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Water, sanitation and hygiene


Water and sanitation in schools

Classroom discussion on the need for clean water in Lao PDR

The Issues

Water and sanitation situations can determine whether or not a child goes to school. For instance, many families rely on children to fetch water – a chore that takes hours. Diarrhoea, worm infestation and other water-borne diseases take a huge toll on children’s health, making them too ill to attend school and impairing their development.

  • Impact on girls’ education. When family members become ill, girls are often kept at home to care for younger siblings or help with chores, such as fetching water. Girls sometimes cannot cope with the lack of separate, safe and clean latrines in school, and many girls drop out of school when they begin menstruating.
  • Poor sanitation standards at school. Access to safe water is limited or simply does not exist in many of our region’s schools. Toilets or latrines are not adapted for children and are filthy or broken. Personal hygiene is often not taught or practised. A recent survey of 15,000 rural schools in China revealed that less than 10 per cent of them had adequate water, sanitation and hand washing facilities.
  • Schools as catalyst for change. Schools provide effective settings for teaching hygiene in our region, where primary school enrolment is high. School children are open to new ideas, which can lead to lifelong habits. They also eagerly pass on hygiene information to their family members and neighbours.

Phang Nga, Southern Thailand
© UNICEF/THL00032/Mohan
UNICEF sets up school brushing stations in Thailand

UNICEF in Action

UNICEF works closely with schools to improve children’s chances of staying in class. The five key components of our water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in schools are:

  • Providing, maintaining and encouraging the use of child-friendly – and girl-friendly – sanitary facilities;
  • Providing safe drinking water and adequate water for hygiene;  
  • Promoting hand washing with soap before eating, after using the toilet and before preparing or serving food;
  • Creating hygiene education based on a life-skills approach, with outreach to homes and communities; and
  • Creating a policy environment and adequate institutional arrangements that enable better sanitation and hygiene.





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