Thousands of Vietnamese students return to school without running water
  • | | May 05, 2020 08:07 PM
As schools reopen, the Ministry of Education is working with UNICEF and others to highlight the challenges faced in around 30 per cent of schools in Vietnam that lack running water and other safe hygiene and sanitation measures, according to official data by the ministry.

A toilet at a primary school in Tuyen Quang Province

In such a heightened climate for hygiene, this means reaching approximately 6.4 million students, providing access to clean water and soap or ensuring a temporary supply of hand sanitizer for all children, while more sustainable measures are introduced.

“Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and lack of hygiene not only affect the health, safety, and quality of life of children, but it also affects their learning," said Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative to Vietnam. "Providing better water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools not only reduces the spread of hygiene-related diseases like COVID-19; not only reduces the risk of parasite infections; it also helps to curb the number of schools days missed every year due to diarrhea. In particular it protects girls’ right to education as girls are reluctant to continue their schooling when toilets and washing facilities are not private, not safe, not clean, or simply not available. Rather than an emergency measure at times of crisis – it must be a normal expectation for all children that schools will now have a budget line that ensures they are never short of the lifesaving soap.”

UNICEF and a range of partners will continue to distribute in the coming weeks essential supplies to reach approximately 500,000 people, including 300,000 students in schools. UNICEF and partners will distribute soap, hand sanitizer and ceramic water filters to schools, commune health centers and communities in Lao Cai, Dien Bien, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Ninh Thuan, Ben Tre, Soc Trang provinces. These supplies will come with targeted messages and information on personal hygiene and improved sanitation practices and the information will be available in ethnic minority languages.

But additional support is needed to reach all children in need and to provide emergency safe water systems to the 30 per cent of schools that are not covered with running water, improved latrines and sanitation facilities and large-scale provision of soap and hand sanitizers for all students. Long-term plans include increasing budget lines for capital improvements, operation and maintenance of facilities, and recurrent costs such as purchases of soap and materials for personal hygiene. An immediate response is needed in the coming weeks but steady progress is key to establishing sustainable, at scale programmes for water, sanitation and hygiene in schools.

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