Around 818 mln children lack basic hand-washing facilities in schools: Report

Two in every five schools in the world do not provide children with soap and water, say the WHO and UNICEF

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 13 August 2020

Around 818 million children across the world lacked basic hand-washing facilities in their schools, making them prone to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), said the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) August 13, 2020.

Forty-three per cent — or two in every five schools in the world — did not provide children with soap and water, said a report by the WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme.

Access to these basic facilities can keep the novel coronavirus — that causes COVID-19 — and other transmittable diseases from spreading. These basic hygiene measures form a key requirement for schools to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, said the report.

Several parts of the world have been in lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. Governments, however, needed to balance the social and economic impacts from these measures by implementing public health measures, according to the report.

Seven out of 10 schools in the least-developed countries lacked hand-washing facilities, while half the schools did not provide children access to basic sanitation and water services, the report added.

More than a third — or 295 million children — of the 818 million children who lacked these basic facilities were from sub-Saharan Africa, it said.

“Global school closures since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have presented an unprecedented challenge to children’s education and well-being,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

Of the 818 million children who were deprived of basic hand-washing, 355 million went to schools that had facilities with water but no soap, while 462 million had no facilities or water, according to the report.

Three in four of the children in 60 countries — at the highest risk of health and humanitarian crises from COVID-19 — did not get access to basic hand-washing in their schools at the beginning of the outbreak. Half these children lacked basic water and sanitation services respectively, the report pointed out.

One in three schools had either limited drinking water facilities or no such services at all, it said.

“We must prioritise children’s learning. This means making sure schools are safe to reopen, including with access to hand hygiene, clean drinking water and safe sanitation,” said Fore.

The report identified resources necessary for COVID-19 prevention and controls in schools — building upon already-stated guidelines given by UNICEF, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the World Food Programme and the World Bank.

Several water, sanitation and hygiene-related protocols on hygiene measures — including use of personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfection — were laid out by the guidelines.

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