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School-led sanitation programme empowers children and their community with life-saving knowledge.

UNICEF 20 November 2012

World Toilet Day, 19 November, is an international day of action aimed to break the taboo around toilets and draw attention to the global sanitation challenge, raising global awareness of the daily struggle for proper sanitation that a staggering 2.5 billion people face.

The event brings together different groups, such as media, the private sector, development organizations and civil society in a global movement to advocate for safe toilets.

For more information on World Toilet Day, click here.

TONKOLILI, Sierra Leone, 19 November 2012 – Fourteen-year-old Memenatu Conteh had been exposed to many of the dangers that are linked to poor sanitation and hygiene.

She missed school because she had to travel to the Makkrugbe clinic for treatment for severe diarrhoea.

She also stepped on a thorn when she was on her way into the bush to defecate, which resulted in a painful infection. One of her brothers was bitten by a snake while defecating in the bush and was unable to walk for some time.

But that was before the School-Led Total Sanitation (SLTS) programme began.

Water, sanitation and hygiene programme rolled out

Memenatu attends TDC Primary School in Masaka. TDC Masaka is one of six schools in the Tonkolili District that has been taking part in the School Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project. The project is helping schools to provide child-friendly WASH facilities and to conduct School Sanitation and Hygiene Education and SLTS in schools in the district.

As part of SLTS, Memenatu has learned how to avoid the challenges she faced earlier. She has also joined the WASH Club at her school, taking the energy she shows on the football field and applying it to improving hygiene and sanitation both at her school and in the village in which she lives.

Knowledge shared with the community triggers action

The 12 children of the WASH Club, two teachers and the School Management Committee Chairperson have taken part in intensive training and committed to ensuring that hygiene and sanitation practices are not only upheld at the school, but are also taken out into the community.

TDC Masaka’s WASH Club members and the teachers have been so dedicated and their presentations so compelling that Masaka village has triggered itself into action. The demonstrations have helped the community visualize the link between open defecation and disease.

The community has constructed latrines and hand-washing facilities. In fact, Masaka village has now been declared open defecation free, which means that each household now has access to its own latrines and hand-washing facilities.

Club’s work is ongoing

With victory over open defecation declared, the work of the WASH Club is still ongoing. According to Memunatu, “Sometimes we go round the village after school to ask people to construct latrines, and those who have not completed their latrines to do so. We also advise them to sweep around their toilets and compounds. We tell them to always cover the holes of their latrines. We go to house after house to check on them and give the messages.”

She explains that even their closest relatives have required some encouragement. “Even my uncle had to be reminded before he finished his toilet work,” she says.

Now the children are sharing their knowledge further afield. Head teacher of the school Mohamed A. Kamara describes the children’s work to encourage surrounding communities to become open defecation free: “They go around not only in this community, but in other communities like 5-Mile, even Mayumto, on sensitization tours, telling people how to prevent disease. They sometimes sing songs, and we have been given a megaphone so that we can use it on such expeditions. They usually present small plays/skits depicting what the people should/should not do to avoid disease.”

What a difference sanitation has made

Memenatu says, “[W]hat a difference the SLTS has made in our lives as pupils, to the school and to the community as a whole. Before the programme started, we did not know anything about brushing the compound or how to keep it clean. But now that we have been taught about the importance of being healthy, we do it every day. We did not sweep or cover the toilet holes before. We just left them open. But now, we have learnt all of that, and we practise it always.”

Memenatu says that she wants to continue to be part of the WASH Club, and continue to share the knowledge that she has gained. “I want to continue because my brother used to get sick. But, after digging the toilet, he has not fallen sick again. We are no longer suffering from any sicknesses in our house. That is why I like this project.”

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In Haiti, library project opens doors - and minds.

UNICEF 20 November 2012

By Thomas Nybo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 19 November 2012 – Sadrac Neolin, 13, lives in the most disadvantaged and dangerous slum in Port-au-Prince. The sounds of gunshots and police sirens in Cité Soleil have been a staple of his childhood. Like most of his neighbours, Sadrac has no running water or electricity.

