January 28,2011

A Call to Action: WASH in Schools

Attendee at launch of Global Call to Action for WASH in Schools (Photo Credit: Ellyn Walter, Water Advocates)CWW attended UNICEF's Call to Action for WASH in Schools event in Washington DC to learn what we can all do to ensure school children around the world have adequate water and sanitation facilities in their schools.

(Pictured to left: Attendee at launch of Global Call to Action for WASH in Schools. Photo Credits: Ellyn Walter, Water Advocates)




With the school year underway for millions of children around the world, the continued lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities in schools undermines what could be an energetic and promising learning environment. Globally, less than half of all primary schools have access to safe water, while two-thirds of schools lack adequate sanitation facilities.[1] These statistics reveal a significant challenge to national and global efforts to control soil-transmitted helminthes (STH), because water, sanitation and hygiene education (WASH) play critical roles in preventing infection and re-infection with intestinal worms.

Children Without Worms (CWW) has resolutely voiced the need for a holistic approach to tackle the root causes of STH infection. Recently, CWW joined forces with UNICEF and other partners in the Global Call to Action for WASH in Schools (WASH in Schools). This initiative raises awareness about the lagging progress in water and sanitation, helps place WASH in Schools on global and national development agendas, and equips programs with appropriate resources to advocate for WASH.

On October 13, CWW joined 30 organizations in Washington, DC, to launch the Global Call to Action for WASH in Schools, urging policy makers and development partners to increase health, education, and water sector investments in school-based water, sanitation and hygiene programs.

The Benefits of WASH in Schools

WASH in Schools offers numerous benefits: it not only helps prevent worm infection, but also improves overall health, decreases school absenteeism, fosters improved learning, and facilitates gender equity in school attendance. In addition, WASH in Schools enables children to serve as agents of change, as they take the messages and behaviors they learn in school back to their families and communities.

For these benefits to be realized, local, national and global stakeholders need to strengthen their commitment and accelerate their efforts to provide safe drinking water, child-accessible latrines, separate girls/boys facilities, and hand washing facilities within schools. School curricula must also integrate hygiene education as a fundamental component of the school package, along with blackboards, notebooks, and teachers.

Your Call to Action

CWW urges its recipient countries and partners to join the Global Call to Action for WASH in Schools to help create a safer, healthier, worm-free environment for school children.

STH control programs can educate Ministries responsible for water and sanitation about the local STH situation and invite them to join the Ministries of Health and Education on the school health taskforce. STH control programs can also advocate for policies that mandate appropriate sanitary facilities in all schools, and work together with NGO partners to prioritize endemic areas for WASH interventions.

NGO partners can leverage school-based deworming programs to develop more comprehensive school health programs that include components such as health education, sustainable water and sanitation improvements, and nutritional supplement programs.They could also include overall hygiene messaging in social mobilization activities that precede deworming campaigns.

Donor organizations can support innovative and sustainable efforts focused on preventing infection and re-infection to ensure that any gains deworming programs achieve are maintained. For example, they could support efforts aimed at improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

CWW's advocacy for WASH

In addition to the WASH in Schools campaign, CWW has been energetically advocating for WASH as a vital component of comprehensive control of STH through other media:

For more information and resources to help your WASH in Schools advocacy efforts, visit UNICEF's Call to Action site.

[1] "Raising Clean Hands - Advancing Learning, Health, and Participation through WASH in Schools," published by UNICEF, 2010.

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