Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Adopt sanitation, hygiene and clean water for healthy living


After India's most celebrated Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan became the brand ambassador for the Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), now Indian cricket players are to promote sanitation and hygiene in the country. Yusuf Pathan and Irfan Pathan have already shot a clip, in which they are asking people to: "Adopt the WASH hatrick - sanitation, hygiene, clean water - for healthy living".

International organisation WASH United is negotiating with various other cricket players, including Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni, to take them on board the Wash United Cricket Club, for promotion of hand washing, especially among children. The posters of Pathan were displayed at the Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene, which has recently concluded in Mumbai. The Forum, held by the WSSCC, saw the participation of over 450 people from over 70 countries.

The WSSCC works with its partners across the globe to ensure sustainable sanitation, better hygiene and safe drinking water for all people. "The idea was derived from a similar venture with football players, which proved great success in African nations,'' International coordinator for WASH, Thorsten Kiefer, told this correspondent in Mumbai.

Wash United is a social club that brings together leading sports stars, voluntary organizations, UN agencies and the private sector. Using the power of sports, it organizes various activities in schools and reaches out to children to raise awareness about hygiene with a specific focus on hand washing. In South Asia WASH United is particularly focused on sanitation and hygiene through cricket. The campaign also includes other cricket loving South Asian nations - Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

"There is probably no other sport that unifies and moves billions of people in South Asia like cricket does," says Keifer. "Sanitation is a non-attractive subject but celebrities like cricket stars can make it sound cool and an excitement can be built around the issue," he adds.
The experiment became a success in Africa during the 2009 Football World Cup. Over 100 organizations from eight nations - Lesotho, Kenya, Ghana, Burkino Faso, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda - used football players, namely Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack, to educate children the importance of handwashing. The result was that 30,000 children were trained and became the member of the club. Over 100 international and local stars supported the cause.

"South Asian nations are also facing a crisis situation, take the example of India where 600 million people go for open defecation every day although 700 million use mobile phones. The situation needs to be addressed through innovative ideas," says Kamal Kar, the Development Consultant and Chairman of the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Foundation, India.
"Poor sanitation is costing developing nations 3-7 per cent of GDP every year. There is an urgent need to prioritise sanitation at national, regional, and global political levels," says Jon Lane Executive Director of WSSCC.

According to the United Nations, each day a thousand children die in India from diarrhoea,  a preventable disease caused by consuming unsafe and dirty water and poor hygiene. The figure puts India at the top in the world in diarrhoea ranking - far ahead of neighboring nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.

Starting a pilot campaign on Hand Washing Day on October 15, WASH United will aim to intensify the campaign during the next international 20:20 cricket series, which is scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively. It will involve cricket players from these nations conveying the message of sanitation to the public, especially youths.

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