(Corrects child mortality data.)
BANGKOK, July 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A small
plastic box decorated with smiling frogs and a bright green
logo, Labobo looks like a toy, but it could help prevent
thousands of people from getting sick with diarrhoea and other
The portable plastic sink aims to encourage regular
handwashing, in particular after using a toilet and before
preparing food, which has been proven to prevent the spread of
Labobo has just launched in Cambodia, which ranks lowest in
Southeast Asia in terms of access to sanitation.
"Handwashing is an enormous opportunity to improve health
because it's such a cheap and effective solution," said Geoff
Revell, regional programme manager at WaterSHED, a charity
working on improving water and sanitation in Southeast Asia.
With 38 deaths per 1,000 live births, Cambodia has one of
the highest under-five mortality rates in the region, according
to World Bank data.
Regular handwashing can help prevent nearly half the world's
cases of diarrhoea, which kills nearly 800,000 children every
year, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
Labobo - a play on the French word for sink, "lavabo" -
sells at $15 per unit and dispenses up to 15 litres of water
through a low-flow spout and can be placed at a height easily
reachable for children.
It is the brainchild of WaterSHED, one of a growing number
of charities that focus on selling appealing sanitation products
to consumers, rather than handing out buckets or latrines.
"If you give people a bucket and a piece of soap, more often
than not you will find the bucket ends up being used for
something else," Revell told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"But if they spend some money on a product they like and
actually want to own, it's much more likely that they will keep
using it and form a healthy habit of washing their hands
Labobo was designed with the input of families in Vietnam's
Mekong Delta, where WaterSHED has already sold 10,000 units in a
year through its social business.
Despite awareness-raising campaigns, regular handwashing is
a challenge in Cambodia, where 60 percent of the rural
population still defecate in the open and only 44 percent are
able to wash their hands with soap and water, according to the
(Reporting by Bangkok newsroom; Editing by Alisa Tang; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)