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2 in 5 schools around the world lacked basic handwashing facilities prior to Coronavirus pandemic — UNICEF, WHO
As schools worldwide struggle with reopening, the latest data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) reveals that 43 per cent of schools around the world 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 Coronavirus pandemic.
“Global school closures since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have presented an unprecedented challenge to children’s education and wellbeing,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “We must prioritize children’s learning. This means making sure that schools are safe to reopen – including with access to hand hygiene, clean drinking water and safe sanitation.”
According to the report, around 818 million children lack basic handwashing facilities at their schools, which puts them at increased risk of Coronavirus 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 Coronavirus must balance the need for implementation of public health measures versus 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 water, sanitation and hygiene services is essential for effective infection prevention and control in all settings, including schools,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “It must be 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 Coronavirus, 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 Coronavirus 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.
Speaking of the UK Government’s role in ensuring adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities in education settings, Anja Nielsen, Unicef UK Senior Policy Adviser, said: “This report highlights the stark global inequalities in access to life-saving water, sanitation and hygiene. As children return to school in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, they need to be able to do so safely, and with access to basic handwashing facilities and clean water. This is key to ensuring that children – especially girls – attend school and should be included in any educational strategy developed by the newly-formed Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.”
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.
Unicef UK’s Save Generation Covid appeal is supporting children and families impacted by Coronavirus across the world. Visit unicef.uk/donate-generationcovid to donate and help #GenerationCovid.
Notes to editors:
- The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest and most urgent global crisis children have faced since World War Two.
- Children’s lives are being upended. Their support systems ripped away, their borders closed, their educations lost, their food supply cut off.
- An additional 6,000 children around the world could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months as the coronavirus pandemic weakens health systems and disrupts routine services like vaccinations. That’s one every 15 seconds.
- UNICEF’s “Save Generation Covid” appeal is the largest ever for children in our 73-year history, and we urgently need funds for lifesaving support and services to ensure that children survive this crisis – and thrive beyond it.
- Together we can Save Generation Covid. Visit unicef.uk/donate-generationcovid to donate and help save #generationcovid.
For more information, please contact:
- Alexandra Murdoch, 0207 375 6179, AlexandraM@unicef.org.uk
- Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030, firstname.lastname@example.org
UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK.
For more information please visit unicef.org.uk
The World Health Organization directs and coordinates international health within the United Nations system. Working with its 194 Member States, WHO’s mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.
For more information about WHO, visit www.who.int.
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.
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