photo © Jon Lea
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“Feliciano dos Santos is an inspirational
leader who is changing Mozambique. He is unique because he influences
people in so many ways. His message and actions are positive, and
people of all ages look up to him and want to change themselves
and the world they live in.” Ned Breslin, Water for People.
Massukos and the award-winning NGO Estamos were co-founded by Feliciano dos Santos, an inspirational man who has dedicated his life and his music to campaigning for better public health through clean water and adequate sanitation. As the director of Estamos, he heads up an innovative programme of public health initiatives in Niassa and is involved with the installation of latrines and clean water points, as well as hygiene and HIV/AIDS education. Santos promotes low-cost, environmentally sustainable sanitation which composts human waste into nutrient-rich fertilisers. Santos’s innovative approach has now become the model for sustainable development programmes worldwide. “I can honestly say that what I saw in Niassa is the best development work I have seen in Africa when it comes to supporting poor communities. What I saw became an inspiration to the United Nations Development Programme. It is the most exciting project I know of in Africa in terms of water and sanitation and when you talk about sanitation, you are talking about healthy people and a healthy environment.” Ingvar Anderson, former senior water policy adviser, United Nations Development Programme
Challenged by polio, Santos endured a gruelling childhood living in a slum with no clean water or proper sanitation. He became committed to changing the lives and improving the health of those battling water-borne diseases. The success of Santos’ work has been largely due to his personal involvement. Community education work has been key and he engages villagers through music and then works directly with them in participatory workshops. Affectionately known as “The Elton John of Mozambique” he believes that “music has the power to change people”; the groundbreaking work he is doing in his homeland is testimony to that conviction.
Santos cannot visit every poor community worldwide, but people can get the resource book he helped develop, A Community Guide to Environmental Health which offers a field-tested, community-approved step-by-step guide on how to implement successful sanitation and water projects like those Santos spearheads in rural Mozambique. Hesperian, the book's publisher, has created a tool kit that teaches people how to tackle everything from building their own water wells to organizing against oil companies polluting their water and land. According to the World Health Organization, Hesperian’s most well-known publication, Where There Is No Doctor is the most widely used health education manual in the world, and has been translated into more than 80 languages. You can help distribute this book free to communities that need it by contributing to Hesperian's free books program at www.hesperian.org
In recognition of his leading role in campaigning for better public health, Santos has been awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize (April 2008). Often referred to as a Nobel Prize for environmentalists and endorsed by more than 100 US Heads of State, the prize allows individuals to continue winning environmental victories against the odds and inspires ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the world. Frequently described as voices in the wilderness, Goldman Prize winners have often taken great personal risks to safeguard the environment.
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