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Zimbabwe, March 2016: Aliah Silibiza’s story: No WASH facilities equals no inclusion

© UNICEF/2016/Richard Nyamanhindi
Aliah Silibiza and her friend Jabulani Vhudzi from Muuyu Primary School in Mwenezi District say they are grateful to the Australian National Committee for bringing water and toilets to their school.

By Richard Nyamanhindi

School life for 9-year-old Aliah Silibiza of Muuyu Satellite Primary School in Mwenezi district of Masvingo Province in South Zimbabwe, involved a lot of daily barriers. Aliah was born with congenital malformation, With twisted arms and legs, she is just three and a half feet tall. Her friends help to push her wheelchair over the sandy and rocky school grounds, but getting to the toilet had always been a daily struggle.

In many parts of rural Zimbabwe, the majority of children with disabilities, spend most of their lives marginalized by society and deprived of human dignity.

In Mwenezi district, UNICEF and Plan International with funding from the Australian UNICEF National Committee are supporting the implementation of a project delivering safe water, sanitation and hygiene education in nine satellite schools – the WASH Child Friendly Schools Project.

Access to water and toilets is fundamental to human dignity and health.

“Before there was a safe water point at Muuyu Primary School I hardly could afford to carry water to school,” Aliah says. “I could not push my wheel chair from home and uphill with my books and a water container. As a result I had to go without enough water for the day or was forced to ask for some from my classmates.”

A little over three months ago, however, things changed after the WASH Child Friendly Schools project drilled a borehole, constructed toilets and a handwashing facility at Aliah’s school.

“My life has never been the same with safe water nearby and a toilet that is disability friendly. It now takes me less than five minutes to collect water and I can also use the toilet without hurdles,” says Aliah.

Muuyu Primary School was able to construct an accessible latrine big enough for her wheelchair. The project also helped her with hygiene training which she has also taught her family at home.

Aliah is one of several pupils at Muuyu Primary School who have benefited from better sanitation and access to clean water. And with improved access to inclusive safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, Aliah now has ample time to participate in and contribute to her school work than before.

Aliah’s experience provides an inspiring example of how improved access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene education can transform the lives of children with disabilities.

Indeed educational experience is about much more than simply learning in the classroom. Without the comfort and privacy of suitable facilities to meet basic human needs, no child will feel truly welcome. Aliah’s school just a few months ago did not have accessible toilet facilities. As with many satellite schools, she had to use the bush, which was not possible without assistance from some of her classmates.



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