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Monday, October 15, 2012


TV’s Christine Bleakley jumped at the chance to go to Uganda with Sport Relief to try to help thousands of children at risk of dying from something that to most of us seems a minor illness. Here the 33-year-old presenter – who with her fiancé, Chelsea star Frank Lampard, supports several charities – tells The Sun about her African mission.

WHEN Sport Relief told me I’d see work they fund to combat something which globally kills more children than Aids, malaria and measles combined, I was baffled.
Was there a new epidemic I’d not heard of, a new disease that was leaving great swathes of tragedy in its wake?  No. This child killer was something we’re all well aware of, something we’ve even suffered from on occasion — diarrhoea.
It’s hard to believe that something so common, something which is seen as an irritation, even as a bit of a joke here at home, is responsible for the deaths of almost 2,000 children every single day.
But it’s true and I was heading to Uganda, a country where 28 per cent of people don’t have access to safe drinking water and 66 per cent don’t have access to proper sanitation, to see the simple measures that are all it takes to stop this appallingly preventable loss of life.  I really wanted to help. Anyone who has earned any sort of money should be giving stuff back — which is what does happen, we just don’t brag about it.
Frank’s former team-mate Didier Drogba is a great example. He has his own foundation which provides financial and material support in health and education to the African people.
A lot of what he does goes straight back into the foundation as well. It’s a way of giving something back because you can kick a ball in the right direction. I come from a very humble background so I see things in a very ordinary, normal light. I packed some of Frank’s football kits for my trip. Football is huge over there. It was just shorts and tops but the simplest things make a huge difference.
I travelled to Kasasa Primary and Junior School on the hilly outskirts of the capital Kampala, which had recently benefited from the UK Government’s pledge to celebrate the success of the last Sport Relief by matching some of the money that was raised.
Arranged round a dusty square were ten classrooms which housed more than 400 pupils. Immaculately turned out in their blue uniforms, the whole school — aged from three to 13 — lined up for morning assembly. Until very recently this school and every child in it had to make do with water from a contaminated source, a tiny and dilapidated toilet block and next to no hand-washing facilities. All this resulted in very poorly children who regularly missed out on their education and were often hospitalised as they infected and re-infected themselves with diarrhoea.
The headmistress told me that in her nine years at the school diarrhoea had been ever present among the pupils and that even when they were well enough to attend, many found it almost impossible to concentrate properly as their stomachs continually cramped. And of course, as well as the physical element, the humiliation that these children suffered as they lost control was heartbreaking. One sweet little boy, 12-year-old Moses, told me how he had an accident in class.

He said: “I am always running and playing so I get very thirsty in the heat. One day when I was mad with thirst, even though I knew it was dirty, I drank water from a pipe. By that night I was very ill. I had bad diarrhoea and was taken to hospital.
“A few days later I was desperate to get back to school so I didn’t fall too far behind in my studies. But on my first day back I had an accident in my shorts in class.
“I learned a harsh lesson — that no matter how thirsty you are, never drink contaminated water. But it is so hard when it is hot not to drink the liquid that is available.”
His matter-of-fact-ness in telling me about his accident masked a sense of acute embarrassment and shame that any 12-year-old would feel going through that in front of his friends. And the fact that he knew he was infecting himself made it all the more tragic — but how can you tell a boy of 12 not to drink water when he is thirsty?  Sport Relief and UK aid-match money has been used to enable the charity WaterAid to transform the sanitation at this school and scores more like it across Uganda.
First, the filthy old toilet block has been replaced with a brand new one which, crucially, has enough facilities to accommodate everyone and can be kept clean and in good working order — a vital step in delivering good sanitation.
The school has also been given a tank to collect rain water from the corrugated iron roofs on the classrooms, meaning they no longer have to use contaminated water.
The 15,000-litre concrete container can keep them all well supplied and as I looked at the giant structure, it began to rain, right on cue!  In Britain a wet day at school is a miserable thing — wet bag, wet uniform, wet hair and no playtime — but in Uganda, especially now they can safely and cleanly collect a sizeable amount of the water, a wet day is celebrated and seen as a blessing.
And of course it is, because these new facilities have already started to cut down the number of diarrhoea cases and will deliver long-term, sustainable change that will really transform lives.
Better health will result in increased attendance in schools, which leads to economic benefits enabling people to improve their future for good — all thanks to the support of the UK Government and the money you gave to Sport Relief.  In this case every cloud really does have a silver lining.
Thanks to the generosity of the public and support from UK aid match, money is already changing the lives of people in Africa.
Source the Sun..

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