“I’m not living so good, I’m not living so bad,” he tells a visitor. “Why I am not living so good? It is because most days there are shootings in the neighbourhood. And I come from a very poor family. My family is vulnerable. So I’m not so good, not so bad.”

Bringing books, stimulating creativity

One development about which Sadrac is happy is the project Story Box. UNICEF, in partnership with Libraries Without Borders, is sending a library of 100 books, in French and Haitian Creole, to vulnerable neighbourhoods like Sadrac’s.

This year, 300 mobile libraries have been distributed. Child development specialists and librarians have carefully selected the books to fit within the context of Haiti, and to stimulate creativity and imagination.

Ronald Jean Mary is one of the 90 community workers who have been trained in how best to use the story box.

“This programme is important, especially in this neighbourhood, because children here are disconnected from society,” he says. “They have been totally disconnected from the world.”

Connecting children to the country, and to the world

Story Box is a psycho-social programme designed to promote emotional, cognitive and social development of children and adolescents. Its aim is to complement, not replace, formal education in schools.

Children like Sadrac come to the mobile library on weekends and during holidays from school. UNICEF is supporting 120 child protection community-based organizations that are working together to make it a success.

“This programme is now connecting the children to the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world,” says Mr. Mary. “Before, these children had no access to books. But now, they have access to plenty of books, they like reading – and they are really enjoying the programme.”

Opening a world of opportunity

Since the programme began here, Sadrac says that, for the first time, he’s thinking beyond the borders of Cité Soleil.

“I would like to become an engineer – first, to help my country, but also, to help my family,” he says.

Many of the children in Sadrac’s neighbourhood don’t know how to read, so a programme like this one can open up a world of opportunity, he says.

“Reading is important because, once you know how to read, you can become a great person in the future,” he says. “If you can’t read around here, you might become a gang member, get a gun and do bad things. But if you learn to read, you can educate yourself, and even become the president in the future.”

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UNICEF calls for the protection of children in Eastern DR Congo

UNICEF 20 November 2012

KINSHASA/GOMA, 19 November 2012 – Heavy clashes around Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between M23 rebel fighters and the Congolese army have forced thousands of displaced men, women and children to flee again. UNICEF is deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation and its impact on children.

According to a UNICEF rapid assessment on Monday, Kanyaruchinya displaced site, which had hosted at least 30,000 people since July, is empty as former residents have fled towards Goma.

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ROTA hosts Education in Emergencies Summit

Qatar is Booming 13 November 2012

Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) has welcomed senior members of the Inter Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) to Doha to take part in an INEE Working Group summit at the Qatar Foundation Recreation Centre, Education City on the 11th and 12th of November.

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Emergencies: hitting education hard

Save the Children 5 November 2012

It’s hurricane, cyclone, flood and storm season around the world. Hurricane Sandy has attracted most of the attention given the impact it’s had in the United States and the Caribbean. However, it’s the peak season for natural disasters in many other countries too; Southern and South-East Asian countries have been responding to natural disasters on an almost monthly basis.

Whenever disasters strike, all children, no matter where, are vulnerable. But there’s an obvious inequality in a child’s chances of going back to school. In the US, some children may miss a few days of school. In many other countries, a few days out of school may end up meaning a few months or even a year. As a recent Brookings Institution blog has said very clearly, we’ll never ensure that all children are able to go to school and learn, without ensuring that education is given proper attention in the wake of natural emergencies.

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Mali refugee students set up ‘government’ in UNHCR-backed school in Niger

AlertNet 12 October 2012

TABAREYBAREY, Niger, October 2 (UNHCR) - When fighting in northern Mali forced Chouaibou and his family to flee from their village last May to nearby Niger, the 15-year-old feared he had not only lost a home but also his education.

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SWAZILAND: Art invigorates academic work of disabled children

IRIN 10 October 2012

Art programmes have widely been considered unaffordable luxuries by Swaziland’s public schools, but one school has broken from the pack, using art to improve academic performance and economic prospects for students with disabilities.

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