By Ronald Musoke
The Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) has joined hands with WASH United, a German non-profit organization that harnesses the positive influence of sport to promote hand washing with soap during the 2012 tournament currently ongoing in Kampala.
The partnership under the theme “Protecting the beautiful game” seeks to harness the positive power of sport to promote hand washing with soap in the region, according to a statement released Nov 28 by the two partnering organizations.
During the tournament, CECAFA and WASH United will reach out to millions of football fans, both through television as well as in the stadium, to raise awareness for the importance of hand-washing with soap at critical times.
The initiative is being supported by all the 12 participating national teams of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Ethiopia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi, South Sudan and Zanzibar.
Hand-washing with soap is by far the most cost effective intervention to prevent diarrhoea, one of the leading causes of child deaths in Africa. About 2.5 billion people worldwide live without access to a toilet. Diarrhoea resulting from a lack of toilets and poor hygiene has now overtaken pneumonia to become the biggest killer of children in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Although studies show that the simple act of hand-washing with soap at critical times can reduce the occurrence of diarrhoea by half as well as reduce the risk of lower respiratory tract infections like pneumonia by up to 23%, this life-saving behaviour is not widely practiced.
While the overwhelming majority of households in Sub-Saharan Africa have soap available, many do not use it to wash their hands at critical times—most importantly after using the toilet and before eating.
WASH at the moment is involved in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa and around the globe is using football stars including Ivorian super star Didier Drogba, the Ghanaian star Asamoah Gyan, as well German international Bastian Schweinsteiger to promote hand-washing as a priority in people’s minds.
The WASH United executive director Thorsten Kiefer noted that working with CECAFA and engaging with the participating national teams to promote hand-washing with soap in the region would help the NGO achieve better progress towards the goal of ending the needless deaths of children in Africa.