Thirsty children cannot learn, nor can children who are worried about where they might be able to relieve themselves. And children who are ill from dirty water or because they cannot wash their hands with soap are often unable to go to school at all. An estimated 443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses.
WaterAid Global Head of Campaigns Savio Carvalho said: “Clean, plentiful water, good sanitation and good hygiene including handwashing with soap are absolutely essential to effective education, wherever you are in the world. Yet more than a third of schools are without even rudimentary access to water. This Global Handwashing Day, we are calling on governments and donors to take action on this injustice.”
Access to water, sanitation and hygiene at school is also a matter of gender equality: Girls are more likely to miss lessons or to drop out completely once they start menstruating if their school does not have a decent toilet where they can change menstrual cloths in dignity and privacy.
Globally, 1 in 10 people don’t have clean water, and 1 in 3 people don’t have a decent toilet. It is a health crisis which claims the lives of 289,000 children under five each year, and which leaves girls and women particularly burdened and at risk, from the moment of birth, throughout their school years and into adulthood and old age.
Through the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, world leaders have promised to ensure everyone everywhere has access to safe water and sanitation by 2030. To keep that promise, ensuring water, sanitation and hygiene in every school must be a priority.