Safe, clean water and better sanitation and hygiene infrastructure are a game changer for developing countries. These vital systems that many take for granted elsewhere can have a profound impact on education, health and gender equity. That's why the reusable bottle company S'well has been supporting UNICEF water programs across Madagascar since 2017.
In a country where only 51 percent of the population has access to clean water, we knew we could help, and we wanted to get involved. — S'well founder and CEO Sarah Kauss
"In a country where only 51 percent of the population has access to clean water, we knew we could help, and we wanted to get involved," said S'well founder and CEO Sarah Kauss. "UNICEF has found that programs like this can keep girls in school longer and empower mothers to find vocations outside the home. As a business woman who has had the opportunity to chase my dreams, I want to help other women do the same. I'm hopeful that we can make a real impact in Madagascar — and I'm proud to have S'well support the program."
In communities where water is scarce, the job of fetching water from remote water sources falls chiefly to girls and women. That means less time for attending school and building a better future. And when schools lack working toilets, girls often stay home when they're menstruating. Many fall behind and simply drop out of school.
In communities where water is scarce, the job of fetching water from remote water sources falls chiefly to girls and women
Rasoanantenaina, 17 (above), remembers waking up at 3:30 in the morning every day to make the first of several trips to collect water from an underground water source more than half a mile from her home in the village of Maharatsandry in northwestern Madagascar's Marovoay district. "To meet the daily needs of my family, I had to go back and forth twice in the morning, once after lunch and again in the late afternoon," she says.
"It was difficult for me to find time to do my homework because I was always too tired. It got worse when I had my period," says Rasoanantenaina. "Sometimes I had to stay at home because with no toilets or water for washing, it was hard for me to concentrate at school."
UNICEF installs water points in villages and builds toilets in schools so girls can get an education
That changed after UNICEF installed a water point in her village. "It feels like a 50-pound weight which I have been carrying with me for a long time has been lifted," she says. "Now I can have time for myself, to rest, to study, to play — and I can shower as much as I want." UNICEF also supported the construction of permanent toilets at her high school, with separate rooms for girls and boys.
In southern Madagascar, where more than 90 percent of households lack basic sanitation facilities, open defecation and poor hygiene practices lead to an increase in waterborne diseases like diarrhea, especially among children. Around the world, more than 800 children die every day from diarrhea due to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation or poor hygiene.
UNICEF builds latrines and coaches communities on the health risks of open defecation and the importance of handwashing
To help fight waterborne illnesses, UNICEF helps build latrines from local materials and trains coaches who work with local authorities and traditional leaders to educate communities in the health risks of open defecation and the importance of handwashing.
Change can come rapidly, once new latrines are built and families learn how handwashing with soap and stopping open defecation combine to help their children stay healthy. In the village of Imanja, Madagascar, children wrote and performed a song celebrating their new latrines and the importance of handwashing (below).
Community at Imanja even created a song to educate the youngers on washing hands and using toilets. This community is an Open-Defecation Free village, each family now have their own toilets and contribute to keep the village clean #worldtoiletday #handwashing #opendefecation
With the help of partners like S'well, UNICEF is improving water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and services in 113 countries around the world.
UNICEF and partners are improving water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and services in 113 countries
"At S'well we lead with our hearts and filter with impact," says Kauss. "So as we look to create partnerships we seek out organizations that have the reach, resources and knowledge to create real change. UNICEF has all these things and proves that it is helping children's lives everywhere, every day."
For over 70 years, UNICEF has been putting children first, working to protect their rights and provide the assistance and services they need to survive and thrive. With a presence in more than 190 countries and territories, UNICEF has helped save more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world.
Photo at top: UNICEF and S'well have partnered to expand water infrastructure and education programs in Madagascar. © UNICEF/UN0267538/Raoelison