Sierra Leone is a country with some of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. Water and sanitation improvements at health centres like those funded by our Check Out for Children partnership are preventing infections and saving lives.
Following a good harvest in 2017, Malawi’s hunger crisis has eased for the time being, but it’s only a matter of time until the next drought or flood. In the village of Kunja, a UNICEF installed solar powered water pump is helping local communities prepare for the next natural disaster.
“I used to drink water from the shallow wells,” says thirteen-year-old Lucy as she emerges from a classroom after completing her end-of-year math exam. “I had diarrhoea so many times. I would stay at home for around two weeks until I got better. I missed a lot of lessons, but I always tried to catch up by copying notes from my friends.”
Even when Lucy was well, water was a problem. She took turns with her mother walking 5 km to collect water from the nearest standpipe. “There were so many people waiting at the well,” she says. “Sometimes I had to wait all day and would come home in the dark. I was afraid the village hooligans would attack me. Once I got tired and dropped the water bucket, and my mother scolded me for coming home without any water."
During the regular droughts that hit the area, things got even worse for the family of maize farmers. “Last year we only harvested three and a half bags of maize. It’s not enough for a family of five. I tried not to skip class, but I had nothing to eat. Going out was too much, I had no energy.”
In 2015, things began to look up for the village. UNICEF contractors arrived to install the solar powered water pump. A solar-powered pump can go much deeper than a hand pump so even during a drought, when the water table drops, water can be reached. “I was so excited when the pump came because I knew I could drink safe water,” Lucy says.
The solar pump has transformed life in this remote community. As well as the school, it provides water for all of Kunja village and another nearby village, Chamba. The water pump can keep working through droughts and the community understands the value of safe water, and is dedicated to protecting it.
“The learners have water to drink and to wash their hands after using the toilet,” Headmaster Kapalamula says. “Our school grades have improved because of better attendance. We’re attracting better teachers and they stay for longer. Our school has become a desirable place to work, because of the pump.” The number of children at Namera Primary School has increased from 300 to 449 as a direct result of the pump.
For families like Lucy’s the change has been even more profound. She hasn’t been sick once since the solar pump was installed. “It feels so good not to be ill,” she says. “And I don’t have to walk to the next village to get water. I’m doing much better in school. I would like to go on to secondary school and become a doctor to help my fellow Malawians.”
Our Check Out for Children partnership is helping to provide clean water and sanitation to children across Africa and the Middle East and with continued access to safe water, Lucy has every chance of making her dream a reality.
Cape Town, South Africa, 16 October 2017 – 2017's Westin-UNICEF Charity Ball hosted by The Westin Cape Town on Saturday, 14 October, was a memorable marriage of beauty, talent, humanitarianism and generosity coming to life in one room. Influentials, media, private philanthropists and socialites came together to celebrate UNICEF’s work for children. UNICEF National Ambassador, Jo-Ann Strauss, including business woman and media celebrity Carol Bouwer were also in attendance.
In 2016, The Westin Charity Ball raised an R1 million ($75 341.02 USD) which was donated to various educational programmes promoting early childhood development in South Africa. This year, this figure has been matched, and funds will go towards supporting this UNICEF cause and core priority. As part of this amount, on the same night, the Ernest Stempel Foundation handed over a cheque of R 200,000 to UNICEF.
A total of 27 prizes sponsored by various industry partners, including an autographed T-shirt by professional tennis player Roger Federer, were raffled at the event. Further, event sponsor - Toy Kingdom South Africa donated toys to the value of R270 000, which included 1000 toys for boys and 1000 toys for girls, the donated toys were valued at R250 000 and an additional R20 000 toys were donated on the night.
“We feel honoured to be a part of this extraordinary cause. In the world we live in, the ‘your child is my child’ approach has become extremely important. We have a responsibility to protect and nurture our children and place their needs and development at the top of our list – it’s absolutely crucial. ,” said Henri van Wijk, managing director, Toy Kingdom South Africa.
