Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

UNICEF and Climate Centre address health risks in Ghana through serious play

17/02/2015 - by Wade Kimbrough, EGL, and Pablo Suarez, Climate Centre

Some 12,000 Ghanaian children die each year from diseases that could be prevented by hand-washing with soap, according to the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group using data from the Ghana Health Service and the WHO.

Many of these illnesses, such as cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases, are likely to worsen with a changing climate.

To address this problem, UNICEF convened a workshop from 11 to 13 February in Akosombo, southern Ghana.

Facilitated by the Climate Centre in collaboration with the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, the workshop aimed to lay the foundations for creating a new game that will help children to both learn about hand-washing with soap to reduce the risk of disease.

Participants identified and examined options, reaching consensus about the parameters of the game so that it can have maximum impact among schoolchildren and other at-risk sectors of the population.

‘Do-it-yourself vaccine’

Participants included representatives from the Ghanaian government departments of education, health, community development, and water and sanitation, as well as civil society, academics and UNICEF staff.

“Hand-washing with soap is called a ‘do-it-yourself vaccine’ for many good reasons,” said Susan Namondo Ngongi, UNICEF Ghana Country Representative.

“With this collaboration we want to unleash the potential of games to transfer knowledge and trigger action so that every child, woman, and man knows why it is important, when and how to do it.”

The Secretary General of the Ghana Red Cross Society, Samuel Kofi Addo, participated in the full two-and-a-half-day workshop, and later convened a participatory session with the humanitarian team.

“We can use simple games to make people better understand, grasp and remember causes and solutions to problematic issues,” he said later.

“Games remove hierarchy, and make everybody feel equal and important as part of the team”

As a follow-up to the workshop, Right To Play Ghana engaged children in demonstrating the impact of games related to hand-washing with soap at the Oduman Asuaba school. (Photo: Wade Kimbrough/Climate Centre)