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Water and sanitation bring children back to school

© UNICEF Kenya/2004
Children at Kalacha Primary School in northern Kenya wash their hands after UNICEF helps install clean water.

KENYA, 25 August 2004 - Safe water and adequate sanitation in schools are as important to quality education as books and pencils. But in many schools basic facilities are not provided. As a result, children may stay away.

Girls in particular can be discouraged by inadequate sanitation. UNICEF recognises that all primary schools need clean, separate latrines for boys and girls and is committed to helping provide them.

At the Kalacha Nomadic Girls’ Primary School in northern Kenya, UNICEF helped install a new water system that cuts the risk of diseases such as diarrhoea.

“The diarrhoea cases were very high because they were throwing into the well any kind of containers, contaminating them with their hands, keeping them anywhere in the dust and throwing them back into the well again,” says UNICEF Project Assistant James Muthrin.

“But now we have a motorized system, the water is safe and the diarrhoea cases are gone.”

But providing clean water and sanitation alone is not enough. Teaching good hygiene is essential, especially in the village where these girls live, where the wells are open and easily contaminated.

Collecting water in these communities is often the responsibility of children, and hygiene lessons learned at school can save lives at home.

“When they go to the toilet they don’t go without their shoes because that is what we have already told them, cleanliness inside the toilets,” says Kalacha school teacher Hawo Dadacha.

“When they want to eat food, they must clean their hands very well. Then after that they clean their dishes and plates – everything. They have learned so many things.” Clean water, adequate sanitation and hygiene education in primary schools are essential to children’s survival. In 2000, UNICEF helped launch the School Sanitation and Hygiene Education Project to promote good hygiene in primary schools and enable communities to put it into practice.

This has resulted in more children, especially girls, going to school and preparing for a better future.




25 August 2004: Clean water brings children to school but hygiene education is essential

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Related links

Press release: World facing silent emergency as billions struggle without clean water and basic sanitation

Publication: Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: A mid-term assessment of progress

Website: Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: A mid-term assessment of progress

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Clean water brings health and happiness to mothers and children

Read more about UNICEF's work on water, environment and sanitation

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