Leon Meyer, General Manager at the Westin Cape Town agrees. He says hosting the UNICEF Charity Ball was a proud moment for him and his staff, and the Marriott International. Inc.
He said he was especially proud of event organiser, Marilize van Niekerk of the Westin, who has been awarded the UNICEF Hero Award for 2016/17. He also thanked, Ibrahim Barghout, Area Vice President of Marriott sub-Saharan Africa for attending the event and demonstrating his commitment to UNICEF’s cause and the organisation’s child-sensitive, child-driven programmes.
“It’s a privilege to be associated with a global organisation like UNICEF. The work they do in our country and around the world for the most-vulnerable is admirable,” Meyer said.
The first two to three years of life have a profound effect on a child’ future – on his or her health, education, wellbeing and financial success as an adult. When parented with love, nourished and cared for in safe and stimulating environments, children develop the cognitive, emotional and behavioural skills they need to embrace opportunity and bounce back from adversity. Yet, in South Africa, one in three children experiences violence during their childhood. Children under the age of five are at particular risk of violence and maltreatment in the home – including corporal punishment – and are the most vulnerable to the long-term negative effects.
"Thousands of children in South Africa are still denied protection, love, good food and play that will support their growth and development. But I’m hopeful because of this gathering tonight and I am grateful to those of you I’ve met who are committed to fight for a more equal world, to fight for a greater world, for every child", said Sandra Bisin, UNICEF South Africa Chief of Communication & Partnerships.
During the event, 19 year-old Siphokazi Dayimane, who has been part of one of the Techno Girl programme, an innovative job shadowing programme that helps strengthen girls’ entry and learning in technical fields the economy requires: science, technology, engineering and Mathematics (STEM), supported by UNICEF, the Uweso trust and the Government of South Africa. Siphokazi shared her personal story.
“Through Techno Girl, I was exposed to different careers and I learnt so much from them. It gave me the opportunity to meet with successful women who were willing to empower other young women,” Siphokazi shared.
Other sponsors for this event included: SANTAM insurance, Sanlam Insurance, investment and financial planning, as well as the Ernest E Brendalyn Stempel Foundation.
South Sudan’s water supply and hygiene services have been severely affected by the conflict that began in 2013. Nearly 5.1 million of the most vulnerable people in the country need access to safe water and basic sanitation facilities.
Unsafe water puts children at risk of deadly diseases. Water and sanitation related diseases are one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 years old worldwide. Every day, over 800 children under 5 die from diarrhoea linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
Diarrhoea can prevent children from getting the nutrients they need to survive, ultimately leading to malnutrition. In South Sudan, more than 1.1 million children under 5 are estimated to be acutely malnourished, with almost 276,000 facing severe acute malnutrition, this year.
“No matter how much food a malnourished child eats, he or she will not get better if the water they are drinking is not safe,” says Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes.
Many water pumps have been damaged because of the conflict or made dysfunctional due to a lack of repairs, but a newly restored water treatment plant in one town is making a real difference in people's lives.
In the town of Bentiu, UNICEF and partners have rehabilitated and upgraded the town's water treatment plant. The water supply system is now fully operational and the plant produces about 500,000 litres per day of safe, treated water. The water is then pumped to 22 water points across the city, including schools, health facilities and communities.
For Angelina Nyakuma (pictured), life was difficult before the water pump at the school near her home was rehabilitated. The mother of six used to fetch water from a river, which would take her about two hours by foot. Now it takes her only five minutes to collect water with the help of her children, making it possible for her to make the journey several times a day. “The water we get from the school here, I use it to prepare food for my kids and do other things at home, we are all happy,” says Angelina.
Such basic services are life changing, not just for individuals like Angelina, but entire communities. At Machakos Primary School in Bentiu, the school’s head teacher James Thudan Kuol says more students have begun attending school since the water stand was rehabilitated.
