Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in schools: Special focus on COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to accelerate progress on WASH in schools. Global school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic present an unprecedented risk to children’s education and wellbeing.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to accelerate progress on WASH in schools. Global school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic present an unprecedented risk to children’s education and wellbeing. Prolonged closures will have negative impacts on learning outcomes and disrupt school-based services essential for the nutrition, health, welfare and protection of vulnerable children. WHO and UNICEF guidelines on COVID-19 infection prevention and control in schools identify a range of measures that need to be in place for schools to reopen and operate safely. They emphasize the importance of hygiene for reducing transmission and recommend all schools enforce regular handwashing, ensure daily disinfection and cleaning of surfaces, provide basic water, sanitation and waste management facilities, and follow appropriate environmental cleaning and decontamination procedures.
However, in the 60 countries identified as having the highest risk of health and humanitarian crisis due to COVID-19, one in two schools lacked basic water and sanitation services and three in four lacked basic handwashing services at the start of the pandemic. Accelerating progress in countries with the lowest coverage of WASH in schools will therefore be critical to improve school safety during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.