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

Despite a steady decline in the share of schools without basic water, sanitation and hygiene services (WASH), deep inequalities persist between and within countries, UNICEF and the WHO said today. Students in the least developed countries (VAT) and volatile conditions are most affected, and new data show that few schools have WASH services accessible to people with disabilities.

“Too many children go to school without safe drinking water, clean toilets and handwashing soap – which makes learning difficult,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF’s director of water, sanitation, hygiene and climate, environment, energy and reducing disaster risk. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of providing a healthy and inclusive learning environment. In order to protect children’s education, the road to recovery must include equipping schools with the most basic infectious disease services today and in the future. ”

“Access to water, sanitation and hygiene is not only essential for effective infection prevention and control, but also a prerequisite for children’s health, development and well-being,” said Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director, Environment. , climate change and health. “Schools must be an environment in which children thrive and not be exposed to difficulties or infections due to a lack or poorly maintained basic infrastructure.

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

  • Globally, 29 percent of schools do not yet have basic drinking water services, affecting 546 million students; 28% of schools still do not have basic sanitation services, affecting 539 million students; and 42% of schools do not yet have basic hygiene services, affecting 802 million students.
  • One third of children without basic services at school live in the least developed countries, and more than half live in unstable conditions.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania are the only two regions in which the coverage of basic sanitation and hygiene services in schools remains below 50 per cent; Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where coverage of basic drinking water services in schools remains below 50 percent.
  • Achieving universal coverage in schools worldwide by 2030 requires a 14-fold increase in the current rate of progress on basic drinking water, a three-fold increase in the rate of progress on basic sanitation and a five-fold increase in basic hygiene services.
  • In the least developed countries and unstable conditions, achieving universal coverage of basic sanitation services in schools by 2030 will require more than 100 and 50-fold increase in the respective current rates of progress.

Improving pandemic preparedness and response will require more frequent monitoring of WASH and other elements of infection prevention and control (IPC) in schools, including cleaning, disinfection, and solid waste management.

Providing WASH services accessible to people with disabilities in schools is key to achieving inclusive education for all children. However, only a limited number of countries take this indicator into account and national definitions differ, and much less provide WASH, which is accessible to people with disabilities.

  • Emerging national data show that the reach of WASH accessible to people with disabilities is low and varies widely between school levels and urban and rural areas, with schools more likely to have access to drinking water than affordable sanitation or hygiene.
  • In half of the countries with available data, less than a quarter of schools had toilets accessible to people with disabilities. For example, in Yemen, 8 out of 10 schools had toilets, but only 1 in 50 schools had toilets accessible to people with disabilities.
  • In most data countries, schools are more likely to have adapted infrastructure and materials – such as ramps, assistive technology, teaching materials – than toilets accessible to people with disabilities. For example, in El Salvador, 2 out of 5 schools have adapted infrastructure and materials, but only 1 out of 20 have toilets accessible to people with disabilities.

Notes to editors:

Read the WHO / UNICEF Data Update for JMP 2022 on WASH in schools and download the data here.

Read more about WHO / UNICEF JMP here.

Download multimedia content here.


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About the WHO

Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization leads and supports global efforts to give everyone, everywhere, an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. We are the United Nations health agency that connects nations, partners and people at the forefront in more than 150 locations – the world’s leading response to health emergencies, disease prevention, tackling the root causes of health problems and expanding access to medicines and healthcare. care. Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

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For more information, please contact:

Sarah Alhatab, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 957 6536, [email protected]

WHO Media Team: Email: [email protected]

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