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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More