“Good things are happening now,” he says. “The teachers are here and the children have come, a good number of them. There is a now a feeding programme installed – all of that was possible because of clean and easy access to water.”
The Bentiu hospital is also benefitting. Giel Samuel, Chief Executive Director of the hospital, explains how clean water is crucial for treating patients, especially as the hospital is now seeing an increase of patients with illnesses such as malaria due to the rainy season.
Thanks to support from programs like Road to Awareness and Check Out for Children UNICEF has supported more than 600,000 people like Angelina across South Sudan to access safe water in 2017.
In Somalia’s rural areas, open defecation is a common practice, leading to serious public health risks. With its local partner HEAL, UNICEF is helping villages adopt ‘Community-Led Total Sanitation’ to achieve the status of open defecation free.
In the village of HARGEISA, Sa’ado clearly remembers the time when she had to walk far into the open to relieve herself, waiting as long as she could to avoid the embarrassment. The experience was particularly unpleasant during the rainy season and the months when she was pregnant. But like the other 87 households in the village, Sa’ado and her family had never before had a toilet, nor had given any thought to having one.
When UNICEF’s local partner, an NGO called HEAL, came to their village, persuading the residents to abandon open defecation, Sa’ado and her husband immediately agreed to build a toilet. In the next few months all of the families in the village had followed suit.
There were no incentives given from UNICEF and HEAL, only awareness campaigns and technical assistance. The villagers put up their own money and did the construction on their own. This approach – Community-Led Total Sanitation – has been tested and proven in many other countries and regions.
“The children in the village used to have diarrhoea a lot,” says Sa’ado. “But since we built the toilets, we have hardly seen any cases.”
The key to the success of the project is to make the people understand that open defecation is an unhygienic practice and causes serious illnesses, especially for children and pregnant women. When the community realized that the river where they get water their drinking water was contaminated they were convinced that a toilet is not a luxury but a necessity.
“We knew from the start that we would benefit from the toilet,” says Yusur Abdillahi of Hirsi Jicir, one of the villages declared open defecation free. “We now have a place that gives us privacy and convenience. When new people come and want to settle in our village, we ask them to dig first, or we will not welcome them,” she says, standing proudly next to her toilet.
We are pleased to share with you the winners of the Hero Awards recognising those ambassadors who went above and beyond for the partnership in 2016. This year we have two winners for Europe and two winners for the Middle East and Africa.
The Sheraton Grand Hotel Edinburgh Front Desk Team At the start of 2016 The Sheraton Grand’s Hotel Front Desk team decided that COFC was going to be one of their main focuses. They all took part in additional training to be able to explain the Unicef program in detail to guests and the difference the donation can make to the children in need.
The team managed to raise an incredible £10540 through COFC. This is the highest amount in the past 5 years and a 40% increase from 2015. The hotel hosted their own celebration party in recognition of their amazing achievement.
Maria Dolores Munoz from the Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville Each year the Hotel Alfonso XIII supports the Unicef partnership and all the hotel associates gets involved.
Maria is the driving force behind the events and activities. She inspires her colleagues to take part or help with the organising by her passion and dedication. Maria puts 110% into the activities she is organising and is a fantastic ambassador and a worthy winner.
Marilize van Niekerk from the Westin Cape Hotel in South Africa Each year an amazing Unicef ball takes place at the Westin Cape Hotel in South Africa which not only raises a huge amount of money but also gets fantastic PR coverage. The guests love the event so much they call up the hotel the next day to buy tickets for next year! Marilize is the driving force behind this event and she is one of the key reasons it is such a success. This is not an easy event to put on but Marilize plans early, thinks creatively and her passion and enthusiasm encourages the whole hotel to get behind the event.
