Water, sanitation and hygiene (W.A.S.H)
UNICEF believes everyone has a role to play when it comes to safe drinking water, improved sanitation and good personal hygiene in Belizean schools and communities
Access to clean drinking water is challenging in many parts of Belize, particularly in rural areas and the south side of Belize City. Over 20 percent of schools report an unreliable water supply and 25 percent have untreated water for their students and staff.
In terms of sanitation, only 30 percent of Belize’s schools meet the internationally accepted standard of one toilet per 25 girls; only 33 percent meet the standard for boys of 50 boys per toilet. Only 13 percent of our schools provide bathroom access to children with physical disabilities.
Basic cleaning materials, like toilet paper and soap, are not always available. 40 percent of the schools surveyed do not provide toilet paper and almost 30 percent do not have any soap for children to use while washing hands.
The situation is particularly difficult for girls in primary and secondary schools who are menstruating.
There is a pressing need for improved latrines and supplies like pads, tampons and trash cans, so girls can practice good menstrual hygiene in privacy
UNICEF conducted the first Menstrual Health Management (MHM) study in Belize. The report shows that gender inequality and discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services often cause girls’ and women’s menstrual hygiene needs to go unmet, especially for those living in rural communities.
In collaboration with the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) team, the MHM study revealed a pressing need for improved latrine design and the increased availability of supplies like pads and tampons, and trash cans in the stalls, so girls can practice good menstrual hygiene and to ensure privacy. The report also underscored the lack of adequate water supply and need for more bathroom facilities, as well as hygiene awareness and sensitivity training in schools to avoid the embarrassment — even bullying — some menstruating girls face.
To create safe, healthy schools, the WASH programme has four key goals:
- Improved infrastructure
- Increased capacity
- Increased communication
- Greater community participation
Meeting these goals involves collaboration between the Ministry of Education, schools’ management, teachers and students — everyone has a role to play.
WASH supports initiatives that ensure there are adequate toilets and sinks for the number of children in school, and that schools maintain existing facilities in good working order. It also supports setting national standards for water and sanitation facilities and the strengthening of the curriculum that teaches children good health and hygiene.
Priorities include the provision of clean, safe water and water receptacles for storing at all schools. If treated water is not available at the source, it must be treated at the school before children can access it.
UNICEF supports improved sanitation standards for all of Belize’s children to ensure there will be more sinks and toilets for girls and urinals for boys, as well as bathroom facilities to accommodate children with physical disabilities.
WASH demonstrations in schools teach children good handwashing with soap and the proper use of sanitation and hygiene facilities. Teachers are given tips for encouraging healthy behaviours and maintaining clean facilities. Improved communication is occurring as school principals act as a bridge between children, parents and school management and foster healthy school conditions. Schools’ management and the Ministry of Education are being encouraged to offer support and help to construct new facilities.
The MHM study demonstrates the importance of these key partnerships and UNICEF’s role in supporting WASH in Belize’s schools. The MHM survey was conducted in collaboration with the Ministries of Health and Education and Belize’s national multi-sectoral technical working group on water, sanitation and hygiene, which has begun holding training workshops — including sensitivity training for boys — to improve conditions for Belizean girls and young women in primary and secondary schools.
We remind you of good water and hygiene practices. Learn more from this video:
In times of emergencies, water sources may become contaminated. Follow these simple steps to protect yourself and your families.