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Christine Bleakley

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How Sport Relief Is Saving and Changing Lives

Posted: 17/10/2012 00:00

The benefits of improving sanitation in the developing world are obvious and well chronicled - put a toilet block with hand washing facilities in a school and you dramatically decrease the prevalence of diarrhoea, a condition that kills 2000 children a day.

Install a harvesting tank which collects and safely stores rain water so kids aren't forced to repeatedly contaminate themselves as they succumb to their thirst and take on board filthy liquid - and you make even more in roads.

As I listened to the 400 pupils at Kasasa Primary and Junior school on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital Kampala sing their Sanitation Anthem and do their morning hand checks, it was also obvious that once these tangible measures were in place for them to use, these children would be taught the importance of using them and taught it well.

This impressive development had been made possible by the UK government's decision to celebrate the huge success of the Sport Relief campaign earlier this year, by matching some of the money raised by the public. This means that twice as many people can benefit from improved conditions in urban slums across Africa.

Having been asked to go and see this cash in action I was privileged enough to spend a few days at some of the first schools to have benefitted from this scheme and it soon became clear that the change it will bring about will reach far beyond a purely hygienic level - as important as that is.

From a remarkably young age children living in poverty here value education higher than anything else. They know that to miss out on learning is to be condemned to a life without the hope of moving beyond the situation they have been born into. Every day in class counts to them and every day lost to diarrhoea is seen as a disaster.

So these water tanks and toilets don't just keep these kids safe, they keep them in school and on track to transform their lives for good.

But it goes even deeper than that. The changes you go through as a teenage girl aren't easy to cope with at the best of times, but when your school can't give you the privacy you deserve to be able to deal with them the situation can become unbearable and often does. When you've got very few or even no working or concealed toilets to use, young girls are embarrassed and even humiliated when they begin their periods.

In fact, the charity WaterAid who work on the ground to deliver these improvements estimates that the building of a simple facility at a school which includes a private area increases the attendance of girls by as much as 11%.

So, a combination of the humble toilet and access to clean water made possible by people taking part in Sport Relief and the UK government's decision to back them has the power to bring about long term change that can educate and empower the most vulnerable.

That has to be money very well spent in anyone's book.

Thanks to the generosity of the general public and support from UK aid match, money is already changing the lives of people in Africa. Visit Comic Relief's web page or DfID's Facebook page for more details.

To watch a short film from Christine's trip, please click below to view.

 
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