Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) by the WHO and UNICEF found a significant number of schools around the world have no basic handwashing facility prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, while education centers around the world seek to reopen.
As much as 43% of the schools monitored under the joint survey had no basic facility to wash hands with soap and water – something which is extremely essential to function amid the pandemic as well as a post-COVID-19 world, however far that is.
Per the report, 818 million students studying in schools scattered around the globe did not have access to basic handwashing facilities, putting them at an increased risk of COVID-19 and other transmittable diseases.
Of the 818 million students at potential risk of infection should schools open without proper hygiene measures, 295 million children are from sub-Saharan Africa, followed by 170+ million in central and southern Asia, the report noted.
Where as in Australia and New ZeaLand, 100% of the schools had basic handwashing and sanitation facilities. More than 90% schools in the US and much of Europe had sanitation and drinking water supply.
Trends in the least developed nations showed a further decline in access to basic handwashing facilities. Seven out of ten schools in the least developed region are bereft of basic handwashing facilities and half of the schools lack basic sanitation and water services.
“Global school closures since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have presented an unprecedented challenge to children’s education and wellbeing,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director said.
“We must prioritize 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.”
The report comes at a time when school distrcts around the world are eyeing to reopen, pressed by the respective governemnts.
In a recent UN statement, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world is amid the ‘largest disruption to education in history’ as the pandmeic has suspended hundreds of millions of children from attending schools as new sessions begin in mid-year.
“Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,” said Mr Guterres about the ill-effects of school closure.
The WHO x UNICEF report stresses governments around the world must take into notice public health measures while juggling the social and economic impacts of the lockdown, at least they want to control the spread.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said: “It must be a major focus of government strategies for the safe reopening and operation of schools during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.”
Some key findings of the report include:
- Of the 818 million who did not have access to basic handwashing at schools:
- – 355 million went to schools which had water supply but no soap.
- – 462 million schools had no facilities or water available for handwashing.
- – 698 million children lacked basic sanitation service at their school.
- – 3 in 4 children lacked basic handwashing service at their school at the start of the outbreak in 60 vulnerable nations.
- – Half of all children did not have basic water access, more than half lacked basic sanitation
The report calls to the governments around the world to adhere to the safety guideline issued jointly by the WHO, UNICEF, WFP and the World Bank that give “practical advice for national and local authorities on how to prepare for safe school reopening and keep children safe when they return to school.”
What do you think about the eye-opening find? Will you be comfortable sending children to school once they reopen? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.