News / Africa

Sierra Leone Flashmob Promotes Global Handwashing Day

Dancers perform in a flashmob in downtown Freetown, Sierra Leone, Oct. 14, 2013. (N.deVries/VOA)
Dancers perform in a flashmob in downtown Freetown, Sierra Leone, Oct. 14, 2013. (N.deVries/VOA)
Tuesday is Global Handwashing Day, and Sierra Leone is using an innovative way to promote awareness of proper hand washing to prevent illnesses like cholera and diarrhea.  A consortium created the country's first flashmob to get people's attention.  
In a packed room of about 200 dancers, an instructor explains the choreography they are going to perform as a flashmob on the streets of Freetown.

A flashmob is a group of people who suddenly assemble in a public place, perform some sort of action together, then just as suddenly, disperse... leaving those who watched them entertained, and - in this case - informed.

The event was organized by a network of five non-governmental organizations, known as the Urban WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) Consortium, along with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Water Resources.

Krystle Lai is a behavior change communications expert and the main organizer. She came up with the idea for a flashmob.

She hopes it will spur people's interest to make proper hand washing a daily routine.

"We know people have the knowledge, we know that people know when they are supposed to wash their hands and how they're supposed to wash their hands, but really it's about converting that knowledge into real practice and only then will we see reduction in mortality," said Lai.

According to the World Health Organization, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children under age five worldwide, killing 1.8 million children every year.
Experts say half of these deaths could be prevented if people washed their hands.
Lai says the theme of the flashmob is "the power is in your hands."

"We cannot go to each caregiver or mother with a child under age of five, but message we want to spread is that you do have the power, the power is in your hands to change the situation of a child dying from diarrhea and still being sick," she said.

The message is getting through to some people like Isatu Sesay, a mother who watched the flashmob with her two small babies.

She explains in her native Krio language that the event sparked her interest on why it's important to wash hands to prevent disease such as cholera.

Last year, Sierra Leone had a cholera outbreak which took almost 300 lives.  That pushed the government and international organizations to put stronger measures in place to stop it from happening again. Steps included better training for health care workers and more volunteers to do community education programs on prevention, including the importance of hand washing.

The government is also working to improve water quality, says Momodu Maligi, the minister of water resources. He says better water facilities are being built around the country.

"There's an increase in water quality monitoring and testing. The last few years we've had serious cases of cholera and diarrhea. This year, thank God, we haven't had that and I think is a direct result of the increase of the government investment and activities in the water sector," said Maligi.

And as the the flashmob made its way into downtown Freetown, stopping traffic and creating a scene, Lai explained that there's more to come.

A short film is being put together by Concept Multimedia, a local film company, and the Urban WASH consortium, which will include footage of the flashmob and some key hygiene messages.

It will be broadcast around Freetown later in the week.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Isa Davies from: Essex, UK
October 23, 2013 3:57 PM
Not surprising, and its so good to hear Krystle is doing such good and positive things in Sierra Leone. The Ministry now needs to make sure that good, clean water is available for the people to make her cause be more successful. Well done for this initiative. Isa

by: Krystle from: Freetown, Sierra Leone
October 17, 2013 6:28 PM
Thanks for the comments guys. Sierra Leone's Flashmob video clip, produced by Concept Multimedia and mentioned in this article, has just gone live! See here:
In Response

by: Tamu from: London
October 23, 2013 3:46 PM
Hi Krystle I love this. How can I make contact with you?

Many thanks,

by: minh from: hanoi, Vietnam
October 16, 2013 12:35 PM
It is a nice action to promote a simple thing like handwashing to happen. It is simple action to make great affect on community.

by: George Fred Bundu from: Freetown, Sierra Leone
October 16, 2013 6:45 AM
Sierra Leone's first flashmob was a real success. The aim was to get away from the usual "match-pass"on occasions. GHWD took this first style. We only people get the massage to wash their hands.

by: John Gordon
October 16, 2013 12:51 AM
Kudos to Krystal Lai, always working hard for Salone.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs