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WASH in Schools

Call to Action


Fulfilling every child's right to water, sanitation and hygiene education remains a major challenge for policymakers, school administrators and communities in many countries. In a group of surveyed developing countries, less than half of primary schools have access to safe water and adequate sanitation.  Lack of coverage data for WASH in Schools is one barrier to securing the rights of children.  Of the 60 developing countries surveyed, only 33 provided data on access to water in primary schools and 25 have data on sanitation.1

Great strides have been made, nonetheless, to safeguard the well-being of children in schools. Millions of schoolchildren now have access to drinking water, sanitation facilities and hygiene education.  And the experience gained over the past decade can be well applied to sustaining WASH in Schools programmes that improve health, foster learning and enable children to participate as agents of change for their siblings, their parents and the community at large. As citizens, parents, policymakers and government representatives, we all have a role in making sure that every child receives the benefits of WASH in Schools:

  • Clean water for drinking and washing.
  • Dignity and safety through ample toilets and washstands, separated for girls and boys.
  • Education for good hygiene.
  • Healthy school environments through safe waste disposal.

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, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Water Advocates, WaterAid, Water For People and the World Health Organization (WHO). It calls on decision-makers to increase investments and on concerned stakeholders to plan and act in cooperation – so that all children go to a school with child-friendly water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

1United Nations Children's Fund country office annual reports, 2011.

The Six Action Points

Because every child deserves WASH in Schools, we are calling for renewed commitments to:

  1. Set minimum standards for WASH in Schools. Adopt national, regional and local standards for WASH in Schools, based on UNICEF-World Health Organization guidelines. The minimum standards for WASH in Schools should be specific to each context. These standards should be the basis for national action plans
    that aim to reach all schools within a concrete time frame and should allow for gradual improvements to facilities and hygiene practices.
  2. Monitor WASH in Schools coverage through Education Management Information Systems (EMIS). Advocate for the inclusion of WASH in Schools indicators in EMIS. Analyse data annually and use the findings for advocacy and better resource allocation. Support the compilation of data on coverage and practices at the global level to attract attention and funding to WASH in Schools.
  3. Engage with at scale WASH in Schools programmes. Contribute to the bigger picture by bringing individual or small-scale projects into cooperative initiatives that effectively reach more schools. Gradual improvements to facilities and hygiene practices require less investment in operation and maintenance and
    can be sustained with local resources. Steady progress is key to establishing sustainable, at scale programmes for WASH in Schools. These programmes include budget lines for capital improvements, operation and maintenance of WASH facilities, and recurrent costs such as purchases of soap and materials for personal cleansing.
  4. Involve multiple stakeholders to support WASH in Schools programmes. Community members, civil society advocates, members of the media, students, school staff, local and regional authorities, non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups, public-private partnerships, and ministries of education, water, health and finance, as well as donors, can all support planning and action for WASH in Schools.
  5. Contribute evidence on the impact of WASH in Schools programmes. Local and global academic communities have expertise that can support the design of
    WASH in Schools programmes and chart their impact. Generating and sharing evidence will provide WASH in Schools advocates with a powerful tool to attract attention and funding to the sector.
  6. Raise the profile of WASH in Schools programmes. Adapt global and regional publications, advocacy materials and knowledge for the local context and disseminate them widely. Encourage members of the community to participate in customizing global WASH in Schools experiences to local settings. The process can begin with translating Raising Even More Clean Hands into multiple languages. Local organizations can join the advocacy by endorsing a customized publication with their logos.



Video interviews

Clarissa Brocklehurst, former UNICEF Associate Director, Water Sanitation and Hygiene
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Therese Dooley, UNICEF Senior Adviser Sanitation and Hygiene
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Susan Durston, UNICEF Associate Director, Education Programmes
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Why is Wash in Schools important?

Hear what Wash partners have to say about the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene in an education setting.
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How is your organization contributing to the Call to Action?

Learn how global partners are mobilizing to accelerate Wash in Schools programming.
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