More than 60% of Moldovan pupils are at risk of falling sick because of the poor quality of water in schools
Chisinau, November 12, 2010 - More than 60% of Moldovan students are at risk of falling sick because of the bad quality of water in their schools. This is one of the findings of the Report “Quality of water, sanitation and hygiene practices in the schools of Moldova”, launched today by UNICEF, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and the National Centre of Public Health. The data has been collected from all more than 1,500 schools existing in Moldova. The quality of water has been assessed according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The quality of water
According to the data from the research, fifty percent of the schools use drinking water from sources unauthorized by sanitary authorities. Only 2/3 of the schools are connected to water pipes, while one third use water from wells. Yet, the schools supplied with well water register the highest level of deviation from microbiological standards – practically, one in six water samples collected from schools did not correspond to the sanitary norms. The highest level of microbiological pollution was registered in the schools from Soldanesti, Leova, Cantemir, Donduseni rayons, and the lowest in the municipalities of Chisinau, Balti and Orhei.
One third of the schools use nitrate polluted water, the study shows. As a result, one in 5 students in the country is exposed to health hazards and delays in physical development. This is particularly the case in the rural communities, where schools are mainly supplied with well water.
In 17 percent of the schools, the level of fluorine in the drinking water was beyond the norm, which makes the students vulnerable to dental caries and fluorosis, diseases which affect children’s teeth and bones.
Children from rural areas have less access to basic hygiene conditions such as sinks, soap, toilet paper, hand dryers and toilets. In 232 schools, students are unable to wash their hands because there are no taps while the sinks are broken. One third of the schools do not have washstands in their canteens and 3/4– in the toilets. Therefore, there is a definite risk that students do not manage to wash their hands after using the toilets and before taking a meal, being thus exposed to diseases caused by “dirty hands”.
The study indicates that 70% of the schools lack soaps and hand dryers. The least advantaged from this point of view are the students from the schools in Basarabeasca and Donduseni districts. Most of the children from the rural schools (55% of the total number of students) don’t have access to indoor toilets and practically all rural schools and two third of the urban ones are not supplied with toilet paper.
The inappropriate conditions of sanitation systems in schools poses real danger to students’ health, exposing them to infectious and parasitic diseases. According to the national statistics, children morbidity caused by these diseases has increased in 2008 by over 20 % (72 thousand children) compared to 2004 (56 thousand).
The report proposes a set of recommendations, among which - the development of national policies on children’s environment and health, projects aiming the modernization of the water supply and sanitation infrastructure, which would cover disadvantaged communities, as well as the implementation of adequate techniques for the treatment of drinking water.
The first steps in this regard have already been made at the beginning of this school year, when UNICEF and the Ministry of Education opened two “child-friendly” schools in the villages of Molesti in Ialoveni and Sofrancani in Edinet. With the assistance of the funds provided by the French company Veolia, the two rural schools have been equipped with modern water supply and sanitation systems, so that the students can enjoy safe drinking water and proper sanitation.
Study on the quality of water, sanitation and hygiene practices in the schools of Moldova