The Crisis in the Classroom: 620 million children’s education and health compromised by lack of decent school toilets, warns WaterAid
The health, education and safety of millions of children around the world is threatened because they don’t have a decent toilet at school or at home, according to WaterAid’s State of the World’s Toilets 2018 report.
The Crisis in the Classroom, WaterAid’s fourth-annual analysis of the world’s toilets released ahead of World Toilet Day, highlights that one in five primary schools and one in eight secondary schools globally do not have any toilets. Guinea-Bissau on the coast of West Africa tops the table for worst in the world for school toilets, while Ethiopia remains the nation with the most people without household toilets. Read the report
A shocking one in three of the world’s schools lack adequate toilets, compromising children’s human rights to sanitation and leaving them to either use dirty, unsafe pits, go in the open, or stay at home. This means children are dangerously exposed to illnesses that could kill them. Repeated bouts of diarrhoea increase their chances of being malnourished, and sanitation-related illnesses result in missed school days and the loss of potential.
Of the 101 countries with data available on how many schools have decent toilets, Guinea-Bissau in West Africa comes last. There eight in ten schools lack adequate facilities. This is followed by Niger, where only 24% of schools have even basic sanitation and more than seven in ten people defecate in the open because they lack a household toilet.
The sanitation crisis doesn’t end at school. In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 344 million children do not have a decent toilet at home meaning their communities are polluted with human waste. Ethiopia tops the table at an astonishing 93% of households without a decent toilet, leaving children vulnerable to diarrhoea and intestinal infections.
Some countries, however, are making decent toilets in schools a priority. Over half of schools in Bangladesh now have a decent toilet and shared toilets in slum areas are providing a stepping stone to better health.
Among the other findings:
- Children living in communities without decent toilets are at higher risk of diarrhoea. Sadly, diarrhoea caused by dirty water and poor sanitation kills 289,000 children under five each year.
- Diarrhoea and intestinal infections kill nearly 140,000 children aged between five and 14 each year – many of which could be prevented with clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene.
- Across South Asia, more than a third of girls miss school for between one and three days a month during their period.
- As many as one in three schools in Madagascar don’t have any functioning toilets at all. It is the third worst country in the world for access to a decent toilet at home – just one person in ten has at least basic sanitation.
- Papua New Guinea comes third in the list of countries where the proportion of people with decent toilets at home and school is decreasing. There 220 children die each year from water and sanitation-related diarrhoea, and polio – a waterborne disease - has recently returned to the island after being eradicated in 2000.
- Nearly seven in ten schools in Zambia now have basic toilets, and three quarters of children are able to complete their primary education.
Tim Wainwright, WaterAid’s Chief Executive, said:
“Children in every country of the world need access to safe toilets at home and at school. Their health, education and safety depend on it. Every child should be able to go to the toilet safely and with dignity whether they are at school or at home. Bringing safe toilets to the one in three schools worldwide with no adequate toilets, should be a top priority – along with bringing decent household toilets to the 2.3 billion people still waiting.
“Progress towards any of the UN Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible without clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. If we are serious about all children and young people, wherever they are, whatever their gender, physical ability or community background, having their right to clean water and sanitation, we must take decisive and inclusive action now.”
This World Toilet Day, WaterAid is calling for:
- Governments to invest more money in sanitation for all and ensure an integrated approach and improved transparency in monitoring and reporting
- Education and finance ministers in every country, as well as donors, to invest in sanitation services and establish credible plans for achieving universal access within an agreed timeframe
- School sanitation to meet the specific needs of girls in order to ensure their privacy, safety and dignity.
- School sanitation to be inclusive, enabling children with disabilities to use clean, safe, accessible toilets at school.