Protecting Children's Right to Health in Times of ConflictEvery child has the right to access quality health care. However, due to violence, destruction and displacement caused by armed conflict, millions of children find themselves barred from receiving basic medical and mental services. According to the United Nations, almost 250 million children are affected by armed conflict worldwide. Thus, the work being carried out by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is crucial to protecting children’s right to health in times of conflict.

How Children’s Health is Threatened by Conflict

In recent years, an unprecedented number of children—approximately 28 million—have been displaced by conflict. This displacement has often forced children to live in precarious living arrangements that pose a threat to their health. Children tend to fall victim to communicable diseases as they are unable to receive proper immunization. Additionally, refugee children encounter greater difficulties in accessing health care as a result of discrimination, language barriers or legal status.

Furthermore, today the number of attacks on hospitals during times of conflict is increasing. These attacks cause direct harm to children while also destroying the institutions where they would normally receive essential health care services.

UNICEF in South Sudan

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s work in South Sudan has been instrumental in protecting children’s right to health in the country during the civil war that began in December of 2013. UNICEF has been heavily involved in providing health services since the start of the conflict and had vaccinated 3,386,098 children against measles and “provided primary health care services to 3,631,829 children” between 2013 and 2017 period. Additionally, in 2017, UNICEF launched 51 “rapid response missions” to reach communities that are not typically recipients of food aid assistance, and was able to reach thousands of children facing malnutrition.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has distributed essential medicines and medical equipment, established “triage and screening points/areas for early recognition and referrals of suspected COVID-19 cases” and continued its psychosocial support services. UNICEF was also able to “treat 267,000 children under 5 affected by severe acute malnutrition” and vaccinated 312,272 children against measles in 2020 alone.

Save the Children in Yemen

Protecting children’s right to health care has been a top priority for Save the Children in Yemen. Due to an incredibly destructive and violent war that has now reached its fifth year, the health sector in Yemen has been severely affected as only 50% of the nation’s health care facilities are functional.

Save the Children has stepped in to support local health care clinics, providing emergency services, vaccinations and food assistance to child victims of airstrikes, bombings and alarming rates of severe acute malnutrition, which have already claimed the lives of thousands of Yemeni children.

The organization is the largest aid agency in the country. During the first four years of the conflict, Save the Children provided services to about three million children. It is committed to continuing its support efforts and raising awareness of the need for greater humanitarian aid funding to better protect children’s right to health in the country, especially with the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International Rescue Committee in Syria

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is playing a vital role in protecting Syrian children’s right to health during a war that continues to displace millions of people. The organization provides health services to approximately 500,000 children within Syria and to thousands more who have fled to neighboring countries. Within Syria, IRC’s efforts include partnering with local groups to bring medicine and other medical supplies to those who need them, running clinics, “[mobilizing] teams to provide lifesaving trauma services, primary and reproductive care” and providing counseling services.

The IRC has expanded its medical services in Jordan to include primary health care and mobile outreach to Syrian refugees. Most Syrian refugees not living in refugee camps rely on the IRC to provide health care services and to treat communicable diseases. Additionally, in Iraq, the IRC provides “creative healing activities” to help Syrian refugee children dealing with war-related traumas.

Recently, the IRC has been heavily involved in working with local communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and has launched various initiatives along with the World Health Organization to bring essential services to displaced Syrian children.

Humanitarian organizations like UNICEF, Save the Children and the IRC are protecting children’s right to health in vulnerable and war-torn countries. However, there is still much to do to provide children with adequate healthcare and protection from preventable diseases and infections. Governments, non-profit organizations and donors from the global community must take action to support children’s right to essential health services. By protecting this vulnerable group, we take one more step toward equality and global health.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr

Save the Children’s Work in YemenSince the civil war in Yemen started in 2015, conflicts have left the country facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. In the five years since the violence broke out, more than 3.6 million people have fled the country, and 24 million people, about 80% of the entire country, are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance—a figure that includes 12 million children. Two in three people in Yemen are not able to afford food, leaving half of Yemen in a state of near starvation. Over 70% of the country faces a severe shortage of food, safe water and healthcare, and there have been over one million cholera cases, 25% of them being of children. Save the Children in Yemen is working to aid children affected by the humanitarian crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Yemen Crisis Amid COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Yemen has plunged deeper into poverty. The health care system is crumbling, with 50% of health facilities not operating and a lack of basic equipment, such as masks and gloves as well as medical equipment to treat COVID-19 like oxygen and ventilators. Health care workers are working without an income. Yemenis children under the age of 5 now experience the highest rates of acute malnutrition ever recorded, the number reaching half a million children in southern Yemen.

