By Robin Giri
Kathmandu, Nepal, 9 December 2013 – In a major boost to the sport of cricket in Nepal and to the delight of millions of young fans, the Government of Nepal has named Paras Khadka the National Champion for 1000 Golden Days and Hand washing with soap campaigns.
At a ceremony on 5 December, the Ministry of Health and Population, in partnership with UNICEF, conferred the title on the much-loved captain of the popular National Cricket Team, making Paras the most popular and visible Nepali to promote nutrition and sanitation in the country.
The event capped a week of celebrations in Nepal to congratulate the team, who have for the first time, qualified for the upcoming Twenty-20 Cricket World Cup in 2014.
“I commit to putting in the same amount of dedication and discipline to promote hand washing with soap and nutrition in Nepal as we did to qualifying for the World Cup,” said the captain to applause from his teammates, at the packed conference room at the Ministry of Health and Population.
Almost 50 per cent of Nepalese children under-5 are chronically malnourished. The period from conception to 1000 days is considered the Golden days of a child’s life when 90 per cent of the child’s brain development takes place; half of the chronic under-nutrition (stunting) happens during pregnancy, and the remaining half during the first two years after birth.
If the causes of malnutrition are tackled at the onset, and proper feeding habits ensured for mother and child, malnutrition can be reversed and lives saved.
Every year 5,000 children under-5 die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices. However, just hand washing with soap by mothers and caretakers can help prevent up to 44 per cent of deaths of newborn children.
“It’s sad that we’re in the 21st century, our team has qualified for the World Cup, and we still have so many children dying from preventable causes. We pledge to work with all stakeholders, and we’re so proud to have the Nepal Cricket Captain to help us fight this,” said Hon. Vidhyadhar Mallik, the Minister for Health and Population.
Tie-ups with sports and role models pack a powerful punch
Cricket is the most popular sport in the country, and UNICEF Nepal has been working with the Cricket Association of Nepal and the cricket team to promote other campaigns through the medium of sport.
To mark the International Day of Disability on 3 December, UNICEF helped organised a half-time cricket match between members of the Cricket Association of the Blind Nepal, and visiting international cricketers who were in town to play in the 5-Day Road to World Cup Championship.
Providing another major boost to the partnership, Sachin Tendulkar, considered one of the greatest batsmen in the world, recently signed up to become UNICEF’s Regional Goodwill Ambassador for sanitation in South Asia.Former Indian batting legend VVS Laxman and UNICEF Country Representative Hanaa Singer put on blindfolds and participated in the demonstration match, which was broadcast live on Kantipur Television and viewed by eight million Nepalese households.
Also present on the occasion to launch Paras as the National Champion was Hanaa Singer, UNICEF Country Representative in Nepal.
“Good nutrition must go hand in hand with hygiene and sanitation to be an effective foundation for survival, growth, and development. This is the only way to bowl-out chronic under-nutrition and promote hygiene behaviours in Nepal, and Paras we are counting on you to hit the next 1000 Golden runs for this new goal,” said Ms. Singer.