Call to Action
Fulfilling every child's right to water, sanitation and hygiene education remains a major challenge for policymakers, school administrators and communities in many countries. In a group of surveyed developing countries, less than half of primary schools have access to safe water and just over a third have adequate sanitation. Lack of coverage data for WASH in Schools is one barrier to securing the rights of children. Of the 60 developing countries surveyed, only 33 provided data on access to water in primary schools and 25 have data on sanitation.1
Great strides have been made, nonetheless, to safeguard the well-being of children in schools. Millions of schoolchildren now have access to drinking water, sanitation facilities and hygiene education. And the experience gained over the past decade can be well applied to sustaining WASH in Schools programmes that improve health, foster learning and enable children to participate as agents of change for their siblings, their parents and the community at large. As citizens, parents, policymakers and government representatives, we all have a role in making sure that every child receives the benefits of WASH in Schools:
- Clean water for drinking and washing.
- Dignity and safety through ample toilets and washstands, separated for girls and boys.
- Education for good hygiene.
- Healthy school environments through safe waste disposal.
This Call to Action for WASH in Schools is the result of collaboration between CARE, Dubai Cares, Emory University Center for Global Safe Water, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, Save the Children, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Water Advocates, WaterAid, Water For People and the World Health Organization (WHO). It calls on decision-makers to increase investments and on concerned stakeholders to plan and act in cooperation – so that all children go to a school with child-friendly water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
1United Nations Children's Fund country office annual reports, 2008.
The Six Action Points
Because every child deserves WASH in Schools, we are calling for renewed commitments to:
- Increase investment in WASH in Schools, mobilizing resources to secure children's health, now and for generations to follow.
- Engage those who set policies at the global, national, sub-national and local levels to support WASH in Schools. Widespread communication and advocacy will be vital to establishing national plans of action and bringing all stakeholders from the health, education, WASH, nutrition and food security sectors to act together to fulfill the promise of water, sanitation and hygiene in schools.
- Involve multiple stakeholders - community members, civil society advocates, media, students, school staff, local and regional authorities, national ministries of education, water and health, non-governmental organisations and public-private partnerships - in the cooperative plans and actions that sustain WASH in Schools.
- Demonstrate quality WASH in Schools projects that yield a healthy school environment. Sustainable programmes enhance children's capacities to learn and achieve. These programmes incorporate construction, maintenance or rehabilitation of child-friendly water and sanitation facilities, hygiene education to change behaviour, and participation of students, teachers, administrators and the neighbouring community.
- Monitor WASH in Schools programmes to ensure accountability and evaluate progress. The global goals for WASH in Schools will not be reached unless programme coverage is included in existing national and global data-collection systems, such as Education Management Information Systems, and mapped out on a continuous basis.
- Contribute evidence that provides a solid base for informed decision-making and effective distribution of funds. Gathering and sharing comprehensive data, disaggregated by gender, access and quality of services, will equip policymakers with indispensible tools and provide project participants with valuable guidance.