Even before the pandemic, a child died every 10 minutes due to preventable diseases, such as diarrhea and malnutrition, as there are no doctors in 20% of Yemeni districts. Amid the Yemen crisis, children are killed and injured, their schools are shut down and health care facilities are closed. With the situation leaving children more vulnerable than ever, the danger driven by war and poverty is now even further amplified by the pandemic.

Yemen’s unstable health care system is nowhere near equipped to handle the surge of COVID-19 cases amid the pandemic. In the entire country, there are only 500 ventilators and four labs for COVID-19 testing for a population of nearly 30 million. Despite the lack of preparation and available resources, there have been more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases in the country as of October 2020. The number of malnourished children under the age of 5 could rise to 2.4 million by the end of the year.

Save the Children Leading Child Aid in Yemen

Save the Children is the largest aid organization in Yemen that aims to provide basic needs and assistance to vulnerable children in the country. Since the organization started assisting Yemenis children in May of 2015, it has reached more than three million kids. Save the Children has protected 55,608 children from harm, supported 1,784,041 children during the crisis and helped 98,127 parents provide their children with basic needs.

With the support of donations, Save the Children has kept 75 of its health care facilities operating. Especially for displaced or refugee children, it is almost impossible to practice social distancing and sanitary precautions, thus increasing the risk of spreading the virus. To combat this, Save the Children is distributing sanitary supplies and providing health care to protect vulnerable children in Yemen.

– Mizuki Kai
Photo: Flickr

Infant mortality rateEvery year newborn babies take their first breaths after their mothers give birth to them. Around the world, these same mothers hope that their children will grow into adulthood without any major health complications hindering their development. Unfortunately, millions of babies have died within their first few months of life due to health issues. Those born in areas with populations vulnerable to poverty experience more frequent cases of infections compared to others living in better environments. Therefore, organizations around the world have implemented ways to lower the infant mortality rate. It is important to understand what causes high infant mortality rate (IMR) and what groups across the globe have been doing to help lower the rate over the years.

Infectious Diseases

Babies born in areas of extreme poverty are at higher risk of contracting an infectious disease compared to those delivered in more sanitary locations. Every year, an estimate of about 2.6 million lose their lives within their first month. Moreover, roughly 15% of the total amount of deaths are attributed to severe infections contracted. Many of those cases involving infections could have easily been lowered if the necessary medicine was available to help the babies recover. However, the issue is that these treatments are too expensive for most families to purchase even if it would save their children.

Additionally, there are many different infections and diseases that newborns can contract due to unsanitary environments during delivery. Data taken from the 1990s to 2017 recorded which infections and disease were the leading causes of deaths among children. The top cause of death for children under 5 was lower respiratory infections. After lower respiratory infections, preterm birth complications, birth asphyxiation and trauma were the next biggest reasons. In addition, there are many more problems that contribute to the high IMR early in its collection of data. However, one good piece of information is that since the 1990s, the IMR has lowered significantly.

USAID to the Rescue

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has worked with several partners to produce cost-effective measures to help lower the IMR, especially for those in poverty. Expensive treatments have been one of the main reasons why children die at an early age —  a terrible outcome just because their parents could not afford the necessary treatments. In order to solve this problem, USAID has helped manufacture chlorhexidine to save more lives at a significantly cheaper rate. Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic product that comes in a liquid or gel form. It helps to treat infections for newborns, thereby lowering the infant mortality rate by lowering the cost of the product. This single intervention has helped lower the IMR in multiple countries.

Lower IMR Guidelines

The Guttmacher Institute released data explaining that practicing family planning can greatly reduce the IMR in countries with areas of poverty. They recommend that more contraceptives be made available to those who wish to use it. That will increase the likelihood of women giving birth to healthier children if they choose to have any. The institute argues that people living in areas of poverty lack access to such resources. It is that very lack of resources that increase the odds of children contracting infectious diseases when born.

