WHO, UNICEF Report Highlights Need for WASH as Schools Reopen

The World Health Organization released a report this week emphasizing the need for hygiene, sanitation, and handwashing facilities in schools around the world. As children head back to the classroom this fall, access to these WASH services is an important step for children’s safety.

The report, published in collaboration with UNICEF, highlighted that 43 percent of schools did not have basic handwashing amenities in 2019. An estimated 818 million children are at increased risk of contracting Covid-19 and other diseases due to a lack of hygiene and sanitation in the classroom. The report also noted that while school closures impede learning, countries must seek a balance between public health and education.

“We must prioritize children’s learning,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director, said in a press release. This means making sure that schools are safe to reopen — including with access to hand hygiene, clean drinking water, and safe sanitation.”

UNICEF published a report earlier this year laying out guidelines for reopening schools. Those guidelines include policy reform, financing requirements, and reaching out to those who are marginalized.

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