Globally, 818m children lack access to soap and water in their schools – Report

NOT less than 818 million children in the world lacked basic handwashing facilities in their schools, latest data by the World health Organisation, (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF)  Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) has revealed.

The report disclosed that more than one third of these children, about 295 million, are from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the report, 43 per cent of schools around the world lacked access to basic handwashing with soap and water in 2019, frustrating the possibility of schools operating a safe environment for students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basic handwashing with soap and water is a key condition for schools to be able to operate safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

The report further revealed that in the least developed countries, seven out of 10 schools lack basic hand-washing facilities and half of the schools lack basic sanitation and water services.

The report stressed that governments seeking to control the spread of COVID-19 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.

“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.”

Speaking on the effect and the need for change, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General stated that improved sanitation was necessary for prevention of COVID-19.

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“Access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is essential for effective infection prevention and control in all settings, including schools,” he said.

“It must be a major focus of government strategies for the safe reopening and operation of schools during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.”

The ICIR reported how lack of lack of sanitisers, facemasks and basic handwashing facilities disrupted school reopening process in Abuja.

After months of closing down schools in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government on in July, announced its plan to activate a ‘safe reopening’ of schools, categorizing it as the next phase of easing the lockdown, which has been in place since March.



    Boss Mustapha, the chairman of the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force while sharing the daily COVID-19 brief disclosed that while the country inches towards reopening educational institutions, graduating students are expected to resume classes by July 13, in order to aid preparation for final examinations, while teachers are expected to be on ground from July 6.

    However, it was found that lack of basic sanitation facilities, especially in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT marred the process.

    Abubakar Dan-Asabe, the Special Assistant to the FCTA Minister acknowledged that some schools have not been provided with the necessities yet.

    “Distribution of the equipment is a gradual process and it is still on-going, as I speak to you, they (ministry) are still visiting the schools,” Dan-Asabe had said.

    Seun Durojaiye is a journalist with International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

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