1,000 schools get water, sanitation and hygiene education

WASHINGTON, DC, July 28, 2009 -- An effort launched a year ago with the intention of extending access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to 1,000 schools in developing countries has demonstrated that the successful scaling up of these urgently needed interventions is possible...

WASHINGTON, DC, July 28, 2009 -- An effort launched a year ago with the intention of extending access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to 1,000 schools in developing countries has succeeded, demonstrating first hand that the successful scaling up of these urgently needed interventions is possible. With potentially a million schools worldwide lacking access to WASH, it is critical to scale up WASH-in-Schools programs across the developing world.

The U.S. WASH-in-Schools Initiative -- launched at the National Geographic Society in March 2008 -- focused a spotlight on the fact that half the world's schools lack access to water and basic sanitation. It was designed to build on existing work by local governments, UNICEF and nonprofits, while recognizing that schools could become centers for not only education but also improved health.

How this need relates to poverty around the world particularly resonated with students at Washington, D.C.'s Oyster Adams Bilingual School. "I learned there was no clean water in many parts of the world, not just Africa," explained Margueritte Harris, a student at Oyster-Adams School which has committed to raise $2,565 for a school in Bolivia.

Exchanging pen pal letters and sharing photos helped thousands of U.S. students grasp that there are real children and stories behind the abstract and daunting statistics.

An array of nonprofits, foundations, corporations, U.S. schools, civic groups, USAID, U.S. State Department and UNICEF made the U.S. WASH-in-Schools Initiative an integral part of supplying water, sanitation and hygiene education to over 650,000 students in 30 developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia this past year.

Several particularly innovative funding groups emerged to support WASH-in-Schools. For example, H2O for Life matched U.S. schools with overseas schools in need of WASH, while charity: water carried out remarkable marketing for WASH-in-Schools programs. The Global Water Challenge significantly expanded its program through the Clean Start Fund.

A teacher from Rafael Herrera School in San Lorenzo, Nicaragua, which benefited from the Initiative, recalled that "children got diarrhea and were vomiting because the water was contaminated and some of the children were so sick they had to go to the hospital; several students missed up to two weeks of school." To address this situation, the nonprofit El Porvenir rehabilitated a well at the school, added a rope pump and constructed a protective slab to protect the well water from contamination. They also conducted hygiene training with students and teachers to emphasize the need to wash hands and properly store water to avoid water-borne illnesses. Now the school pays an affordable monthly fee for the project's maintenance and has safe drinking water. The results of the project were summed up by nine-year-old student Francisca, "We feel very grateful because now we don't get sick."

>> Click here for the list of specific schools where a WASH program was implemented [.pdf]
>> Click here for the July 2009 issue of the Water Advocates e-newsletter [.pdf]

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