WASH for children

Editorial Board
Friday, Feb 10, 2023

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is essential to build healthy communities. Unfortunately, this is an ideal that is far from being realized. According to a new report by the UN, one in three children globally is deprived of access to safe drinking water at school. The same number of children do not have access to toilet and sanitation facilities. The disparity between the one percent and 99 per cent is not unknown to anyone but the way in which the children of the less fortunate are treated is appalling. And this is not unique to the underdeveloped or developing world alone. The situation appears to be similar around the world and shows how little it has invested in the fate of its future generations. The lack of clean drinking water, safe and free of contamination, means that children are vulnerable to ill health and consequently to a drop in their levels of educational ability. When pandemics such as the Covid crisis break out, it becomes even more obvious to deal with such problems given the lack of proper handwashing facilities, including soap or sanitizer.

Potable water, sanitation and proper hygiene are also linked to learning outcomes, especially for girls, seen as essentials for a safe, inclusive and equitable learning environment for all. In many parts of the developing world -- including Pakistan -- the lack of sanitation facilities has also hindered girls' education, with parents reluctant to send girls to school where toilet facilities are negligible or nonexistent. According to Unicef, "Over 700 children under age 5 die every day of diarrhoeal diseases due to lack of appropriate WASH services. In areas of conflict, children are nearly 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal disease than from the conflict itself." Up to four million children are reported to be living in or around stagnant floodwater even now in Pakistan. These children are likely susceptible to water-borne diseases, since clean drinking water is but a dream for many of them.

The world needs to wake up and recognize that investing in children is crucial to its future and the future of the planet itself. We need a new generation that is educated and able to carry out work in all their fields with the educational skills that they need for this. At present it is clear that the conditions of schools do not allow them to acquire this. A global effort has to be made to achieve this and to save children who go without safe water every day that they spend in school and as a result compromise their health, welfare and education. We must recognize that the right to life, right to education and right to a life of dignity all require access to clean water, basic toilet facilities, and good hygiene. This is the least we can give the children of the world.