1 in 4 schools in Romania lacked basic handwashing facilities prior to COVID-19 pandemic — UNICEF, WHO

19 August 2020
Children wash hands at the canteen of Secondary School No 20 in Toretsk, Donetsk region. Teachers and children experience regular water cuts due to the damaged water infrastructure. The school No 20 is located 10 km from the contact line, and it t was hit by shrapnel shells many times since the beginning of the conflict.
UNICEF Filippov

Bucharest, 13 August 2020 – As schools worldwide struggle with reopening, the latest data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) reveal that 28 per cent of schools across Romania lacked access to basic handwashing with soap and water in 2019 – a key condition for schools to be able to operate safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report further finds that in Romania, only 72 per cent of schools had basic access to clean drinking water and 72 per cent had access to basic sanitation facilities.

“Romanian children need to be able to continue to learn. Formal education was mostly halted at the beginning of March. While returning to schools should happen in the safest possible conditions for children and their families as well as teachers, one in four schools does not have access to adequate hand hygiene, clean drinking water and safe sanitation.  This very moment is the best opportunity to fix this challenge once and for all. Building back better, providing the most vulnerable children with functional hygienic facilities that are critical for their health”, said Gabriel Vockel, Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Romania.

According to the report, 818 million children around the world lack basic handwashing facilities at their schools, which puts them at increased risk of COVID-19 and other transmittable diseases. More than one third of these children (295 million) are from sub-Saharan Africa. In the least developed countries, 7 out of 10 schools lack basic handwashing facilities and half of schools lack basic sanitation and water services.

The report stresses that governments seeking to control the spread of COVID-19 must balance the need for implementation of public health measures with the associated social and economic impacts of lockdown measures. Evidence of the negative impacts of prolonged school closures on children’s safety, wellbeing and learning are well-documented, the report says.

Access to WASH services is essential for effective infection prevention and control in schools and is a major focus of government strategies for the safe reopening and operation of schools during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Of the 818 million children who lacked a basic handwashing service at their school, 355 million went to schools which had facilities with water but no soap, and 462 million to schools which had no facilities or water available for handwashing.
  • In the 60 countries at highest risk of health and humanitarian crises due to COVID-19, 3 in 4 children lacked basic handwashing service at their school at the start of the outbreak; half of all children lacked basic water service; and more than half lacked basic sanitation service.
  • 1 in 3 schools worldwide had either limited drinking water service or no drinking water service at all.
  • 698 million children lacked basic sanitation service at their school. 

The report identifies several resources necessary for COVID-19 prevention and control in schools, including 10 immediate actions and safety checklists. It builds on guidelines on the safe reopening of schools issued by UNESCO, UNICEF, WFP and the World Bank with practical advice for national and local authorities on how to prepare for safe school reopening and keep children safe when they return to school. The guidelines include several WASH-related protocols on hygiene measures, use of personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfection, as well as providing access to clean water, handwashing stations with soap, and safe toilets.

UNICEF and WHO are committed to achieving equitable access to adequate WASH services worldwide. The agencies recently launched a joint initiative, Hand Hygiene for All, to support the most vulnerable communities with the means to protect their health and environment. It brings together international partners, national governments, public and private sectors, and civil society to ensure affordable products and services are available, especially in disadvantaged areas.

 

About the Joint Monitoring Programme

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene is responsible for monitoring global progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets and indicators relating drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The JMP produces national, regional and global estimates of progress on WASH in households, schools and health care facilities.

Media Contacts

Raluca Dinu-Paicu
Media & Advocacy Officer
UNICEF in Romania
Tel: +40 744 786 809
Tel: +40 21 2017865

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For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.

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