While there are still many factors contributing to the infant mortality rate, there are also many out there who are working to lower that rate. Organizations like USAID and the Guttmacher Institute are trying to make sure that as many children reach adulthood as possible. It is through simple measures like lowering treatment costs and increasing access to medicines and family planning options that infant mortality can be reduced globally.

Donovan Baxter
Photo: Flickr

Measles in Bulgaria
Though the increased distribution of vaccines has nearly eradicated measles around the world, countries have recently seen returning outbreaks. Bulgaria’s outbreak is one of the worst. However, the nation is working to control the measles outbreak with the help of vaccinations and strict government procedures. Here are the top 7 facts about measles in Bulgaria.

7 Facts About Measles in Bulgaria

  1. Between 2009 and 2011, Bulgaria faced a sizable measles outbreak after not reporting any cases since 2001. This outbreak was the largest in Bulgaria since 1992. All regions in Bulgaria were affected and a total of 24,364 cases were reported during this time.
  2. The Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Bulgarian National Programme for the Elimination of Measles and Congenital Rubella Infection managed the outbreak well. Both teams contacted physicians who reached out to families and educated them on the importance of timely vaccinations. These teams also advised the hospitalization of patients with measles to avoid spreading the disease to the community.
  3. Following the outbreak, the MoH distributed information about measles prevention to the national media. MoH also distributed educational materials on measles to all Bulgarians. These efforts made families in remote areas aware of the vaccinations their children should receive.
  4. Bulgaria’s measles vaccine was introduced in 1969, and the second dose was introduced in 1983. Between 2003 and 2008, more than 94 percent of the Bulgarian population had received the first dose, and more than 89 percent had received the second. Following the 2009 outbreak, health officials distributed the vaccine to those aged 13 months to 20 years who had not yet received the two doses. It also became available to those over the age of 30 who were in need of it.
  5. Children that have parents with low education levels have less access to vaccinations. This was found by a study performed by the European Journal of Public Health. Although Bulgaria has consistent access to measles vaccinations, the education level of parents appears to have an impact on vaccination access. In a survey of 206 Bulgarians from the region of Burgas, the mean number of years of education mothers completed was 5.20, while fathers on average completed 7.02. 40.8 percent of children surveyed had no measles vaccination, 45.1 percent received a single dose and only 12.1 percent received a second dose.
  6. Along with other standard, up-to-date vaccinations, measles vaccines are required by the CDC for all travelers visiting Bulgaria. This measure is to protect not only the traveler but also vulnerable Bulgarians. It also helps ensure that measles does not make its way to other countries.
  7. Bulgarians are required to notify health officials if they have measles. The Regional Inspection for Prevention and Control of Public Health (RIPCPH) and the National Center for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases (NCIPD) are then notified. The sooner individuals report cases, the sooner national health organizations can prevent outbreaks. Health officials also proactively study the demographics of measles patients to figure out where the disease came from and other risk factors.

Though Bulgaria’s recent measles outbreaks are distressing, the country has worked hard to protect as many people as possible. Additional efforts are aimed towards preparedness for the possibility of future outbreaks of measles in Bulgaria. With an increase in vaccines and a focus on the disease by medical professionals, Bulgaria will be able to keep measles under control.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Pexels

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in South Africa
With a rate 14 times higher than the global average, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is more prevalent in children in South Africa than any other country in the world. In South African communities in the Western and Northern Cape, FAS is often a result of poverty, violence, substance abuse and teen pregnancies. Many young, expecting mothers attempt to dull the pains of their everyday lives through alcohol and drugs and are unaware of the negative consequences on their unborn children.

But not all hope is lost. As nonprofits work for to fight FAS in South Africa, the organizations have used mentor mothers to educate and guide young mothers through their pregnancies.

The Problem

FAS is a condition that occurs when mother’s consume alcohol during pregnancy and causes development problems in their child. These problems include learning and behavioral issues, brain damage, stunted growth and hearing and vision impairments.

In certain high-risk areas of South Africa, an estimated 72 percent of children are impacted by FAS. Furthermore, a shocking 111 out of 1,000 children in South Africa are believed to have FAS compared to the global estimate of seven per 1,000 children. This is partially due to a dated system where farmers pay workers in wine; this further contributes to alcoholism and binge-drinking.

Despite these high FAS levels in South Africa, there has been little to no government intervention or efforts to ease this problem. Instead, various nonprofits such as FASfacts and Philani have taken matters into their own hands.

