Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has taken over as Unicef ambassador for South Asia to support the organisation’s work in promoting hygiene and sanitation in the region, an official said here Thursday.
“I look forward to working with children and communities in the region, urging them to use toilets and wash their hands. Following simple practices can contribute to a hygienic lifestyle which is important for the good health of children and women across the world,” Tendulkar said at a ceremony where he signed himself into the programme.
Unicef South Asia Regional Director Karin Hulshof said that using a toilet and washing hands with soap means living healthy lives with dignity and helps all children thrive.
“Sachin will lend his voice to reach everybody in all villages and communities in South Asia with hygiene and sanitation messages,” Hulshof said.
He explained that sanitation is strongly connected not only to personal hygiene but also to human dignity, well being, public health, nutrition and education.
Children under five years of age are the most vulnerable to the effects of poor sanitation and annually more than half a million children in South Asia die of diarrhoea caused by unsafe drinking water, poor hygiene and lack of sanitation.
After sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia is the region with the highest number of under-five deaths, accounting for 2.3 million in 2011.
Around 39 percent of children under five are stunted in this region which is also the worst in terms of lack of toilets; over 680 million people do not use toilets.
Unicef ambassadors, who are celebrities with a demonstrated commitment to improving the lives of children, help highlight children’s issues, galvanise public support, lead decision makers and help raise urgently needed funds for vital programmes.