Lessons for Life: Sanitation, Hygiene and Education

Date: 3rd September 2018

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Blog from the ED

I just returned from the World Water Week conference in Stockholm. There, some 3,000 experts discussed all sorts of water- and sanitation-related issues. One session which resonated strongly for us, as members of WSSCC, and dare I say for the future of the planet, saw the release of a new Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools: Global Baseline Report 2018.

As this issue of the WSSCC Members Newsletter explores the vital links between Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation, and Goal 4, on Quality Education, it is important to remember that, according to the new report, nearly 570 million children lack a basic drinking water service at their school and over 620 million children worldwide lack a basic sanitation service.

These statistics from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme on Water Supply and Sanitation tell us that we have much more work to do. Aside from the existential threat of climate change, there is perhaps no greater challenge for our time than the education of our young people, and especially the education of girls.

In this area, better WASH improves educational outcomes. It is well known in our sector that girls often leave school when there are no girl-friendly toilets; when women can read, they tend to have smaller, healthier, wealthier families. By eradicating preventable diarrhoea, the world would gain some 200 million days of school attendance.

With our partners, we raised this issue – and the educational opportunities linked to WASH in and for schools, at the UN’s High-Level Political Forum this past July in New York. WSSCC will continue to be in service to the sector in its work with partners, and through its programmes on menstrual hygiene management. These efforts will continue to place WASH and education higher on global, regional and national agendas – the latter through the terrific work of our National Coordinators.

What can you, as a WSSCC Member, do? The opportunities are ample:

  • Share the latest WHO/UNICEF report with stakeholders and decisionmakers in your community.
  • Teach children that using toilets and washing their hands keeps them healthy. Encourage them to spread the message in their families.
  • Advocate for girl-friendly toilet facilities in schools.
  • Encourage parents to join forces to construct toilet facilities for the school; use your position to push local NGOs and businesses to work in sanitation.

Schools are invariably linked to early childhood development. But, a young person’s cognitive abilities are seriously impacted if he or she is undernourished, leading to stunting. This is another area where your efforts would be helpful. As our National Coordinator in Cambodia, Dr. Chea Samnang, says, ‘We need to educate people that nutrition is a key input to improve children’s physical and mental ability, and their educational achievement.

Thanks for reading!

Rolf Luyendijk, Executive Director, WSSCC

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