By Guy Degen
SOUFOUROULAYE, Mali, 19 August 2010 – At the Soufouroulaye Primary School in Mali, a derelict water pump stands dry in the dusty playground, quenching no one's thirst.
|VIDEO: UNICEF's Guy Degen reports from Mali on the implementation of a major 'WASH in Schools' programme.|
The children here have latrines, but there's no clean water or soap available to wash their hands. Rubbish is burned and left to rot near the playground.
Without safe drinking water and basic facilities for good hygiene and sanitation at school, children are at risk of diarrhoea-related diseases and worms.
However, funding from UNICEF’s international partners – including the philanthropic organization Dubai Cares, the Flemish Government (Belgium), the Wavin water distribution group, the Dutch Aqua for All Foundation and the Danone Waters company in Japan – are working to support improved water and sanitation in Mali. The projects are making a difference for children and their families across the country.
Help for schools
The Malian Government has developed a National Strategic Plan for the Promotion of Hygiene Education in Schools.
|© UNICEF Mali/2010/Good|
|A student at Koutienso Primary School near Segou, Mali, uses the school's new clean water pump.|
UNICEF and its partners are supporting Mali’s national education, sanitation, water and health services to provide an estimated 60 per cent of schools with appropriate water and sanitation facilities and to promote safe hygiene practices in school – a significant step for Mali towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation.
"It's the right of every child to have water, hygiene and sanitation at school,” said UNICEF Mali Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Manager Nicolas Osbert.
He added that washing hands with soap and water after leaving the latrine will “not only lead to better health and learning conditions, but will also make [children] agents of change in their community and homes."
Water is health
For children at Koutienso Primary School near the town of Segou, life at school has completely changed since work began on a new pump for safe drinking water.
Soap and clean water within easy reach now allow children to wash their hands at key moments in the day – especially after using the latrine and before eating their mid-day meal. This simple step will go a long way towards keeping children healthy.
|© UNICEF Mali/2010/Good|
|Malian students stand in front of their school's lavatory, which is gender-separated and labelled 'girls.'|
For Josephine, 9, the new water pump is already making a big difference.
“Clean water is protecting children from serious illnesses,” she said, adding that she no longer falls ill with diarrhoea from drinking water at school. Containers to dispense water are now available in each classroom and teachers instruct students on good hygiene practices.
Progress for girls
Josephine and her classmates are also benefiting from separate latrines for girls, providing the privacy and hygiene to which they are entitled.
It's estimated that less than 14 per cent of schools in Mali have separate latrines for girls. Shared-gender toilets, coupled with poor overall sanitation, discourages many girls from attending school.
But simple, low-cost water, sanitation and hygiene solutions can immediately boost a girl’s chance to complete her education. And improved access to clean water, latrines and soap for washing hands will mean that more children – both boys and girls – will stay healthy and remain in school longer.