Change for Good great news for Bihar’s children

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Finnair’s 2011 Change for Good campaign collected a grand total of 58,566 euros, supporting work by UNICEF to improve children’s hygiene, sanitation and health in the Indian state of Bihar.

 

More than 2.5 billion people across the world do not have access to proper sanitation. That means more than a third of the global population run the risk of catching potentially fatal diseases through poor hygiene and the absence of clean water.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is at the forefront of efforts to put a significant dent in these figures, identifying regions where the problems of clean water supply and hygiene are especially acute. One of those regions is the state of Bihar in north-eastern India, an especially densely populated part of the country, home to more than 80 million people. A three-year project overseen by UNICEF and which drew to a close at the end of 2011 has focused on ensuring safe water, basic sanitation and hygiene for schoolchildren in the Bihar districts of Vaishali and Gaya – and Finnair customers have been providing financial support in the form of contributions to the annual Change for Good campaign.

Finnair has cooperated with UNICEF through Change for Good in supporting many good causes since 1994, collecting a million euros in total. The Bihar project is the first to have spanned more than a single year – and the benefits are now becoming tangible. The three strands of the project – water and sanitation, hygiene practices, and health intervention – provided the core focuses for each annual Finnair Change for Good campaign, and the 2011 campaign was targeted at health.

The 2011 campaign collected a grand total of 58,566 euros. Over 16 Christmas period collections the campaign, carried out on almost all international Finnair flights, has collected precisely 1,105,040 euros.

Best-practice models

Hand-washing facilities have already been provided to more than 1,173 schools in Bihar, at which wastewater disposal or recycling systems have also been demonstrated. Hygiene promotion has been instigated by training and by encouraging hygiene and sanitation “ministers” as part of a School Cabinet system. The 250 selected schools in Vaishali and Gaya now serve as best-practice models for state government policy-making here and in other communities.

Part of the legacy of the project will be the increased attendance at school of girls in Bihar.  Inadequate water and sanitation systems help to explain why, when the project was launched, 62 per cent of girls dropped out of school during their first few years, and 75 per cent during the upper classes of elementary school.

“The idea is that the messages of hygiene and sanitation are carried through the children to their communities,” said Nina Vähäpassi of UNICEF Finland during a field visit to the Bihar schools.

Child-friendly toilets have been installed in 224 pre-schools and water pumps have been upgraded. Recorded improvements in behavioural change are impressive. In the pre-schools covered by the project, the use and maintenance of water and sanitation facilities have increased from 4 per cent to 80 per cent, with respective figures of 15 and 91 per cent for availability of basic hand-washing facilities. Compared with just 3 per cent at the launch of the project, 91 per cent of children at the target schools now wash their hands before meals.

The idea of Change for Good couldn’t be simpler: passengers are asked to slip a donation of coins or notes into the special envelope placed in the seat pocket, and cabin crew collect the envelopes towards the end of the flight.

Visit www.unicef.fi to find out more about UNICEF Finland’s work and fund-raising campaigns.

Text and photos by Tim Bird

The article was previously published in Fiianir´s Blue Wings magazine (December 2011).

Published February 6, 2012

Category: Environment, Finnair Cargo, Corporate Responsibility

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