Save the Children Fiji has kicked off an innovative health strategy in Labasa today launching its ‘Save, Sip, Survive’ campaign designed to protect the health of communities impacted by dry weather conditions.

The campaign has been designed in partnership with Ministry of Health and supported by experts in Water and Sanitation, Public Health and the business sector.

The launch coincided with Save the Children Fiji’s biggest event for 2014 with more than 500 children participating in its Race for Survival Event dedicated to children’s health and ending preventable deaths of children under the age of 5.

Save the Children Fiji says this campaign is a way to give children a voice on issues affecting their health which focused on preventing water borne disease in the drought-like conditions being experienced across the country.

SC Fiji’s CEO, Raijeli Nicole, said “previous experiences from the 1997-1998 drought shows water is prioritised for cooking rather than hygiene in the home. This in turn increases the risk of diarrhea and water borne diseases like skin infections which commonly affect children here in Fiji,” she said.

“We are working closely with Ministry of Health with regards to preempting any outbreak of water-related illness. We are encouraging the country to save quality drinking water in sealed containers which are kept out of the sun whilst making sure everyone drinks 2 litres of clean or boiled water per day. We are also encouraging everyone to wash their hands with soap and seek early medical care if anyone becomes sick.”

Research by UNICEF makes the clear link between children and infants and their risks involved in disasters as they make up the most vulnerable group due to their dependency on others for their basic living needs.

To help create solutions and build the resilience of communities to drought Save the Children Fiji has already begun running workshops with children across the Central and Northern divisions to educate them on cost-effective ways to keep themselves safe while conserving water at the same time.

“More than 100 school children have already made Tippy Taps, which is a low cost but effective device so children can wash their hands with soap even if water shortages or cuts occur,” Ms Nicole said.

A Tippy Tap is made from regular 2 litre plastic bottle where the water is able to slowly drip out so children can ensure they have access to wash their hands without wasting water.

“Children are clearly aware of the impact the dry weather is having with many already saying people in their communities have become sick and some say they don’t have enough drinking water left by the end of the day,” she said.

12-year-old Tarusila who attended the workshops said “it is everyone’s job to protect water and is encouraging everyone to turn of the tap and fixing leaking pipes.

“I’m just asking everyone out there to help Fiji become a better place. If you see any open taps anywhere just close it. Even if it’s not yours, just close it…. Protect our water and make Fiji a better place.”

This ‘Save Sip Survive’ campaign will be expanded to areas that are at risk of dry conditions and Save the Children Fiji will continue to work with important partners to ensure cost-effective solutions to protecting health in dry weather continues to expand across the country into the future.

*Image: students with one of the launched posters at Race for Survival 2014. Save. Sip. Survive.