A majority of schools around the world lacked basic hand-washing facilities in 2019, according to the latest data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP).
According to the JMP report, 43 per cent of schools around the world lacked access to basic hand-washing with soap and water in 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As schools mull reopening amid the pandemic, the data is one of the primary causes of concerns for authorities.
“Global school closures since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic have presented an unprecedented challenge to children’s education and well-being,” 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, nearly 818 million children do not have basic hand-washing facilities at their schools. This could put them at risk of being infected with Covid-19 as schools reopen.
Over one-third of these children, approximately 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 the schools lack basic sanitation and water services,” the report said.
The report stresses on authorities to ensure proper facilities and health and safety measures at schools before they reopen.
“Access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is essential for effective infection prevention and control in all settings, including schools,” said 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.”
The report further added that 698 million children lacked basic sanitation service at their school.
UNICEF and WHO recently launched a joint initiative, Hand Hygiene for All, “to support the most vulnerable communities with the means to protect their health and environment.” The initiative aims at supplying necessary, affordable products to countries to ensure hygiene.