Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

WASH United and Sanergy Form Sanitation ‘Dream Team’ to Save Lives in Nairobi

August 08, 2013

What is better than Superman fighting crime and saving lives? Maybe Wonder Woman? What about Spiderman? Or The Hulk? What’s better than one of them, is all of them coming together to save lives. Each has their special superpower that enables them to be the best at what they do. Similarly in the realm of international development, organizations tend to find their strength in a particular type of development work in which they’re able to realize highly effective impacts. Just as it might be too much to ask Spiderman to navigate metropolitan cities using his spider webs and know exactly how to operate Iron Man’s high-tech super suit, ultimately, it is unrealistic to expect a single organization to be able to the best at doing everything. Recently two such organizations, each with their own special superpowers, have joined together to form a ‘dream team’ that saves lives in Nairobi.

So, who’s involved?

Meet WASH United (WASH stands for WAter, Sanitation & Hygiene), an award-winning social impact organization that harnesses the power of fun, interactive games, positive communication and superstar role models to change people’s attitudes around the issues of sanitation and hygiene and to facilitate life-saving, lasting behavior change. With innovation at its core, WASH United has pulled off some pretty extraordinary feats.

  • Collaboratively design and implement India’s most spectacular sanitation and hygiene campaign to date? WASH United’s done it — in the form of a 2,000-kilometer traveling carnival that reached almost a quarter billion people.
  • Team up with international football tournaments and get entire stadiums full of football fans excited about good hand-washing hygiene using wacky tools such as giant, inflatable hand-washing mascots, ‘Handy & Soapy’? WASH United’s done that too.
  • Implement WASH In Schools programs using interactive learning games like World Toilet Cup that enable children to generate their own insights about sanitation through fun and play? WASH United’s got that down and has already trained over 100,000 children in Sub-Saharan Africa and India. Watch this short, exciting video illustrating WASH United’s innovative and exciting games!

All too often examples of excellent technical interventions can be found that are left broken or unused simply because the education and behavior change components required for long-term sustainability of such projects were not incorporated into the intervention. For example, even though most of us know about the countless positive impacts of physical activity, why don’t more of us engage in regular exercise? It’s more than just a matter of awareness: it requires education to form habits that may eventually lead to long-term behavior change. The same goes for life-saving WASH behavior like hand-washing with soap at critical times and always wanting to use a toilet.

But innovative WASH communications is only half of the solution. The other half is innovation in sanitation service provision that ensures that the demand created can be met.

Enter Sanergy. Sanergy makes hygienic sanitation affordable and accessible first in Nairobi, and now throughout Africa’s urban slums. The company builds and franchises its Fresh Life brand of toilets to local residents, who run them as small businesses. Sanergy collects the waste from each Fresh Life Toilet everyday and converts the waste into useful by-products such as organic fertilizer and renewable energy. This prevents the human waste from coming into contact with waterways, food and other places where it can make people sick and contribute to the burden of the nearly 1.6 million children that die from diarrheal disease each year. Sanergy is excited to be partnering with WASH United to integrate awareness-raising and behavior change programming into the company’s work.

What does this partnership look like?

WASH United and Sanergy have already engaged in various joint WASH interventions. On April 22, 2013 they organized and ran an Earth Day Celebration in Mukuru, Nairobi where they instructed hundreds of kids in hygienic sanitation practices. Moving forward, Sanergy will be incorporating exciting and informative WASH United games like World Toilet Cup and Musical Toilets to further engage community members in their work. Looking ahead, the two organizations will be combining resources and efforts for a year-long, 15-school pilot program in which Sanergy will provide sanitation infrastructure (Fresh Life Toilets and hand-washing stations) to which WASH United will carry out numerous exciting behavior change interventions to encourage long-term internalization of life-saving WASH behaviors.

In order to end the situation of 565 million Africans lacking access to a safe and hygienic toilet, comprehensive solutions that combine creativity in awareness-raising / behavior change  (software) with cutting-edge, sustainable new models for sanitation services (hardware) are needed. This is why we are so excited about our partnership with Sanergy – because we feel like this is really happening.

Learn more about us on Facebook and Twitter – and help us share our excitement with a tweet!

Kudos to @Sanergy & @WASHUnited’ s #sanitation #innovation ‘Dream Team’! Keep up the good work! #WASHmatters

Here’s to sanitation super heroes joining forces and combining superpowers to save lives!

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