Antonio Ostuni from the Sheraton Grand Hotel Dubai As part of their 2016 Road to Awareness campaign the Sheraton Grand Hotel Dubai organised a very successful Culinary Evening and Auction event which was a great success. Antonio’s role in organising the event was crucial and he oversaw and managed the event with great pride and enthusiasm. He managed to pull together all the executive chefs from around the region to assemble an amazing culinary array of dishes, menus and individual setups. Antonio put a huge amount of time and effort in the event and was one of the major highlights in the hotel’s calendar.
In Guinea-Bissau, a nationwide campaign is underway to promote handwashing as a way to reduce the spread of diseases. Teenagers are getting involved by writing songs and rap music about the importance of washing your hands with soap.
For any aspiring musician, hearing your song on the radio is a major milestone. This year, 19-year-olds Lizidória Mendes and Venâncio Cá got to experience this dream come true when their songs “Laba Mon” (wash your hands) and "Iagu ku sabon" (water with soap) were chosen as the winners of a Global Handwashing Day song writing contest, organized by UNICEF.
Lizidória and Venâncio developed the lyrics and rap music to support the global effort to raise awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap to prevent illness and disease. Their songs were used in radio spots prior to Global Handwashing Day, and have since become so popular that they are now played on radio stations across Guinea-Bissau.
“Handwashing is one of the absolutely most important and simple acts anyone can do to reduce transmission of diseases, not only diarrhoea but also infectious diseases such as flu. Guinea-Bissau is a country closely connected with music and it is also a country with predominantly young people. The music competition winners really have an incredible talent not only in singing but also communicating to their peers.” Fredrik Asplund, UNICEF Guinea-Bissau Chief Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
The 2016 Road to Awareness campaign has been truly amazing and we are on track to raise over £780,000 this year. This money has come directly from the fantastic Starwood Legacy Hotel associates volunteering their time to organise and take part in a whole variety of fundraising activities.
In true team spirit many hotels this year have been joining forces to organise fundraising events including fun runs, gala dinners and balls. Alongside these events there has been literally hundreds of smaller activities taking place. Cinema nights, staff raffles, quiz nights and simple money collections. These have all brought associates together, created great team building opportunities, and everyone has had a lot of fun.
Over the past year we’ve been asking everyone for their top fundraising tips and here are the ones that we hear the most.
Plan early- There is always more to do than you think and planning activities earlier makes it more manageable and allows more time for marketing your event
Join forces with other associates and other hotels- The more people to help you organise your fundraising activity the better. Not only can you share the work load you have more people to advertise your activity.
Use your assets- Many associates have cleverly used their hotels' assets for fundraising events. We’ve seen 24 hour rowing challenges in hotel gyms, cinema screenings and fundraising parties taking place your hotel bars.
Keep it simple- Many associates tell us that focusing on two or three activities a year and keeping the activities simple make it easier to organise and often raise more.
There is still money coming in and the final events of the year are taking place so watch this space for the final total that will be announced in the New Year!
For the past 25 years, the Ho SDA School in Ghana’s Volta region has had no toilets on campus. The situation forced students and teachers to find their own ways to manage without these facilities, creating issues with both sanitation and attendance at the school. But a new urban sanitation project is underway in Ho, finally bringing these long overdue ‘places of convenience’ to the school.
By using schools as entry points, the urban sanitation project is harnessing the power children have as agents of behaviour change in their communities. Over time, the students will share with their families and neighbours all of the knowledge they have gained on sanitation and proper use of the facilities.
The Ho SDA School Complex recently commissioned two new blocks of four-seater Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pit (KVIP) toilet facilities with disability-friendly space and a room for managing menstrual hygiene.
Seventeen year old Happy Gomado is particularly grateful for the toilets at school because she does not have a bathroom in her home. “I have trained myself not to go when I am in school, but since this came, I feel so happy and excited”, she says.
As Ho begins to enjoy the benefits of a clean community, Happy and all the children at the Ho SDA School have the opportunity to make a permanent impact on the future of their town. In fact, Abraham has already noticed a difference: “Since the toilets were opened, our campus is cleaner and more hygienic.”
