Today is Global Handwashing Day. We have challenged schools across America to plan an event to raise awareness about handwashing, and the lack of facilities in schools around the world. H2O for Life Schools support WASH in Schools programs by partnering with a school in a developing country that desperately needs water, sanitation and hygiene education. Students learn about the global water crisis while TAKING ACTION to do something- raise funds- to support their partner school. We are teaching a generation of students to "think" about water and how we must all work to keep this precious resource protected.
Support for WASH in Schools is growing daily. Join the movement today!
Read part of the speech delivered at the Academy for Educational Development on Wednesday, Oct. 13.
As Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, I have worked over the past year to elevate two initiatives at Secretary Clinton’s request: water and youth.
Fortunately, today gives me an opportunity to talk about both: the importance of providing water, sanitation, and hygiene education – and the significance of starting early. We must teach our children—our future—to be better stewards of our world’s water and better caretakers of their own health.
No matter where you live—be it Boston or Bamako—schools are the foundation of strong communities. They are, of course, a place where teachers teach and children learn. But they are also a place where community health workers deliver life-saving messages and medicines. They are a place where adults gather in the evening for continuing education and town hall meetings. And they are a place where people come to vote and young democracies flourish.
It is a tragic irony that those who go to schools to learn, congregate, and protect their health, are often put at risk from the school environment itself.
The problem is clear. More than half of all primary schools in developing countries do not have adequate water facilities and nearly two-thirds lack adequate sanitation. Even where facilities exist, they are often in poor condition.
The consequences are threefold. First, health suffers. Schools can—and often do—become a breeding ground for diarrhea, parasitic worms, and other water-borne ailments. The World Health Organization estimates that diarrhea causes 1.5 million deaths per year; many resulting from transmission in schools.
Furthermore, schools without WASH facilities represent a lost opportunity to promote good hygiene behavior in the larger community. Data suggests that students who practice good hygiene in schools also help teach good hygiene practices to their parents, siblings, and friends.
Second, education suffers. Worm infestations can lower children’s IQ scores. Studies show that students are more prone to missing lessons in schools without WASH facilities. Such trends can have devastating long-term costs for students, communities and nations, virtually closing doors to opportunity.
Third, women and girls suffer disproportionately. Female school staff and girls who have reached puberty are less likely to attend schools that lack gender specific sanitation facilities. As we increasingly recognize the contribution of women to household income, health, education, and nutritional outcomes, nations simply cannot afford a lag in women’s education and literacy.
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 education in schools.
Schools, organizations, churches and individuals can join us in our mission to bring water to schools. Help raise awareness of the issues in your community, and make a donation today to a group that is working to bring water to schools.
We must ensure that WASH is incorporated in school curriculum and teacher training to complement the infrastructure with appropriate hygiene and sanitation messages and skill-building.
I would just close by pointing out that this Friday, October 15, the world will commemorate Global Handwashing Day. On this day, educators in countries around the globe will be showing their students how to wash their hands. It sounds simple to an audience that is accustomed to automatic faucets. But sadly, hundreds of millions of children will not be able to practice their handwashing lessons at school.
This is where we all can make a difference".
You can make a difference today! Schools, organizations, churches and individuals must talk about the water crisis to make people aware of the issues, and TAKE ACTION. Partner with a school in need and donate to an organization that is working to bring WASH programs to schools. Working together will solve the global water crisis.