Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services coupled with poor hygiene practices affect millions of children every day through illness, death, impoverishment and lack of opportunities for development. The availability of good water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools – and education about these issues – is critical for facilitating children’s right to water, sanitation and hygiene as well as their right to education. Loss of school days due to diarrhoea, intestinal worms and other illnesses caused by poor water and hygiene greatly affects learning and development. When schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities, girls in particular are denied access to education. Girls and female teachers also lose days due to the lack of facilities that take menstrual hygiene into consideration. Parents are less productive due to illness and time taken collecting water and thus less able to provide adequately for their children’s needs. Inequities in access to water and sanitation are made worse by humanitarian disasters and fragile contexts. Given that about two-thirds of schools, globally, are faith-related it is vital that these faith communities provide facilities and effective water, sanitation and hygiene education in their schools.
Why partner with religious communities for water, sanitation and hygiene programming?
Linking faith with construction of water facilities and toilets in schools does not sound like an obvious link, yet it is important.
Water is the most essential element for human survival and as such has a prominent place in many of the world’s faith traditions. Cleansing with water is a nearly universal metaphor for spiritual cleansing, expressed in rituals such as bathing in the Ganges River for Hindus, washing before prayers in a mosque or baptism in the Christian tradition.
What can religious communities do to promote water, sanitation and hygiene?