Thursday, October 14, 2010

Children Should Carry Books, Not Water

Recently, Nathan Strauss, an H2O for Life students was honored at an event in Washington DC for his efforts to bring water, sanitation and hygiene education to schools around the world. 

Story submitted by John Sauer, Water Advocates                              

U.S. Raising Clean Hands Campaign Launched:

 WASH (WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene) Is Essential to Achieve Universal Education

October 13, (Washington, DC) – Nathan Strauss, 17, a student at Abington Senior High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is part of a growing movement of America’s youth who are stepping up to make a change in the lives of the students around the world who are carrying water and not books.

Even for those children that have the opportunity to go to school, students lose 443 million school days each year due to diseases associated with the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Repeated episodes of diarrhea and worm infestations diminish a child’s ability to learn and impair cognitive development. This problem is exacerbated by the more than half of all schools in developing countries that lack adequate WASH facilities.

“I had no idea of the magnitude of the issue and I was shocked to find out the severity of the crisis and the number of students like me across the world that still don’t even have a toilet at their school. Doing something about this has become a really big deal for me,” said Nathan Strauss. “I think America’s youth has great potential to do something about this problem; if everyone gets taught the issue, we can all help. Imagine if all the students in America were a part of this; the change would be enormous,” he continued.

Nathan is not alone. Nearly 30 organizations launched a campaign in the United States today at an event at AED to demonstrate that providing water, sanitation and hygiene education in schools globally can help solve the WASH and education challenge around the world. Through this campaign, and an exhibit called “Bathroom Pass,” these organizations highlight the solutions they are currently implementing and urge the U.S. Government, the World Bank, and other actors in the education and health sectors to bring WASH to schools in the developing world.

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero stressed, “The bottom line is this: if we are serious about improving child health, achieving universal primary education, ensuring gender equity and stimulating economic development, we need to be serious about providing safe water, sanitation and hygiene in schools.” She emphasized the important role of students, like Nathan, to participate in service learning projects that help them engage in concrete actions to help others around the world. Earlier this year on World Water Day, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized that global water issues would be a priority for the U.S. Government.

Other speakers who highlighted the need to act included Carol Bellamy (Education for All - Fast Track Initiative), Clarissa Brocklehurst (UNICEF), Jack Downey (AED) and Denise Knight (The Coca-Cola Company). Jon Hamilton of NPR served as the moderator.

Nathan took action by helping to start a club through H2O for Life to raise funds to help schools in developing countries; the money is used to improve access to clean water, build toilets and handwashing stations, and provide hygiene education. So far 120,000 students across the U.S. have participated in H2O for Life service learning programs. Nathan’s story is highlighted in the “Bathroom Pass” exhibit, as are the stories of three students from Honduras, Madagascar and Nepal.

As a part of this campaign the organizers are challenging you to:

• Live for one day on the global minimum standard for water—approximately 5 gallons per person per day for drinking, cooking and bathing.

• Wash your hands at critical times: after using the toilet and before preparing food or eating.

• Start an H2O for Life club at your school like Nathan and his classmates did. Visit http://www.h2oforlifeschools.org/

The launch of this campaign is timed to coincide with the week of Global Handwashing Day, October 15, when 200 million children, parents, teachers, celebrities and citizens in over 80 countries are raising attention for handwashing and for WASH in Schools. Visit http://www.globalhandwashingday.org/

We invite schools in the US, and other Nations around the world to join H2O for Life in our mission to bring water, sanitation and hygiene education to schools.  Mobilize your school or organization and Make a Difference!

1 comment:

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