Sesame Workshop commits to implementing its first global health initiative, WASH-Up!, utilizing an initial two-pronged approach that relies on: 1) a global advocacy strategy that utilizes Sesame Street's wide reach to complement current WASH advocacy efforts and help generate a louder 'buzz' around the important topics related to WASH in the global health space; and 2) a targeted local movement that creates strategic and relevant distribution partnerships to uniquely deliver WASH content to children, caregivers, and communities.
Initial geographic emphasis will be in countries where Sesame maintains a local production capacity and where there is a high WASH-related diseases incidence, namely India (Galli Galli Sim Sim), Bangladesh (Sisimpur), and Nigeria (Sesame Square).
To execute this strategy, Sesame will leverage a new Muppet character called Raya. The product of an ongoing research study supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Raya is the first-ever Muppet created to address a global health concern in multiple countries simultaneously. She's smart, empowered, pays close attention to her hygiene and was designed specifically to communicate to children and caregivers about issues of hygiene and sanitation. As the face of Wash Up!, Raya will communicate with children and caregivers about WASH and impart critical behaviors and practices including hand-washing with soap, wearing sandals to the toilet, drinking clean water, and simple innovations such as how to construct and operate a 'Tippy-Tap,' an easily constructed, hands-free, way to wash hands that is especially appropriate in areas that lack running water and has remarkable ability to reduce bacterial transmission. Tippy-Taps utilize string, sticks, and an empty bottle as basic building components.
Through school and community-based interventions that work with partners like the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Raya will be educating millions of children about WASH behaviors at the local level, supported by mass-media campaigns (particularly television and radio) anchored in the local Sesame broadcasts.
September to December 2014: Launch of 'WASH Up!' initiative (to include partnership announcements with World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and World Vision International). Conduct in-country needs assessments and begin process of developing tailored 'WASH Toolkits' for WAGGGS members. Premiere of broadcast content featuring Raya in Bangladesh and Nigeria (that will be broadcast nationally in both countries).
December to February 2015: Development of 'Raya Badge' for WAGGGS and production of WASH materials for multiple media platforms for WAGGGS members. Production begins in India.
February to July 2015: Finalization of WASH Toolkits/materials for WAGGGS - pilot for SW/WAGGGS
August 2015: Formal launch of WAGGGS/Sesame materials
Water, sanitation, and hygiene-related diseases (WASH) continue to be among the leading causes of death and suffering amongst children around the world. According to UNICEF's 2013 Improving Child Nutrition Report, every year, 1.1 million children under the age of five die from pneumonia and 600,000 from diarrhea. Additionally, malnutrition contributes to almost half of all child deaths.
The numbers are even more striking when one considers the estimated 150 million cases of pneumonia and over one billion cases of diarrhea that occur every year. When a child is sick, he/she cannot attend school, and diarrhea alone is responsible for children missing hundreds of millions of school days every year.
Many of these deaths, and much of this suffering, is preventable through simple behavior-related interventions such as encouraging children to wash their hands with soap, wear sandals to the toilet, to not defecate in the open, and to drink clean water. These practices and behaviors are easy to teach and learn, inexpensive to implement and despite their simplicity, immensely powerful tools to prevent WASH related illness. Additionally, these practices can be shared within communities, and the knowledge can be transferred from children to parents.