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Lack of safe water and sanitation in schools affects children’s learning – and their lives

UNICEF and partners issue call for action for water, sanitation and hygiene in schools

DUBAI/NEW YORK, 5 April 2010 – In 60 countries in the developing world, more than half of primary schools have no adequate water facilities and nearly two thirds lack adequate sanitation, according to a new report by UNICEF and partners, released today at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development (DIHAD).

See report: Raising Clean Hands: Advancing Learning, Health and Participation through WASH in Schools

“Millions of children in the developing world go to schools which have no drinking water or clean latrines – basic things that many of us take for granted,” said Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, at the launch. “Every child has the right to be in a school that offers safe water, healthy sanitation and hygiene education.”

Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and lack of hygiene not only affect the health, safety, and quality of life of children. They also claim the lives of an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five who die each year from diarrhea.

Providing better water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in schools reduces hygiene-related diseases and can help curb the 272 million schools days missed every year due to diarrhea.

It also protects girls’ right to education as girls are reluctant to continue their schooling when toilets and washing facilities are not private, not safe, not clean, or simply not available.

The report, Raising Clean Hands: Advancing Learning, Health and Participation through WASH in Schools, is a call to action for policymakers, school administrators, communities and parents to make sure that all children go to a school with child-friendly water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

It urges decision-makers and key stakeholders to increase investment for WASH in schools, with the participation of communities, civil society, the media, students and children themselves.

“Providing WASH in schools will help keep the promise of meeting the Millennium Development Goals of universal access to primary education, reducing child mortality and halving the proportion of people without access to safe water and basic sanitation,” Kaag said.

Note to the editor: This Call to Action for WASH in Schools is the result of collaboration between CARE, Dubai Cares, Emory University Center for Global Safe Water, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, Save the Children, UNICEF, Water Advocates, WaterAid, Water For People and the World Health Organization.


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa,
Tel + 962-79-700-4567,

Saira Khan, UNICEF Media New York,
Tel + 1 212-326-7224,




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