International News

Global: Nearly half schools lack basic hand washing facilities

As schools worldwide struggle with reopening, the latest data from UN agencies has revealed that 43 per cent of schools around the world lacked access to basic hand washing with soap and water in 2019. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) findings reveal a stark failure to meet a key condition for schools to be able to operate safely in the midst of the COVID-19 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 prioritise 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 hand washing facilities at their schools, which puts them at increased risk of COVID-19 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 hand washing facilities and half of schools lack basic sanitation and water services. “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.” Read more: WHO news release.

 

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