SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing
Good health is the cornerstone to living a good life. Inequality in health and wellbeing is related to a lack of access to care, preventative initiatives and even information, which disproportionately affects children born into poor or socially excluded families. All children in Africa should have access to the best healthcare possible, safe water to drink, nutritious food, a clean and safe environment, opportunities to exercise and play, and access to information to help them stay healthy.
Significant strides have been made on many health fronts like increasing life expectancy and reducing some of the common killers associated with child mortality. Sub-Saharan Africa’s average annual rate of reduction of child mortality (under 5 years) has accelerated from 1.6 percent during the 1990s to 4.1 percent since 2000.1 However improving children’s health and wellbeing in Africa must be a priority as as 25 of the 30 countries with the highest child mortality rates are in Africa.2 More efforts are needed and progress must be accelerated to to meet this goal.
1, 2. A Fair Chance For Every Child: The State of the World's Children 2016, UNICEF.
In Ethiopia, diarrheal disease is the second most common cause of death among children under 5, killing almost 40 000 children every year. Ninety percent of diarrhoea is caused by poor sanitation, unsafe water supply and inadequate personal hygiene. In order to enable and foster hygienic behaviour, Change Leader Ayatam Simeneh and his organization Beautiful Minds collect leftover soap from hotels and spas, recycle it and supply it to schools, where they train students on how and when to wash their hands.
Ayatam was selected to join the Reach for Change incubator in the beginning of 2017. He was selected because of his innovative solution for child health, but he needed support to develop the business side of his social enterprise.
“When I joined, my business model was horrible. It was based only on grants, solicited applications and bids—and those are not consistent revenue generating sources. My background is as a social worker, and I was not even close to a business mindset. I had the heart but not the head.”
Without a sustainable business model in place, it was difficult and too risky for Ayatam to start scaling his impact. During spring, Reach for Change supported Ayatam through a series of workshops to develop his business model. He reflects:
"Thanks to the support from Reach for Change, I have started thinking like a social entrepreneur. I now have a business model that is based on sales of soap to schools at a very low rate — 18 cents per soap — which generates profit that at a larger scale of operations can cover our costs. This can enable us to be independent of grants."
Ayatam’s business model involves the sale of liquid hand soap to schools and communities which is used to fund other programs including soap recycling, hygiene trainings and school hygiene campaigns. Pilot sales of the liquid soap generated around USD 4000 and this revenue stream offers a promising avenue for self-sustainability as Beautiful Minds grows its operations.
In addition to supporting with the development of a business model, Ayatam highlights how Reach for Change has contributed a stamp of approval:
“It was a huge boost in confidence for both me and my team to have an international NGO believing in us. It also increased our credibility when seeking support from other partners.”
During 2017, Ayatam received a grant from the IKEA Foundation and Reach for Change that allowed him to focus on developing Beautiful Minds, and has since attracted other grants from the Embassy of Finland, the Embassy of Canada to Ethiopia and Colgate to further support his social enterprise. He hired three full-time staff, and is aiming to soon hire an additional three to work on soap production. “When I compare the growth of Beautiful Minds to that of other startups in Addis, I think we have grown faster than everyone else that started in the same place in 2017.”
Thanks to increased revenues and more staff, in 2017 Beautiful Minds supported 3,000 children in two schools and trained over 70 peer educators in 17 additional schools. These peer educators have initiated the roll-out of support to more than 26,000 children!
Ayatam and his team have recently performed a first measurement of the impact of their trainings; all participants in the sample of 25 students and teachers demonstrate an improved knowledge, with an increased median score from 60 to 95 percent.
“The next step is to measure to what extent this increased knowledge translates into actual hygienic behaviour,” says Ayatam. Initial qualitative testimonials are also enthusiastic. The principal at one of the schools where Beautiful Minds works reports that the teachers are observing less absence because of illness, and the school children also describe positive outcomes.
Melat is a grade four student at Abiyoit Primary School. Her favourite subject is English and her favourite colour is what she describes as “white cloud.”
Melat’s school was not equipped with running water and soap, and because of this, she and other children had no choice but to eat without washing their hands. Before Beautiful Minds came to her school, there was no water and soap so Melat and her classmates had to eat without having washed her hands, putting them at a greater risk of contracting gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.
When Beautiful Minds came to Abiyoit Primary School, they set up a handwashing station for all students, with clean running water and soap and they trained select children in the school about hygiene—information that they passed on to their peers, including Melat.
“After the Beautiful Minds training on hand washing, some of my classmates became hygiene champions who taught our class about the importance of hand washing,” says Melat. “I learned to wash my hands before eating, after using the bathroom and before cooking meals.”
The hygiene champions in Melat’s school have changed the daily routines of the students at the school and have taught Melat hygiene practices that she uses every day.
“Most of the days at our school, I go to the station to meet the hygiene champions who give us soap for washing our hands. I have also learned how to rinse my hands and wash with proper steps of hand washing such as lather with soap, rub the palms and interlace the fingers. I have also taught my family about hand washing and my mother laughs when I tell her to wash her hands because it makes her happy and proud.“
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