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

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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: bit.ly/1c08X5i
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,
Tamu

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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs