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Clean Water and Sanitation Promote Healthy Learning in Schools

World Water Day 2008

Clean water, sanitary facilities and good hygiene practices are all integrally linked to a child’s right to education and eradicating extreme poverty because each significantly contributes to the health, well-being and school attendance of children.

According to UNICEF, each year, 400 million children suffer from intestinal worms due to inadequate sanitation facilities and unsafe drinking water. For school-aged children, these parasitic infections increase their chances of contracting other diseases, depleting their energy and limiting their ability to learn.

Lack of water and basic sanitation in schools is particularly detrimental to girls, especially those who have reached puberty. Many girls do not attend school during menstruation if clean and separate latrines for girls are not available.  Their absenteeism often leads to poor school performance and high drop-out rates. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 50 percent of all girls drop out of primary school because of insufficient access to safe water and inadequate sanitation facilities. 

Despite these daunting challenges, CCF has seen an increase in enrollment and attendance as a result of CCF programs that provide essential water, sanitation and hygiene services to schools. In the Gambia, Sierra Leone and India, CCF is working with teachers and parents to drill boreholes, install water pumps and build separate ventilated pit latrines for girls and boys.

In Ethiopia, girls clubs are conducting basic health workshops, managing community sensitization campaigns, running peer education services and participating in studies on issues affecting girls. At the preschool level, CCF is also working with teachers and students to establish clean learning environments.

In Honduras and Ecuador, schools deliver essential messages to children and their families on topics such as personal hygiene, clean water, and proper use and care of latrines. Trained community volunteers conduct ongoing family visits to ensure positive changes in latrine care and waste treatment. 

With events such as World Water Day on March 22, and the launch of the United Nation’s International Year of Sanitation 2008, it is CCF’s hope to combine efforts on water, sanitation, hygiene and education to ensure the healthy development of children around the world.                               

Advocating for Child-Friendly Schools in Washington

Insufficient access to safe water and sanitation has serious repercussions on a child’s education.  Children in developing countries, especially girls, are often required to spend countless hours collecting water for their families instead of attending school.  And schools that lack safe water and adequate sanitation facilities often have low student attendance.

As part of CCF’s advocacy work on education, CCF Senior Education Specialist, Gilberto Mendez, presented at the congressional briefing, “Achieving Education for All by 2015: Quality Counts,” on Feb. 1. CCF is an active member of the Basic Education Coalition which sponsored the event.

Gilberto talked about CCF's Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) in the Philippines in which safe water and sanitation are key components.  When the program began in 2004, there were many challenges including: reaching excluded children; making schools more accessible and safe; improving the quality of teaching; supporting children’s participation; and making sustainable changes.  CCF is now working with 50 schools and assisting nearly 21,000 children in the Philippines.

As part of this program, CCF has committed to making schools safe and accessible by improving facilities.  Retention walls, foot paths, safe water, and boys and girls toilets have been improved in 40 percent of schools.  Parents now view local schools as safe places for their children, and students can now thrive in a secure environment.

To learn more about the policy issues CCF and our colleagues are using to reach the goal of education for all, please visit the Basic Education Coalition’s Web site: