In Bhutan, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme at homes, in schools and in monastic institutions is a vital component of child survival and development. However, challenges remain in increasing access to improved WASH services.
Only 63 percent of the Bhutanese population have access to basic sanitation services. Out of these, majority are in the rural communities.
One in every five schools lacks water for handwashing with soap and functional toilets. Nearly one third of schools have no separate toilets for girls. These deficits severely affect children’s well-being and physical and mental development, while they also bear gender-specific repercussions.
For instance, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) for adolescent girls remains a key challenge. A recent needs assessment study revealed that about 44 percent of adolescent school girls and 50 per cent of nuns missed school lessons and other activities during menstruation. Apart from pain and discomfort, lack of water and clean toilets were one of the main reasons why they missed school.
Most monastic schools and nunneries in Bhutan lack basic hygiene, water and sanitation facilities and water heating systems. The poor sanitation facilities and consequent inadequate personal hygiene lead to serious skin infections, worm infestations and diarrhoea. UNICEF has been working with religious institutions since the 1990s through the Central Monastic Body’s Religion and Health Project. However, there are still many monastic schools and nunneries that require new or continued support. Today, about 34 percent of monastic institutions lack proper sanitation and about 65 percent lack a water supply.
Water, sanitation and hygiene services in healthcare facilities are also limited, with 40 percent of the district hospitals having severe water shortage.