Schools ill-equipped to provide healthy and inclusive learning environments for all children – UNICEF, WHO

Instead of a steady decline in the proportion of schools without basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services, deep inequalities persist between and within countries, UNICEF and WHO said today. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and fragile contexts in schoolchildren are the most affected, and emerging data shows that few schools have disability-accessible WASH services.

Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF Director of Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Climate, Environment, Energy, and Disaster Risk Reduction . “The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of healthy and inclusive learning environments. To protect children’s education, the road to recovery must include equipping schools with the most basic services to fight infectious diseases today and in the future. ”

“Access to water, sanitation and hygiene is not only essential for effective infection prevention and control, but also for prerequisite children’s health, development and well-being,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health . “Schools should have the systems where children are thrive and not be subjected to hardship or infection due to lack of, or poorly maintained, basic infrastructure.”

The WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP): The latest data from the WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP):

  • Globally, 29 per cent of schools still lack basic drinking water services, impacting 546 million schoolchildren; 28 per cent of schools still lack basic sanitation services, impacting 539 million schoolchildren; And 42 per cent of schools still do not have basic hygiene services, impacting 802 million schoolchildren.
  • One-third of children have basic services at their school live in LDCs, and over half live in fragile contexts.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania are the only two regions where coverage of basic sanitation and hygiene services in schools is under 50 per cent; Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where coverage of basic drinking water services is under 50 per cent.
  • Basic drinking water, a three-fold increase in basic drinking water, and a five-fold increase in basic hygiene services.
  • In LDCs and fragile contexts, achieving universal coverage of basic sanitation services by schools by 2030 would require over 100-fold and 50-fold increases in current rates.

Improving pandemic preparedness and response will require more frequent monitoring of WASH and other elements of infection prevention and control (IPC) in schools, including cleaning, disinfection and solid waste management.

Providing disability-accessible WASH services in schools is the key to achieving inclusive learning for all children. Still, only a limited number of countries report on this indicator and national definitions vary, and far fewer provide disability-accessible WASH.

  • Emerging national data shows that disability-accessible WASH coverage is low and varies widely across schools and in urban and rural areas, with schools more likely to have access to drinking water than sanitation or hygiene.
  • In half the countries with data available, less than a quarter of schools had disability-accessible toilets. For example, in Yemen, 8 in 10 schools had toilets, but only 1 in 50 schools had disability-accessible toilets.
  • In most countries with data, schools are more likely to have adapted infrastructure and materials – such as ramps, assistive technology, learning materials – than disability-accessible toilets. For example, in El Salvador, 2 in 5 schools have adapted infrastructure and materials, but only 1 in 20 have disability-accessible toilets.

Notes to editors:

Read the WHO / UNICEF JMP 2022 Data Update on WASH in Schools and download the data here.

Read more about the WHO / UNICEF JMP here.

Download multimedia content here.


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For more information, please contact:

Sara Alhattab, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 957 6536, [email protected]

WHO Media Team: Email: [email protected]

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