25 November 2013

Running for WASH in Solomon Islands

UNICEF Pacific/2013/Atenia Tahu
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In 2014, Glasgow, Scotland will host the XX Commonwealth Games with UNICEF as the charity partner. To kick off the lead-up to the Games, the Queen’s Baton Relay is taking place – the baton travels to all of the Commonwealth countries around the globe. As the baton travels through each country, it is a great opportunity to talk about the lives and aspirations of children and youth around the world. The baton has arrived in the Pacific and last week visited the Solomon Islands. UNICEF staff took part in the Baton Relay through Honiara and here Communications for Development Officer Atenia Tahu shares his experience of the relay.

The baton arrived in the Solomon Islands on the 8th November to travel through the country, and on the 11th arrived in Honiara for a relay through the capital city. The UNICEF Solomon Islands office was lucky to be involved and we even got to hold and run with the baton!

As part of UNICEF’s participation in the Baton Relay, we organised events with local children that focussed on improving their knowledge about drinking clean, safe and quality water, keeping the surrounding environment clean and tidy, and defecating the right way. Water and sanitation is a huge issue in the Solomon Islands, where communities are at high risk of illness and death - 330 out of every 3000 deaths is due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

Following the activities with children, it was time for us to take part in the relay! The Chief of UNICEF Solomon Islands, Mr Yun Jong Kang, was second in line and got to run an entire 100 metre section with the Queen’s Baton. Despite the week of final examinations lots of school children were allowed time off to come and watch the Queen’s Baton Relay, and some lucky ones were even able to get a touch of the sparkling Baton. Adding to the excitement were children who sang a song they had written earlier which highlighted the importance of keeping Honiara clean.

In the Solomon Islands, UNICEF works with its partners focussing on improving livelihoods through Community-led Total Sanitation, which is a fancy way of saying community-led improvement of their own homes and community spaces to work to reduce open defecation and improve other practices such as handwashing. All of these activities not only helps to create a more pleasant place to live, but also dramatically reduces illness and death. This means that children are healthier, more likely to go to school, and therefore more able to complete their education.

Children are not only the future, but they are also powerful changemakers who help to educate their parents and the community about making healthier and safer choices in life. It was great having them involved in the relay and we believe it is these children and their peers who have the greatest potential of leading Solomon Islands into a healthy and sustainable future.

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