The Crisis in the Classroom: 620 million children’s education and health compromised by lack of decent school toilets, warns WaterAid

Posted by
Anna France Williams
on
16 November 2018
In
Toilets
Thumbnail WaterAid/Aisha Augie-Kuta

The health, education and safety of millions of children around the world is threatened because they don’t have a decent toilet at school or at home, according to WaterAid’s State of the World’s Toilets 2018 report.

The Crisis in the Classroom, WaterAid’s fourth-annual analysis of the world’s toilets released ahead of World Toilet Day, highlights that one in five primary schools and one in eight secondary schools globally do not have any toilets. Guinea-Bissau on the coast of West Africa tops the table for worst in the world for school toilets, while Ethiopia remains the nation with the highest percentage of people without household toilets.

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A shocking one in three of the world’s schools lack adequate toilets, compromising children’s human rights to sanitation and leaving them to either use dirty, unsafe pits, go in the open, or stay at home. This means children are dangerously exposed to illnesses that could kill them. Repeated bouts of diarrhoea increase their chances of being malnourished, and sanitation-related illnesses result in missed school days and the loss of potential.

Of the 101 countries with data available on how many schools have decent toilets, Guinea-Bissau in West Africa comes last. There eight in ten schools lack adequate facilities. This is followed by Niger, where only 24% of schools have even basic sanitation and more than seven in ten people defecate in the open because they lack a household toilet.

The sanitation crisis doesn’t end at school. In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 344 million children do not have a decent toilet at home meaning their communities are polluted with human waste. Ethiopia tops the table at an astonishing 93% of households without a decent toilet, leaving children vulnerable to diarrhoea and intestinal infections.  

Some countries, however, are making decent toilets in schools a priority. Over half of schools in Bangladesh now have a decent toilet and shared toilets in slum areas are providing a stepping stone to better health.

Among the other findings:

  • Children living in communities without decent toilets are at higher risk of diarrhoea. Sadly, diarrhoea caused by dirty water and poor sanitation kills 289,000 children under five each year.
  • Diarrhoea and intestinal infections kill nearly 140,000 children aged between five and 14 each year – many of which could be prevented with clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene.
  • Across South Asia, more than a third of girls miss school for between one and three days a month during their period.
  • As many as one in three schools in Madagascar don’t have any functioning toilets at all. It is the third worst country in the world for access to a decent toilet at home – just one person in ten has at least basic sanitation.
  • Papua New Guinea comes third in the list of countries where the proportion of people with decent toilets at home and school is decreasing. There 220 children die each year from water and sanitation-related diarrhoea, and polio – a waterborne disease - has recently returned to the island after being eradicated in 2000.
  • Nearly seven in ten schools in Zambia now have basic toilets, and three quarters of children are able to complete their primary education.

Tim Wainwright, WaterAid’s Chief Executive, said:

“Children in every country of the world need access to safe toilets at home and at school. Their health, education and safety depend on it. Every child should be able to go to the toilet safely and with dignity whether they are at school or at home. Bringing safe toilets to the one in three schools worldwide with no adequate toilets, should be a top priority – along with bringing decent household toilets to the 2.3 billion people still waiting.

“Progress towards any of the UN Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible without clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. If we are serious about all children and young people, wherever they are, whatever their gender, physical ability or community background, having their right to clean water and sanitation, we must take decisive and inclusive action now.” 

This World Toilet Day, WaterAid is calling for:

  • Governments to invest more money in sanitation for all and ensure an integrated approach and improved transparency in monitoring and reporting
  • Education and finance ministers in every country, as well as donors, to invest in sanitation services and establish credible plans for achieving universal access within an agreed timeframe
  • School sanitation to meet the specific needs of girls in order to ensure their privacy, safety and dignity.
  • School sanitation to be inclusive, enabling children with disabilities to use clean, safe, accessible toilets at school. 

ENDS

Read the ‘The Crisis in the Classroom’ report: https://washmatters.wateraid.org/wtd18

Download photos: https://wateraid.assetbank-server.com/assetbank-wateraid/images/assetbox/4c56ac77-c592-44f7-ae63-565b5bce3312/assetbox.html

Download film footage: https://wateraid.assetbank-server.com/assetbank-wateraid/images/assetbox/585099f5-9d50-4d9b-ab4b-b74ab1cfff5b/assetbox.html 

This World Toilet Day, WaterAid and Andrex are highlighting the impact of the global sanitation crisis faced by 2.3 billion people, and how toilets change lives, in an installation at Boxpark Shoreditch, London. Find out more at https://www.andrex.co.uk/wateraid

For interviews or more information, please contact: 
Anna France-Williams, Senior Media Officer, [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 5048;
or Carolynne Wheeler, News Manager, [email protected]
or +44 (0)207 793 4485. 

Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected].

WaterAid

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org/uk, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid.

  • 844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]

  • 2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]

  • Around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's more than 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]

  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]

  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database www.WASHwatch.org

[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[3] washwatch.org

[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage

[5] www.wateraid.org/uk