserted in a recent press release: “If we consistently wash our hands at critical times, especially after using a toilet or before preparing food, we can prevent nearly half the cases of diarrheal disease and one third of the cases of other potentially fatal infections, according to the World Bank.”
According to Om Prasad Gautam, technical support manager with charity WaterAid, improved hand washing habits also help to promote the impact of other health initiatives.
However, in a study conducted of 79 households throughout Cambodia, researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and University of California, Davis found that a mere five percent of these homes were outfitted with “dedicated hand-washing equipment.”
This is a shortage that WaterSHED regional program manager Geoff Revell understands.
“If you give people a bucket and a piece of soap, more often than not you will find the bucket ends up being used for something else,” Revell said. “But if they spend some money on a product they like and actually want to own, it’s much more likely that they will keep using it and form a healthy habit of washing their hands regularly.”
The LaBobo is designed to meet the need for dedicated hand-washing equipment by virtue of its clear function as a sink and its appealing design, which has already engaged the households serviced by the 10,000 LaBobo units sold in Vietnam.
In Cambodia, where proper sanitation is still a challenge and a mere 44 percent of the population has access to both soap and water, small steps toward improving hand washing practices represent enormous progress. Cambodia has one of the greatest under-age-five mortality rates in the world, but with tools like the LaBobo on their side Cambodia’s children are cleaning up their hygiene act.
– Emma-Claire LaSaine