UNICEF in Space: astronaut and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Frank de Winne talks to school children
Gao Village, Mali, 23 October 2009 – In the village of Gao, some 1200 km away from Mali’s capital city of Bamako, local children were given the special chance to speak to UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne – live from space.
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UNICEF, together with Mali’s Regional office for health and sanitation, organized a radio transmission with Mr. De Winne, who is currently commanding aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Answering children’s questions
Mr. De Winne answered questions from the children of Gao through a live two-way radio feed from the space station.
Children took the occasion to ask their questions, and were at first very eager to learn about the conditions of living in the station.
One child asked: "How do you wash? Are there latrines? Over."
"Here, we wash with a damp cloth," Mr. De Winne replied. "We have very little water here on the international spaceship station. We have roughly three litres of water per person, per day – two-and-a-half litres of water to drink and half a litre a month that we use to wash and for hygiene. And, of course, we have latrines that are very well equipped and very clean."
Another child asked: "How do you do your laundry? Over."
"Here we don’t wash the dishes, nor do we do laundry," Mr. De Winne explained.
"We eat with small spoons and a small cloth. After eating, we wash our spoon with the cloth. But it’s just a small spoon. As for laundry, we have very few clothes. We have basically one t-shirt every two weeks, and when that t-shirt is dirty, we throw it out. Over.”
A problem of access
Mr. De Winne was familiar with the village of Gao and the school the children he spoke to are from.
He came to Mali before his mission in space to inquire about hygiene and access to water in the desert areas.
"He saw the problems of access to clean water and he [met with] children in Gao. When he came back to Europe, he wanted to find a way to keep the link with them," said Regional Head of the Department of health and sanitation, Hamadoun Dicko.