The amazing support we received from your incredible fundraising is helping support children like Happy and Abraham all over Africa and the Middle East to gain access to clean, save water and sanitation. A huge thank you from everyone at UNICEF.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the partnership between Starwood Hotels & Resorts and UNICEF, Starwood hosted a Check Out for Children Associate Video Challenge in 2015, asking their hotel teams all around Europe, Africa and Middle East to create short videos demonstrating their passion and dedication to UNICEF and the partnership. The winner of the challenge would have the chance to visit a UNICEF project and experience their work first-hand. There were many excellent and creative entries, with the final voting being so close, that Starwood decided to award two winners. Nanji Tyem from the Sheraton Abuja Hotel and Olga Hadzewicz-Kopka from the Hotel Bristol in Warsaw were the lucky ones who then travelled to Djibouti along with Yvonne Kestermann from Starwood’s EAME Global Citizenship team, to find out how the money raised at their hotels and so many other Starwood properties is helping UNICEF to transform children’s lives.
Located in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is one of the smallest and most dry countries on the planet where 157,000 children live in absolute poverty, and many don’t have access to safe water and sanitation. Without access to clean water and safe sanitation, children can catch waterborne diseases, which can have a devastating effect on their health and education.
The Starwood team landed in Djibouti to see first-hand how UNICEF’s vital water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects are changing the lives of children and families in the country. As Yvonne Kestermann said, reflecting on the WASH projects they saw, “the effect that these WASH projects have on a community as a whole is impressive. It means that women and girls don’t have to carry litres of water for several kilometres each day, that hospitals are cleaner and diseases spread less easily, that babies and children have a better chance of surviving, going to school and getting an education… and the positive cycle continues.”
Yvonne, Nanji and Olga all remember a number of highlights from the trip. All three praised the hard work of UNICEF’s staff in the field – as Olga said, “many of UNICEF’s field staff work very hard under challenging conditions to bring about real change for children” and Nanji was ‘moved to tears’ by the water project she saw in As-Eyla, Dikhil district. As-Eyla is in the middle of the desert and clean water is very hard to come by.
The town had a very high number of pregnant women miscarrying, which was very distressing for the women and the wider community. A key reason for this was the lack of access to water, as pregnant women had to walk long distances to collect water and then carry heavy loads home. However this situation was improved when UNICEF intervened; as Nanji said, “UNICEF was able to work with this local community to build a solar energy powered well bringing respite to the people there.” This was just one of many examples of effective UNICEF programmes that Nanji, Olga and Yvonne saw, which cannot happen without the support of fundraisers like the associates at Starwood.
UNICEF’s work in emergencies was also highlighted during the trip. Across the world UNICEF is responding to a number of emergencies at any time, helping children caught up in a crisis get the clean water, nutrition, medical attention and education they urgently need. Olga, Nanji and Yvonne visited Markazi refugee camp with the UNICEF team, which is a camp in northern Djibouti hosting mainly refugees fleeing the ongoing violence in Yemen. On visiting the camp, Olga said she was “impressed to find it so well organised”. Yvonne was also moved by the visit to the camp; she reflected that “the moment I will never forget is the sound I heard when we first arrived in the camp and stepped out of our cars –the happy singing of a group of children. The happiness coming from their voices was such a contrast to what we were seeing in the camp. This reminded me of how resilient children are, even in desperate situations like this, and how it is our duty as adults in this world to protect the happiness of children everywhere.”
UNICEF’s work to protect children in countries like Djibouti across the world ensures they not only survive, but thrive and can only continue with the dedication and commitment of fundraisers like the associates of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. As Nanji said, reflecting on her experiences travelling with UNICEF, “after this trip I see UNICEF as a top notch organisation. I will encourage and drive our teams to support UNICEF. Now I can fully understand how UNICEF uses our donations to provide the enabling environment for children to survive, be healthy, and become great leaders in the future.”
Banner image credit : © UNICEF/UNI181391/Seixas