giro del gelato 2021: Ride together. Help together.
The aid project we're supporting in Bangladesh gives kids and their families access to Water, Sanitation facilities, and Hygiene services, which is how the project got its name, WASH. This is even more important now because it helps protect the people of Bangladesh from infection with the coronavirus and limits the spread of COVID-19.
Why do children and families in Bangladesh need help so urgently now?
Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries. It has a population of 170 million, and 40 percent of the people who live there are children. Some 30 percent of the people in Bangladesh live in slums. Life is a daily battle against poverty, hunger, and life-threatening natural disasters like hurricanes and floods.
Despite its own challenging situation, Bangladesh has taken in more than 875,000 Rohingya refugees, forced to flee neighboring Myanmar due to repression and persecution.
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Bangladesh's economic situation has improved in recent years. Its economy grew by nearly 8 percent in 2018, one of the fastest rates in the world. This growth is partly due to the up-and-coming export economy and aided by the steadily growing local demand and business investments.
A major source of hope is the slow but steady rise in the number of young people getting a good education at universities and technical colleges. This trend can only continue if children and young people are able to go to school – and to do that, they need to be healthy.
But now, the coronavirus pandemic has put the brakes on these positive developments. In a country with the world's highest population density, it's almost impossible to keep your distance. This is particularly true in the slums where so many people live crammed together in a small area. In Dhaka, one of the world's fastest growing metropolises, around 1.1 million of its 9 million residents live in slums.
Clean water and hygiene: cornerstones of a healthy life
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of just how important regular hand-washing is. And yet, more than half of the world's population have no access to safe sanitation facilities. Three billion people in the world – including hundreds of millions of school children – do not have access to hand-washing facilities with soap. Almost 675 million people don't have access to toilets.
The worst-affected are people living in rural areas, city slums, areas that are prone to natural disasters, and low-income countries. The effects of unsafe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services can be fatal for children. More than 700 children under the age of 5 die every day from diarrheal infections because they lack water and hygiene. In conflict zones, the likelihood of a child dying from diarrheal diseases is almost 20 times higher than the chance of dying as a result of the conflict itself.
This is exactly what the WASH project led by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is working to eradicate. The project is all about providing people with clean water, sanitation facilities and hygiene measures.
What does hand-washing have to do with education?
"Covid-19 has meant children across the globe have not been able to go to school. But schools aren't just a place for learning, they're often the only chance a child has for a meal and access to clean, running water. Homeschooling as we know it isn't available everywhere. Any progress in helping children over recent decades has been set back, or even completely undone. Take the rising number of child marriages, for example," says Christoph Jünger, the executive director of the Austrian National Committee for UNICEF, explaining the situation in Bangladesh. "The effects of the crisis – particularly in terms of children and young people's education – will have a serious impact on the lives of girls and boys in Bangladesh. If we don't act now, the crisis will take a massive toll on the children over the long term."
Water and good hygiene are vital when it comes to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, which is necessary for children to live long, healthy lives. Water and hygiene prevent children from missing school due to illness – and better education leads to better opportunities for the rest of their later lives.
"In many schools, children have no opportunity to wash their hands to prevent illness – this is where the WASH program comes in," adds Jünger. "For just 177 US dollars, we can buy 100 cans of powdered bleach for disinfection. For around 380 dollars, we can do hygiene training for 90 mothers and daughters, and for some 860 dollars, we can fund one of 40 handwashing stations that supply around 3,000 people with running water."
The focus on easily available hygiene measures is so important because vaccination against COVID-19 is progressing so slowly in Bangladesh. Recent figures have shown that an average of 11,500 doses of the vaccine are administered daily. If the country continues at this vaccination rate, it will take another 2,828 days – or 7.7 years – to vaccinate a further 10% of the population.
Repairing water stations
The project woom is supporting in Dhaka with the giro del gelato will fund repairs to existing water facilities and new mobile hand-washing stations. The stations will make it possible for 12,500 people to wash their hands with clean water. According to experts, mobile sanitation facilities are a major asset in fighting the pandemic at a local level. UNICEF's in-country team will also ensure that the water quality is tested and that disinfectants are available.
What's more, children – especially girls and their mothers – will get education on hygiene to keep them healthy. "By providing these classes, we can make sure that women and girls have the knowledge they need to protect themselves from infection. The effect is huge, both immediately in the current crisis and in the long-term for the rest of their lives," says Jünger.
Access to clean water is every child's right
"Every child has the right to grow up in a safe and clean environment. Access to clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices won't just ensure that children are healthier, but also that they'll get more opportunities later on in life," says our founder Christian Bezdeka, "Even making a small contribution to this really means a lot to us."
All the information on the giro del gelato 2021 can be found here! We'd be delighted for you join us in supporting this UNICEF project in Dhaka!