Nonprofits Offer Solutions

FASfacts’ goal is to decrease alcohol consumption during pregnancy through educating the general public on the effects of FAS on children. It does so through various programs implemented in satellite offices throughout the country including:

  • Experiential learning for children and adults
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Church involvement
  • Mentor mothers
  • Film and theater

These programs aim to help young girls and adult women make the decision to avoid alcohol while pregnant, and encourages fathers/partners to abstain from drinking during and after pregnancies as well.

Another nonprofit working to decrease Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in South Africa is called Philani. This organization has been operating since 1979 and tries to stop the health threats of HIV/TB, alcohol abuse and malnutrition on infants. Philani recognizes that alcohol abuse continues to threaten malnourished children even after pregnancy and tries to build partnerships within families to nurture healthy children.

Both of these organizations have seen extensive results through their volunteer and mentor mothers programs.

Mentor Mothers Fighting Back

To provide support to expecting mothers, each of these nonprofits started a mentor mothers program. These programs train and recruit volunteers from communities at risk, many of whom are mothers themselves, to educate and guide these women through their pregnancies and provide support after.

The FASfacts program has been running for seven years and has helped nearly 500 women maintain sobriety during pregnancy and breastfeeding. FASfacts trains mentors to give psychosocial support services to pregnant mothers within their own communities for a yearlong period. During this time mentors focus on education, emotional support and providing motivation to stay alcohol- and drug- free. Some of these mothers then become mentors themselves to help others in their communities.

The Holistic Approach For Success

The Philani program takes a holistic approach to primary healthcare and believes that an educated and healthy mother will raise a healthy family. Their mentor mothers walk among communities where they weigh and chart babies’ and children’s weights until age 5; they also refer some to clinics to receive treatment and tests. The program helps mothers stay healthy and sober during pregnancy, rehabilitate malnourished children and prevent HIV transmission between mother and child.

Mentor mothers are providing guidance and hope for mothers living in poverty and facing harsh challenges across South Africa. Their combination of education, guidance and support has helped many mothers stay sober during pregnancy and have healthier children as a result.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

Founded in 2002 by four professional soccer players, Grassroot Soccer (GRS) uses the power of soccer to educate and inspire at-risk youth in developing countries to “overcome their greatest health challenges, live healthier, more productive lives, and be agents for change in their communities”.

According to UNAIDS, there are approximately 36.9 million people currently living with HIV and millions of people have died of AIDS-related complications. While new cases are reported in all regions of the world, approximately 70 percent are in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, a combination of factors has contributed to this high rate in the sub-Saharan region. One major factor is structural poverty, created by unregulated socio-economic and demographic changes and geographical isolation. Other important factors include traditional gender dynamics and instability caused by years of civil unrest and war that prevents the establishment of strong resources.

According to the Grassroot Soccer website, about 40 percent of new HIV infections are among youth under the age of 24. The founders of the organization understood the consequences of not educating young people and saw the potential to focus on prevention and awareness to end the cycle of silence and sickness.

GRS developed the “Skillz” curriculum, which focuses on using the world’s most popular sport to help boys and girls adopt healthy lifestyles. Through a series of interactive activities and discussions, students gain an understanding of HIV and AIDS.

Key topics include avoiding risks, building support networks, increasing knowledge about testing and treatment, addressing gender issues and fighting peer pressure. Perhaps one of the most important features of the curriculum is that it provides young people with a safe space to talk in places where both HIV/AIDS and their victims have historically been stigmatized.

Another point of success is GRS’s ability to mobilize adults as trusted partners and role models. GRS holds workshops for local community role models, such as soccer stars, coaches, teachers and peer educators. Once trained, Skillz coaches implement the curriculum in their communities, both inside and outside the classroom.

An example of a popular activity for kids is “Risk Field.” In this game, according to the GRS website, “participants dribble a soccer ball in between cones representing HIV-related risks—multiple partners, drug and alcohol abuse, sugar daddies, etc.” If one player hits a cone, their entire team must complete three push-ups, showing how one person’s actions affect not only themselves but also everyone around them.

Other activities follow this same style of discovery-based learning. The GRS website claims “youth learn through active participation, as opposed to the passive chalk-and-talk style common among many African public schools.”

Additionally, Skillz Magazine has allowed the organization to reach even greater audiences and the instructors to keep their lessons fresh and exciting with new activities.

Skillz further challenges youth to “Make Your Move” and become community educators themselves with respect to HIV and AIDS.

Grassroot Soccer’s efforts have proven successful. Numerous formal evaluations, conducted by multiple teams, including Stanford University’s Children’s Health Council and researchers from Dartmouth College, have documented Grassroot Soccer’s effectiveness.

A 2004 evaluation by the Children’s Health Council noted, “the percentage of students who could list three people they could talk to about HIV increased from 33 percent to 72 percent [between starting and completing a program].” Additionally, “the percentage of students who knew where to go for help for HIV related problems increased from 47 percent to 76 percent.”

While the pilot program began in Zimbabwe, it has expanded to multiple countries across the globe, including Brazil and Ukraine, due, in part, to partnerships with Peace Corps, USAID and FIFA Football for Hope.

Grassroot Soccer claims that 1,313,726 people have graduated from its various programs. As the organization continues to research and assess new programs in peace-building, obesity, gender-based violence and substance abuse, it will further connect youth with trusted community members, encourage young men and women to make educated decisions and empower them to shape the future of their communities and countries.

Taylor Resteghini

Sources: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Grassroot Soccer, Kaiser Family Foundation
Photo: Google Images

HolisticFebruary 2016 saw the launch of two new education initiatives that emphasize a holistic approach to educating low-income children. A project from Harvard University’s Education Redesign Lab, “By All Means: Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity,” and a project from the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, the “Broader Bolder Approach to Education,” will address factors outside of school that influence student performance.

Harvard University’s project will use six cities as laboratories for their project: Oakland, California; Louisville, Kentucky; Providence, Rhode Island; and Salem, Somerville and Newton in Massachusetts.

Harvard’s initiative is a multi-year project funded by individual donations and foundations. The project has created a “children’s cabinet” composed of government representatives, school superintendents and community leaders in each city. They will meet several times over the course of the project to share best practices and Harvard professors will connect them with experts in the field of education.

The project will track each city’s progress and identify barriers to students’ educational attainment and achievement. Their main focus will be on external factors, such as Medicaid regulations on health clinics in low-income school districts.

The mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer, hopes that the project will add to his ambitious education goals for the city. In an article published by the Huffington Post, Fischer states, “What we hope for is to get [other cities’ and Harvard’s] best practices, learn from that, and learn how to make it happen.”

The Economic Policy Institute’s initiative “Broader, Bolder Approach to Education” was first launched in 2008. At that time, the initiative’s focus on external factors such as health care, nutrition and afterschool and summer enrichment programs drew strong skepticism. The program’s relaunch in February 2016 marks its entrance into the mainstream, as others have now adopted its holistic approach to education.

The initiative aims to improve educational attainment and achievement by tackling issues brought about by socioeconomic inequality. It targets early childhood education, offering a system of high-quality education, health and nutrition support for children and families.

The program continues to aid students throughout their childhood, following up with comprehensive health, wellness and nutrition supported by promoting partnerships between schools and third parties to keep children healthy and in school.

The “Broader, Bolder Approach” also aims to increase children’s educational opportunities by promoting before-school and after-school programs, as well as summer enrichment programs.

To narrow the achievement gap, the initiative advocates for greater integration of low-income and minority students into higher income, homogeneous school districts. The program emphasizes the importance of engaging and consulting the community when making decisions about improving education systems.

Elain Weiss is the national coordinator of the “Broader, Bolder Approach.” In an article published in Education Week, she comments on the relaunch of the program, noting that it has shifted from a focus on the “poverty-education connection, to emphasizing […] the specific policies and practices that would help mitigate those connections.”

The launch of these two programs marks a new trend in education policy, emphasizing holistic approaches to narrowing the achievement gap. By addressing factors that affect students’ health and happiness, such as the challenges of poverty and lack of access to health care, these programs promise to help disadvantaged students reach their full potential.

Clara Wang

Sources: Education Week, Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Education Dive , Bold Approach

How Poverty Impacts Brain Development in Children
Children living in poverty are affected by more than lack of nutrition and diet and enrollment in education. There are 600 million children worldwide who are living in extreme poverty, which has negative long-term effects on brain development, new studies show.

Recent brain scans reveal specific regions of the brain are smaller on children from poor backgrounds than children living with wealthy families. Underdevelopment in the brain leads to problems with depression, anxiety and stress.

Researchers measured the cerebral cortices, which controls cognitive processing, such as language and reading. Results showed a correlation between socioeconomic status and cortical surface area.

The research shows that poverty is linked to many other development issues. If brain development is impacted by socioeconomic status, education test scores will be lower than someone with higher socioeconomic status.

Children from poorer backgrounds may go to school hungry or tired resulting in a lack of preparation or cognitive function.

“It’s not enough to bring a child into the world, feed them and make sure they don’t get injured,” says Luby, Early Emotional Development Program director at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Almost half of the world is living on less than $2.50 a day, and 754 children die every hour.

The second factor that impacted children’s brain development was the parent’s education. Children coming from an educated family had a larger hippocampus, which plays a role in short-term memory.

This does not mean if someone is poor that his or her brain will be smaller and nothing can be done to help it. The research is available to help improve the development environment that will change brain development and help children worldwide.

In the future, there needs to be more programs that teach parents nurturing skills that will benefit their children, especially those living in poverty. Through these programs, nurturing will reduce negative effects on brain development in children.

Donald Gering

Sources: Compassion, The Guardian, Reuters, Science Magazine, Spring
Photo: Flickr

new_zealandThe Tribal Huk gang of Ngaruawahia, in New Zealand, has been working for the last four years to help feed the country’s poor children. Every day, the gang has been making and delivering sandwiches to thirty-one schools in the area and putting food in more than four hundred hungry children’s mouths.

Jamie Pink, the president of the organization, called Kai 4 the Future, knows what it is like to grow up in poverty. As a child, he barely ever had enough food for himself. When he grew to be an adult, he knew he wanted to do something about it. Although he does admit he likes violence, he says he liked helping people even more.

Now, Tribal Huk leases fifty acres of farmland around Horotiu and Ngaruawahia, and owns dozens of beef, sheep and pigs. Some animals are sold to finance the foundation while the rest go in the sandwiches.

In New Zealand, 270,000 children live below the poverty line, according to the country’s Children’s Commissioner. Although the government has implemented a $9.5 million program in the last couple of years to help solve the problem, children remain hungry.

Pink laments that New Zealand has enough water, food and other resources- sheep even outnumber people ten to one- to support their population, but children are still going hungry. He hopes to get government assistance so the gang can make even more sandwiches every day.

He is also hoping to start a new trust in which people donate just $5 a week to the Foundation. If 50,000 people pay this amount for a year, they would collect $30 million – enough to feed every hungry child in the country.

Radhika Singh

Sources: Stuff, RadioNZ
Photo: Stuff

Parents know that it can be difficult to get their child to wash their hands or brush their teeth. Sometimes, to get kids to do what is best for them, you have to make it fun.

A new toy can help prevent children from getting sick with diseases or diarrhea. It is a bright green and white plastic box that has frogs and a colorful logo on it.

LaBobo is the newest toy sink produced by nonprofit WaterSHED. It has been launched in Cambodia, where access to basic hygiene and sanitation needs ranks last in Southeast Asia and 110th in the world, contributing to the deaths of 10,000 children per year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that nearly 800,000 children die every year from lack of sanitation, which leads to diseases.

LaBobo sells the frog toy sink at $15, making it a very affordable product, and the sink dispenses 15 liters of water. Instead of giving out buckets and soap, WaterSHED takes an innovative approach to helping solve sanitation problems in developing countries.

“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,” says Geoff Revell, WaterSHED’s regional program manager.

In one year, WaterSHED has sold 10,000 units in Cambodia. Regular hand-washing and sanitation is a significant challenge in Cambodia, where only 44 percent of Cambodians are able to wash their hands with soap and 60 percent of the rural population defecate in the open.

WaterSHED is working on marketing tools to bring LaBobo to Vietnam, which also has low sanitation standards.

Forty percent of the global population lacks basic sanitation. LaBobo does not help decrease the number of people who do not have access to sanitation, but it does increase the number of children who will wash their hands.

In places like Niger, where only 18.3 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities, there needs to be stronger commitments from the international community to ensure that residents can access proper sanitation.

Diseases are a cross-national threat. But by investing in sanitation facilities and innovative ways to improve children’s sanitation, the large number of deadly diseases these children could become afflicted with can be reduced.

Donald Gering

Sources: Good News Network, Reuters, Social Progress Imperative, WaterSHED, WHO
Photo: Good News Network