Today, 2 billion people around the world still lack access to safe drinking water, and more than half of the global population does not have access to safe sanitation. Despite Covid-19 putting the spotlight on the importance of washing our hands with water and soap to prevent not only the spread of the virus but also a range of other diseases, almost 3 billion people worldwide, including millions of school-aged children, do not have access to handwashing facilities with running water and soap. This gets worse in the most vulnerable and the most affected places, such as rural areas, urban slums, disaster-prone areas, and low-income countries.
In Indonesia, the majority of schools lack drinking water and sanitation facilities, exposing children to a higher probability of getting diseases related to inadequate water supply, sanitation, and hygiene, such as diarrhea, parasitic worm infections, and skin and eye diseases.
Such a scenario is leaving the poorest of Indonesians behind. Currently, almost 30 million Indonesians do not have access to a stable, guaranteed-safe clean water supply. Moreover, there are roughly 55 million Indonesians who lack access to proper and sustained sanitation facilities.
Why is there a need for Sanitation and Hygiene Programs?
Poor and critical quality conditions of sanitation and hygiene massively contribute to the spread of waterborne diseases, especially among children. For instance, 443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses. In parallel, the conditions of women have worsened during their period due to inadequate sanitation facilities.
Ensuring school health through better education and awareness-raising (i.e. campaigns) would positively impact the living standards of communities worldwide. Promoting healthy behaviors through school, such as handwashing with soap is a very effective way of improving the health of the entire community today and in the future. The simple act of educating students towards regular hand washing with soap represents not only one of the most effective ways to reduce the risks of diarrhea, responsible for around 310,000 deaths of children each year, but also prevents the spread of viruses and bacteria such as Covid-19.
Project Child Indonesia believes that schools should be a safe and supportive environment by protecting children’s health, growth, and development with easy access to hygiene services. A good school health program can lead to better living conditions and in the long run better education and job opportunities.
To identify and remove the practical challenges affecting the provision of Sanitation and Hygiene services in schools, Project Child Indonesia, in partnership with Mercedes Benz, is providing handwashing facilities to elementary schools in Sleman district, Special Region of Yogyakarta. The provision of hygiene facilities also includes health education through digital booklets, educational posters, as well as educational videos about practices related to sanitation and hygiene, to create a hygienic and clean environment which is important to protect public health amid the Covid-19 health pandemic.
The Sanitation and Hygiene Program is an initiative to mobilize schools to provide adequate and proper access to water, sanitation, and hygiene to their students. In the future, Project Child Indonesia believes that the Sanitation and Hygiene Program can contribute to existing education systems, as well as it can be applied by the entire school community, especially to elementary school students to prevent the transmission of not only Covid-19 but also other important epidemic infections and waterborne diseases.