Equity of Access to WASH in Schools: A Comparative Study of Policy and Service Delivery in Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Uganda and Uzbekistan.
Emory University; Unicef.
EXCERPTS: Understanding the mechanisms by which children are excluded from WASH in Schools is essential to ensuring adequate and equitable access for all school-aged children.
‘Equity of Access to WASH in Schools’ presents findings from a six-country study conducted by UNICEF and the Center for Global Safe Water at Emory University. This research was carried out in collaboration with UNICEF country offices in Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Uganda and Uzbekistan and their partners. The six case studies presented together contribute to the broader understanding of inequities in WASH in Schools access by describing various dimensions that contribute to equitable or
inequitable access across regions, cultures, gender and communities.
The researchers identified key dimensions of equity through formative investigations that included discussions with service delivery providers and policymakers. In some countries, inequity existed but was found to be linked to poverty and the prioritization of other health and development objectives, rather than a specific policy. In other cases, some dimensions could not be fully investigated, usually due to lack of data. Because it was not feasible to explore every equity dimension in each of the six countries, focus areas were prioritized for each case study.
Some dimensions were found to be relevant across country contexts. Limited access to WASH in Schools compromised children’s health, educational attainment and well-being, and exacerbated already existing inequities and challenges in each of the countries.
Gender was identified as a key aspect of inequity in all six countries, but the mechanisms and manifestations of gender inequities varied within each context. Menstruating girls in Malawi and Uganda faced consistent challenges in obtaining adequate access to WASH in Schools facilities, preventing them
from comfortably practising proper hygiene. In this context, a lack of access to school WASH facilities is a potential cause of increased drop-out rates. Girls in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan were affected by the poor maintenance of facilities and lack of privacy, rather than by overall lack of basic access. In these settings, lack of doors and private latrine stalls, coupled with proximity to boys’ latrines, led to girls avoiding the use of school WASH facilities, which may have deleterious health effects.
Accessibility of WASH facilities for children with disabilities was identified as an issue in all countries. In Malawi and Uganda, concerted effort has been made to include school sanitation, water and hand-washing facilities appropriate for children with disabilities. The designs for facilities, however, were often found to inadequately address students’ needs, and hand-washing facilities remain largely inaccessible, compromising students’ health.
I decided not to like this story, although four other bloggers did. In fact, I hate this story, because it shows that UNICEF and all of us are not able to move governments. Our leaders must provide decent toilet and water facilities to keep girls at every school in the developing world. Why is this? And what can we do about it?