ICC Cricket For Good, UNICEF and the Board of Control for Cricket in India, along with cricketers from 16 teams in the ICC World Twenty20 India 2016 have joined forces to educate children on sanitation and toilet use, as one essential step towards ending open defecation in India.
More than 564 million Indians still defecate in the open – the largest number of people in any country in the world and half the global total.
Almost 1 in 10 of the 1.2 million children under 5 years old who die every year in the country succumb to diarrhoea, which is linked to poor water, hygiene and sanitation.
Some 40 per cent of the country’s children are stunted – chronically malnourished – a condition which is linked to open defecation.
The Team Swachh campaign aims to use the vast reach, appeal and power of cricket in India to build a social movement for toilet use, especially among children, and to promote messages on health, sanitation and hygiene.
In specially designed Team Swachh cricket clinics set up in the stadia where the WT20 competition will be played, cricketers from participating teams will coach children about the importance of handwashing and using toilets.
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“Open defecation affects every aspect of a child’s life putting them at risk of stunting and exposing them to avoidable diseases,” said UNICEF India Representative Louis George Arsenault.
“The aim is to harness the enormous popularity and appeal of cricket in this country to spread the word about why everyone should use a toilet. We can achieve this if we come together as a team – then we will see real progress.”
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Sachin Tendulkar emphasized the need for team play. “Ending open defecation and achieving sanitation for all in India takes a genuine team effort in which all relevant actors–from the Government to the people practicing open defecation, from role models to international development partners–play together as one team,” he said.
The Team Swachh activities have already started. During the 3,000 km ICC WT20 Host City Tour in February- March, disadvantaged children chosen by local NGOs in eight cities joined Team Swachh.
They met cricketers like Yuvaraj Singh, Venkatesh Prasad, Umesh Yadav, Dinesh Karthik, Manoj Tiwari, Rishi Dhawan, Gurpreet Singh Mann, Pawan Negi, Sameer Dighe, Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Shubhlakshmi Sharma and Diana Edulji.
These cricketers demonstrated handwashing, played cricket and toilet-themed cricket games, and reached out to urban and rural populations with basic hygiene messages.
Photo courtesy: UNICEF