Schools are not equipped to provide a healthy and inclusive learning environment for all children – UNICEF, WHO

Despite a steady decline in the proportion of schools without basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, there are still profound disparities between and within countries, UNICEF and WHO said today. In Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and fragile contexts, school children are the most affected, and emerging data show that few schools have WASH services available for the disabled.

“Too many children go to school without drinking water, clean toilets and hand soap, making learning difficult,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF Director of Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Climate, Environment, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction. . “The COVID-19 stressed the importance of providing a healthy and inclusive learning environment for pandemics. To protect children’s education, the path to recovery must be to provide schools with the most basic services to fight infectious diseases today and in the future.”

“Access to water, sanitation and hygiene is essential for effective infection prevention and control, but is essential for children’s health, development and well-being,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the WHO Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. . “Schools should be places where children grow up and do not suffer from difficulties or infection due to lack of basic infrastructure or poor maintenance.”

Schools have a critical role to play in fostering the emergence of healthy habits and behaviors, but many still did not have basic WASH services in 2021. According to the latest data from the WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP):

  • Worldwide, 29% of schools still do not have basic drinking water services, affecting 546 million school children; 28% of schools still do not have basic sanitation services, affecting 539 million school children; and 42% of schools do not yet have basic hygiene services, affecting 802 million school children.
  • One-third of children without basic school services live in LDCs, and more than half live in fragile contexts.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania are the only two regions where the coverage of basic sanitation and hygiene services in schools remains below 50 per cent; Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region with less than 50 per cent coverage of basic drinking water services in schools.
  • To achieve universal coverage in schools by 2030, the current progress rates on basic drinking water must be increased by 14 times, progress rates on basic sanitation must be tripled, and basic hygiene services must be increased fivefold.
  • In LDC and fragile contexts, achieving universal coverage of basic sanitation services in schools by 2030 would require a 100- to 50-fold increase in current progress rates.

To improve pandemic preparedness and response, WASH and other elements of infection prevention and control (IPC) should be monitored more frequently in schools, including cleaning, disinfection, and solid waste management.

Providing WASH services available to people with disabilities in schools is critical to the inclusive learning of all children. However, only a limited number of countries report on this indicator and national definitions, and far fewer offer WASH for the disabled.

  • Emerging national data show that due to the low WASH coverage available to the disabled and varying greatly between school levels and urban and rural locations, schools are more likely to have access to drinking water than access to sanitation or hygiene.
  • In half of the countries where data were available, fewer than a quarter of schools had access to toilets for the disabled. In Yemen, for example, 8 out of 10 schools had toilets, but only 1 out of 50 schools had toilets adapted for the disabled.
  • In most countries with data, schools are more likely to have adapted infrastructure and materials (such as ramps, assistive technologies, learning materials) than toilets adapted for the disabled. In El Salvador, for example, 2 out of 5 schools have adapted infrastructure and materials, but only 1 out of 20 has toilets adapted for the disabled.


Notes for editors:

Read the WHO / UNICEF JMP 2022 data update on schools about WASH and download the data here.

Read more about WHO / UNICEF JMP here.

Download multimedia content here.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is working in some of the hardest parts of the world to reach the most affected children in the world. In more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world.

For more information on UNICEF and its work, visit: www.unicef.org

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About WHO

Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization guides and advocates for efforts around the world to provide equal opportunities for a safe and healthy life everywhere. We are a United Nations health agency that connects nations, partners and people at the forefront in more than 150 places – a leading response to global health emergencies, preventing disease, tackling the causes of health problems and expanding access to medicines and health care. Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the most vulnerable.

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For more information, contact:

Sara Alhattab, UNICEF New York, Tel .: +1 917 957 6536, [email protected]

WHO Media Group: Email: [email protected]

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