Today – October 15 – is Global Handwashing Day. It will this year see the team behind the children's programme Sesame Street unite with humanitarian agency World Vision for a major expansion of a program that empowers young people with life-saving education about hygiene and healthy sanitation.
The WASH UP! initiative promotes essential lessons about the use of clean water and hygiene habits in a bid to combat the spread of diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea - leading causes of death for children under five. The partnership will now operate in 11 countries across Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East.
Children in Ghana, Mali, Niger, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Honduras and Afghanistan will now be recipients of the program, which has also been adapted to support the needs and emotional well-being of Syrian child refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Sesame Workshop, the team behind the enduring educational children's TV show Sesame Street, and World Vision, an international children's charity and the leading non-governmental provider of clean drinking water in the developing world, first partnered for WASH UP! in Zambia in 2015. It has since reached 50,000 children there and was embraced by the Zambian Ministry of Education.
The curriculum features a six-year old Muppet named Raya joining with the popular character Elmo educating children through videos, play mats, books and songs. Audiences are taught about wearing sandals to go to the latrine, safe water storage and handwashing – and are encouraged to take the lessons home to their families. The program's initials refer to sanitation, water and hygiene; by promoting these it hopes to fight the spread of preventable and treatable diseases amongst children.
'Our goal is to deliver an engaging educational program that achieves positive WASH outcomes and meets contextually specific needs among participating children, particularly the most vulnerable,' said Dr Abigail Bucuvalas, Senior Director of International Social Impact at Sesame Workshop.
'Among young Syrian refugees, this includes the integration of key socio-emotional themes with WASH messaging, even as they practice proper hand washing behaviors. Supporting the socio-emotional needs of this population is integral to the WASH UP! initiative and to our broader work to bring critical early education to refugee children in the region.'
Dr Greg Allgood, vice president of water at World Vision, said: 'By engaging with local experts and the educational experts at Sesame Street, World Vision is finding that we can adapt our school program to meet the most pressing needs of children, whether it is dealing with the horrors of war for Syrian refugee children, literacy for Zambian children, or clean water for Ghanaian children.'
You can find out more about the WASH UP! initiative here.