global | wash up

A bright,
green global ambassador for life-saving habits.

Children’s Education Initiatives Around the World | Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Habits

The greatest global health challenge for children are diseases related to poor sanitation, water, and hygiene. Pneumonia and diarrhea are the leading causes of death in children under the age of five- they’re taking more children’s lives than measles, AIDS, and malaria combined.

According to UNICEF’s 2013 Improving Child Nutrition Report, there are over 150 million cases of pneumonia and over 1 billion cases of diarrhea every year. Of that, 600,000 children die from diarrheal disease (roughly 1 death per minute) and 1.1 million children die from pneumonia. Additionally, 3 million children die every year from causes exacerbated by poor nutrition. 1 child dies every 15 seconds due to WASH-related diseases.

The WASH UP! Initiative aims to reduce the number of children under the age of five that are dying or suffering from preventable and treatable diseases by providing access to meaningful sanitation and hygiene education.Through our muppets, we have the unique ability to talk to children, model behaviors for them, and give them the language to talk about taboo topics like toilet use. Raya is pioneering conversations all over the world about clean water, hand washing with soap, and proper latrine use through three easy-to-share reminders that they can teach to family, siblings, and friends:

  • Wash hands with soap before meals and after using the toilet.Use safe toilets to defecate, and wear sandals to the toilet.
  • Use safe toilets to defecate, and wear sandals to the toilet.
  • Drink clean water to stay hydrated and healthy.


To deliver an effective program with maximum reach, the WASH Up! Initiative will utilize:

  • School and community-based health kits
  • Story book – with Raya and her friends as health heroes (training for educators, community health workers, and parents/caregivers)
  • Floor mat games – to promote discussion around familiar places, people, and things that contribute to being healthy and happy
  • Video content – featuring Raya and Elmo, as well as children in communities where WASH challenges are part of everyday life
  • Training for educators, community health workers, and parents/caregivers

A Partnership-Driven Initiative

In order to have the greatest possible reach, the WASH Up! Initiative is establishing an alliance of business, government, NGO, and civil society partners to implement global and national strategies and outreach campaigns to improve hand-washing with soap and other WASH behaviors. The WASH Up! Initiative intends to leverage Sesame Workshop’s proven formula of research-driven programming and world- famous Muppets with the support and expertise of our organizational partners. A multi-country curriculum fueled by research and developed with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is already reaching children in Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria through school and community partnerships with opportunities to engage in positive, lasting behavior change to prevent WASH-related diseases and deaths.

World Vision International
The world’s largest NGO that provides clean water to those living on less than $2/day in the most rural of areas. This innovative new partnership allows us to rethink how we distribute important content to children where it is needed most by complementing the hardware they are building within these infrastructures with software.

World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts
WAGGGS is the world’s largest voluntary organization dedicated to girls and young women. WAGGGS supports girls and young women to develop their full potential as responsible citizens of the world, focusing on leadership development and active citizenship delivered through their innovation global education, community, and advocacy programs.

Measurable Success

Research suggests that WASH UP! programming can have an impact on important behaviors:

Children who participated in the program/intervention were 48% more likely to use an improved latrine at home than before participating in the program, and they showed an 11% greater improvement in using soap for hand washing compared to children who did not participate.

80% of children exposed to our pilot program could name Raya. Kids like Raya and understand what messages she conveys–among six characters tested, children ranked her first as someone who is “never sick,” “tells us important things to do,” and “loves her shoes.” She is also the character they liked best. Raya shows great promise as a role model for important sanitation and hygiene behaviors for children.

Research suggests that children in our Gates supported pilot program showed greater gains than non-participants in important behaviors such as using as improved latrine at home, wearing sandals consistently to a latrine, and washing hands consistently after defecation.

The Bottom Line

When children and their families have access to information and resources that enable them to live longer, healthier lives, it’s a win-win for the WASH UP! Initiative and its collaborators. The incidence of preventable illnesses, from respiratory infections to diarrhea, will decrease when families and health providers are empowered, allowing children to attend more days of school and come closer
to achieving their true potential.


For more information on how you can support the WASH Up! Initiative, please contact:
Jodi Nussbaum:

Follow Raya’s adventures around the world @SesameRaya