A musician from Mozambique has received one of the world's most prestigious environmental awards. The Goldman Foundation earlier this year chose Felicia dos Santos as one of the six recipients for the prize, for his work promoting sustainable practices in his impoverished country. In today's Searching for Solutions report we profile the 2008 Goldman environmental prize winner from Africa. Paul Sisco reports.
"Lets wash, let's wash, let's wash our hands," Feliciano dos Santos sings for villagers in his native Mozambique. His focus is on improving living conditions there.
Many suffer illness and disease in his country, where the World Health Organization says seven in 10 people live below the national provery line. Dos Santos has dedicated himself to doing something about it.
"Mozambique as a country has many severe health issues that are related to waterborne bacteria," dos Santos says.
Among them: Malaria, meningitis, typhoid and infant morality.
"The government is trying to solve these issues, and our organization, Estamos is doing everything it can to teach people about what they can do to contribute to the solution."
Dos Santos, stricken with polio as a child, founded and directs an organization called 'Estamos.' The Goldman Foundation says, in Mozambique's Niassa province, he works directly with villagers to provide community sanitation as well as promoting sustainable agriculture and reforestation.
He and his team with work with villagers to provide wells for clean drinking water and composting toilets called EcoSan latrines.
"The EcoSan latrine has many benefits," says dos Santos. "Traditional latrines leak and contaminate well water with bacteria and diseases. By sealing the latrine in concrete and adding ash to the waste the problem is eliminated."
Compost from the latrine is used as fertilizer and is even sold for income.
Dos Santos, band called Massukos plays throughout the region. [And] It caught the attention of the national leadership, that now supports his development efforts. With government aid 'Estamos' organizes and conducts conservation and hygiene forums around the region.
The foundation says Dos Santos' campaign to improve environmental conditions and eradicate disease has helped thousands of people gain access to clean water and ecological sanitation in Mozambique.
"I didn't want to see other children growing up like I did because when you have an illness like polio as a child you feel that you have many obstacles to overcome," says dos Santos. "So, I feel I'm doing something to make a positive change in people lives on these different levels and bringing joy into peoples lives."
For his environmental work and commitment to his people, Feliciano dos Santos was awarded the 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa.