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Humanitarian System, Standards, Response

Haïti : un recensement soutenu par l’ONU montre des progrès considérables pour l’éducation et la san

UN News Service 11 January 2013

10 Jan 2013 - Près de trois ans après le séisme dévastateur en Haïti, le Fonds des Nations Unies pour l’enfance (UNICEF) a publié jeudi les résultats préliminaires d’un recensement conduit avec le soutien de l’ONU, qui montre qu’il ya eu des progrès considérables dans les domaines de la nutrition, de la santé, de l’éducation des enfants ainsi que l’assainissement depuis 2006.

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Haïti : un recensement soutenu par l’ONU montre des progrès considérables pour l’éducation et la san

UN News Service 11 January 2013

10 Jan 2013 - Près de trois ans après le séisme dévastateur en Haïti, le Fonds des Nations Unies pour l’enfance (UNICEF) a publié jeudi les résultats préliminaires d’un recensement conduit avec le soutien de l’ONU, qui montre qu’il ya eu des progrès considérables dans les domaines de la nutrition, de la santé, de l’éducation des enfants ainsi que l’assainissement depuis 2006.

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Typhoon Bopha Situation Report No. 13 (as of 3 January 2013)

UNOCHA 3 January 2013

03 Jan 2013 - Highlights of report:
- Displaced families residing in schools face secondary displacement.
- The numbers of evacuation sites reduce drastically from more than 300 to 66.
- 265 families evacuate to safer ground in New Bataan municipality in Compostela Valley province due to risk of flooding and landslides.

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200 Million Poor Children in African Cities at Increasing Risk of Exploitation, Abuse and Disease

Save the Children 7 December 2012

5 Dec 2012 - Social and economic development policies in Africa are ignoring the demographic realities of an increasing number of children living in poverty in urban slums with devastating impacts, according to a new report by Save the Children. The report, entitled Voices from urban Africa: The impact of urban growth on children, is based on interviews, focus groups and other research with more than 1,000 children, parents and other community and national stakeholders in seven cities in six African countries including Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

“Already about 200 million children live in Africa’s urban areas, and an increasing number are left vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and disease as populations move from rural to urban areas with little or no access to basic services,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children. “We are calling for increased commitment and targeted investment in partnerships and programs aimed at African children living in urban areas, particularly those most vulnerable.”

The report highlights the demographic trends that put children in urban settings at increasing risk:

  At present, about one-third (37 percent) of Africa’s population is urban, but in the next two decades the majority of children are projected to live in urban areas. The region is currently experiencing the highest urban growth rates in the world.
  Cities in sub-Saharan Africa contain the highest degree of urban poverty, prevalence of slum populations and measures of urban inequality of any region in the world. Currently, 60 percent of the African urban population lives in slum conditions.
  Development indicators compare urban and rural areas within a country and rarely look at citywide statistics, within wealth sectors. Thus children and adults living in urban areas appear to be better off than those living in rural areas, creating an ‘urban advantage’ that obscure the hardships faced by those living in urban poverty and the vast inequalities present within urban communities.

The report identifies four key priority areas of need — child protection, health and nutrition, education and income generation/livelihoods.

  Child Protection: Children, particularly without a parent or guardian, are exposed to risks and dangerous or age-inappropriate situations in public and often private settings. Particularly vulnerable are children with disabilities and unaccompanied children, including orphans and street children. Participants in the Adama, Ethiopia women’s focus group said many children are brought to the city from rural areas by their relatives with promises of an education, but made to work as full-time domestic servants once they arrive. They also said many of these girls are abused and even raped by their relatives and are unable to escape their situation.
  Health and Nutrition: Lack of water and sanitation facilities creates both public health and safety hazards and drains significant time and resources from poor families who are forced to spend many hours waiting in lines to access water. Poor families face many barriers to access health services, from cost to travel or waiting time due to overcrowding and lack of quality services. This especially impacts the lives of mothers and babies due to late care seeking among pregnant women — a common cause of maternal death and disability. Poor nutrition and hunger disproportionately affects the urban poor. Many slum families report eating two, sometimes only one, meal a day and poor children skip school to find food, beg or sell peanuts.
  Education: Most children are missing out on proven benefits of early childhood care and development due to costs, especially those under the age of five. Poor children are not in school or experience many barriers to getting there, such as school fees, disabilities, bullying and sexual harassment by teachers and students, traditional ideas on gender roles, and pressure from families to engage in income-generating activities.
  Livelihoods: Poor families often must rely on their children to contribute to economic survival, which can expose them to dangerous situations. Children as young as seven-years-old work for money or in-kind payment. Child labor includes street vending, piecework and running errands for adults, manual labor in mines and fields, illegal scavenging at mining sites, domestic work and transactional sex.

The report includes specific recommendations in each priority area, but Save the Children stresses the importance of working in partnership across sectors to create integrated programmatic responses, and for the need to improve research on the impact of urbanization on children to better support decision making and program design. This includes the need for urban statistics, disaggregated along socioeconomic and gender lines.

The report also talks about the need to create communities in urban settings that support children and families, particularly to increase child protection and prevent exploitation and abuse. “Children in rural areas are surrounded by grandparents, cousins, co-wives of their mothers and close neighbors,” said Carol Miller, a co-author of the report. “Young children are rarely far from adults whom they know and trust, even when their parents are out searching for firewood or herding animals. This is not the case for children in urban communities who are often left at home alone for at least part of the day or sent to the market to work.”

“We hope this report deepens understanding among the development community, including donors and policy makers, and helps us all respond more effectively to the needs of children throughout urban Africa,” said Carolyn Miles. “With the right partnerships, the right resources and the right information, we can achieve real results for children.”

To download a copy of the report, view a slide show, or learn more about the work Save the Children is doing for children in Africa and around the world, go to

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Vice President’s Visit Marks New Chapter in World Bank Support to Djibouti

World Bank 1 December 2012

1 Dec 2012 - The World Bank Group celebrated a number of firsts in Djibouti this week with the first visit by Inger Andersen, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa to formalize the institution’s first permanent office in Djibouti which is being established and managed by Homa-Zahra Fotouhi as the first Resident Representative.

“Djibouti and the World Bank Group have enjoyed a 32-year partnership and I could not be more proud than to finally put our roots down here so we can work shoulder to shoulder in tackling the country’s development challenges,” said Andersen.  “This signals the real measure of our commitment to support Djibouti and its Vision 2035.”

During her two-day visit, Andersen saw the Urban Poverty Reduction Program which has provided both community training and a vocational program with a 30 percent job placement success rate so far. The program focuses on the poorest citizens and provides key infrastructure such as roads, community centers and sports fields. She was accompanied throughout her visit by Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Country Director for Djibouti, Egypt and Yemen.

Andersen participated in a nutrition education session for mothers of children under the age of two in Hayableh, where she noted the vital importance of the fight against malnutrition: This Social Safety Net Project supports small labor-intensive works projects aimed at boosting household incomes and thus better nutrition.

Andersen congratulated the government on the consultation workshop held last month during which the Bank sought guidance for the development of its Country Partnership Strategy. Led by Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, Minister of Economy and Finance, the workshop attracted the active participation of key government ministers for its two-day duration.

In a meeting with private sector representatives, Andersen committed to working with the Government to address constraints to private sector development and job creation.  In discussions with development partners, she reiterated the Bank’s commitment to strengthened coordination for greater impact of development programs and increased benefits for the population.

In meetings with ministers and counterparts, Andersen and her delegation discussed the development challenges facing Djibouti, and reaffirmed the Bank’s commitment to supporting the country’s emerging development vision, Djibouti Vision 2035, which will lead to poverty reduction and shared prosperity.  Among important topics discussed, was the Bank’s support to the exploration of the country’s geothermal potential.

Andersen urged the acceleration of the implementation of the four projects approved by the Bank on June 12, 2012 for a total of US $19.2 million.  The projects support improved social safety nets for the poorest and most vulnerable citizens, better access to water and electricity, education reform and rural development.

These projects all have a focus on helping Djibouti recover from one of the worst droughts to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years. Fotouhi noted Djibouti’s vulnerability to a range of natural hazards, including multi-year droughts that create crippling water scarcity for both agricultural and domestic use. She said the World Bank was organizing a Risk Management Round-Table with the Government of Djibouti next April to consolidate the country’s risk management progress and continue building a national culture of disaster resilience.

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Educating for an AIDS-free world

UNESCO 28 November 2012

Many people all over the world use the occasion of World AIDS Day (WAD), 1 December, to raise awareness about the disease and reflect on progress in the response. The theme for this WAD, and all others until 2015, is Getting to Zero: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

A new World AIDS Day report: Results, by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), shows that in 25 countries, most of them in Africa, new infections have dropped by more than 50% since 2001. In the words of the UNAIDS executive director, Michel Sidibé, “we are moving from despair to hope” that an AIDS-free World is possible.

This success is the result of technological advances, increased access to treatment, and a reduction in stigma and discrimination. Education is central to these efforts. Education is the foundation for the success of all HIV programming. It is only through comprehensive HIV education that young people can learn about HIV risk in their context and develop the skills to understand, access, and use the HIV programmes that can protect them all their lives. UNESCO seeks to promote, develop and support comprehensive education sector responses to HIV and AIDS by building country capacity, advancing gender equality and protecting human rights. 

This December UNESCO will be conducting activities globally in observance of WAD. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia there will be an online prevention campaign that will reach two million young people. In Latin America there will be joint activities to provide tools and resources to governments for national action. There will be a march in Dakar, Senegal to raise awareness and support for UN staff living with HIV. In Cameroon, the UNESCO office is organising an HIV week that includes workshops for teachers and learners and an HIV testing campaign in all Yaoundé schools. In Beijing, a documentary on sexuality education including gender and HIV will be launched. In Thailand, UNESCO is supporting the Day of Sexual Diversity Rights; the Organization will also join the UN exhibition booth at a major World AIDS Day Event in Bangkok organized by the Thai Ministry of Public Health. 

This World AIDS Day UNESCO is taking time to reflect on progress made in reducing new infections and promoting the critical role of education in all aspects of the HIV response. As Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, states in her Message on the occasion of this year’s World AIDS Day: “Progress must strengthen our determination to create a world free of AIDS. HIV and AIDS can be conquered through renewed commitment and sustained solidarity. For this, we need to use every resource as best we can and draw on all available evidence.”

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Neighbour offers aid for starving Pacific school

ABC Radio Australia 27 November 2012

A senior government official in Guam says the American humanitarian organisation USAID could help students from a remote Pacific school who have run out of food.

Weipat High School on Onoun, one of the remote outer islands of the Federated States of Micronesia state of Chuuk, provides education and accommodation to around 270 students from all the islands around the region.

Last week, the school was forced to close its doors and send students to live with the community after provisions ran out.

Guam’s speaker Judi Won Pat has told Radio Australia a USAID grant is designed to provide food for these sorts of emergencies.

“These are containers, barrels of food that can last almost forever - but once you open them up, the shelf life will shorten to maybe two years,” she said.

“US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, when she was in the Cook Islands, that this is fairly easy, because they understand that there are countries that are suffering, and because it’s called an emergency, then the time frame is shortened.

“If it’s an emergency, you don’t want it to be too long.”
Ms Won Pat says it would take a request from the local government to Guam’s Government for supplies to be dispatched to Onoun, or any other islands in the region suffering from food shortages.

She says once that happens, things can move quickly.

“We have several programs here on the island, especially at this particular time in December, where the communities come together and the military is very helpful,” she said.

“People would package things here in Guam, load them up and then what the planes would do is drop them on the islands - these are crates or containers of food items or other commodities that they normally need.”

Students and staff on Onoun have been relying on supplies from the small local community, but even those supplies are running out.

The school’s headmaster Father Floren Akkin says he doesn’t known when a promised re-supply ship from Chuuk, carrying 25 bags of rice, will arrive on the island.

“There is a typhoon, a disturbance between the islands, and they told us the plan for the boat to come down has been cancelled till further notice because of this,” he said.

“So we don’t know, being far away in the islands, well, it’s like that.”

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Gaza Facts & Figures: UNICEF oPt - November 2012

UNICEF 24 November 2012

UNICEF has released a recent facts and figures on Gaza. An estimated 250 new schools are needed now and an additional 275 schools by 2020, to accommodate the increase in student population.

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School Meals In Egypt: Big Dreams In Small Villages.

WFP 22 November 2012

While most of their elder sisters got married between the ages of 16 and 18, Aya and Amani say they do not want to get married early and want to pursue their education and become doctors. The two girls, aged 9 and 10, joined a school close to their home where WFP implements its school meals programme in cooperation with the government and civil society.

By Shereen Nasef
Tamia, FAYOUM—Aya and Amani attend the informal primary school of Galala Albahria school in the remote Tamia district of Fayoum. The school is part of the government’s Girls Education Initiative (GEI) that encourages families to send their daughters to school by bringing schools closer to their forgotten areas.

Aya’s mother, Gelnar Shaaban, said that her other six children went to public primary schools but she preferred that Aya joins a GEI school because it is closer to home and she also thinks it is better than public schools.

As for Amani, she might have never been able to get any education if it were not for this government initiative. “Amani doesn’t have a birth certificate; she does not exist as far as the government is concerned,” explains her mother Om Hashem. “She would have never been accepted in a public school and this school was the only option.”

The two girls are among 180,000 students who attend informal GEI and community primary schools in the poorest and most remote areas of Upper Egypt.

WFP school meals benefit more than 360,000 students and their families in the poorest governorates in southern Egypt and Sinai. WFP school meals projects in Egypt encourage girls’ education, help dropouts to go back to school and to complete their primary education and combat child labour. Students of the informal primary schools receive a daily nutritious snack fortified with vitamin A and iron which helps fight short-term hunger and provides needed nutrition.  In addition, the students take a monthly food ration of 10 kg of rice for their familis if they attend more than 80 percent of the school days. The take-home ration is almost equivalent to the wage a child would earn if sent to work instead of school and is a major incentive for families to send their children regularly to school.

Aya’s mother is happy with the take-home ration that eases some of the financial burden on the family. The mother is even keen on learning more about good nutrition and would like to attend WFP’s nutrition awareness sessions held at her daughter’s school.

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Lessons In War: Military Use of Schools and Other Education Institutions during Conflict

Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack 21 November 2012

New York, November 20 - The use of schools and other education institutions for military purposes by armed forces and non-state armed groups during wartime endangers students and their education around the world, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack in a study released today.

The 77-page study, “Lessons In War: Military Use of Schools and Other Education Institutions during Conflict”, examines the use of schools and other education institutions for military purposes by government armed forces and opposition or pro-government armed groups during times of armed conflict or insecurity. Schools are used for barracks, logistics bases, operational headquarters, weapons and ammunition caches, detention and interrogation centers, firing and observation positions, and recruitment grounds.

“The moment troops establish a base inside a school, they can turn it into a target for attack,” said Diya Nijhowne, director of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. “When soldiers use schools and universities they are often putting their own convenience over the safety and education of students.”

Countries around the world should adopt policies and laws to restrict military forces and armed groups from using schools and other education institutions during times of armed conflict, the coalition said.

Between January 2005 and October 2012, the study found, armed forces and armed groups used education institutions in at least 24 countries, a substantial majority of the countries with armed conflicts during this period. The list included countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America.

Sometimes soldiers take over a school entirely, but often they use just a part of the school or university – some classrooms, an entire floor, the playground – and in doing so expose students to attack and other violence. In the worst cases, children have been injured and killed and schools damaged or destroyed as belligerent forces attack schools because military forces had been using them.

Students’ safety may also be jeopardized by the misconduct of poorly trained or undisciplined soldiers within their school or university. The risks include sexual abuse and harassment and the accidental or misdirected firing of weapons or explosion of ordnance.

“When countries go to war, education facilities usually end up on the battlefield,” Nijhowne said. “Governments need to send a clear message that even during times of armed conflict, access to a safe education should be a priority, and armed forces need to respect students’ right to education.

Military use of education institutions can cause damage to already-fragile education infrastructures and systems, the coalition said. The educational consequences of military use of schools and other education institutions include high dropout rates, reduced enrollment, lower rates of transition to higher education levels, overcrowding, and loss of instructional hours. Girls are particularly negatively affected.

Access to safe learning facilities provides important protection for students during times of armed conflict, the coalition said. Safe schools and universities provide lifesaving information, mitigate the psychosocial impact of war, and protect children from trafficking and recruitment by armed groups. In the long term, a quality education promotes peace and post-conflict reconstruction and helps young people develop the skills and qualifications they need to build lives for themselves and prosperity for their communities.

While international humanitarian law contains no general ban on the use of school buildings for military purposes, it does prohibit armed forces and armed groups using them at the same time as they are being used by students and teachers for education purposes. Under international law military use of an education institution can convert it into a legitimate military target, placing students and teachers at risk of attack by opposing forces. Even when there is no physical attack, the deterioration in access to schools and universities, quality of teaching, and opportunities to learn can lead to violations of the right to education under international human rights law.

The study highlights examples of good practice, in which governments have adopted policies that explicitly ban or restrict militaries from using education facilities. For example, Ireland and the Philippines have domestic legislation banning military forces from using schools. In India and Colombia, courts have ordered troops out of schools they were occupying. The Philippines and Colombia have adopted military policies that prohibit military forces using schools. And the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations has just released a new Infantry Battalion Manual that requires peacekeeping troops to not use schools in their operations.

The study also calls upon states, local organizations, and relevant international agencies to rigorously monitor military use of education institutions to devise effective, coordinated responses, including preventative interventions, rapid response, and both legal and non-legal accountability measures for those individuals or groups who contravene existing laws, judicial orders, or military orders.

“Governments that have learned from their own experiences of war that they can pursue military operations without endangering schools should encourage other countries to follow their lead,” Nijhowne said. “Schools and universities should be places of learning and safety, not soldiering and fear.”

The countries with reported military use of education institutions between 2005 and October 2012 are: Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, India, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territory, Libya, Mali, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Uganda, and Yemen.

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) is an alliance of United Nations agencies and organizations from the fields of education in emergencies, higher education, international human rights, and international humanitarian law, dedicated to addressing the problem of attacks on students, teachers, schools, and universities during armed conflict. GCPEA is governed by a steering committee made up of Education Above All, Human Rights Watch, Save the Children International, Scholar Rescue Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Lessons In War: Military Use of Schools and Other Education Institutions during Conflict” is the result of an independent external study commissioned by GCPEA. It is independent of the individual member organizations of the Steering Committee of GCPEA and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Steering Committee member organizations.

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From the field: gender equity through education in South Sudan

USAID 21 November 2012

By Jane Namadi

Regina Anek, a deputy director for gender at South Sudan’s Ministry of Education in Eastern Equatoria, just saved a 14-year old girl from an early, forced marriage. She says she was empowered to intervene as the result of her participation in a USAID-supported mentor-training program for teachers and education officials aimed at encouraging girls not just to enroll, but also to complete, secondary school.

Mentoring is just one of the ways USAID is addressing financial, social and institutional barriers to gender parity in education through the Gender Equity through Education (GEE) Program.

School completion rates for girls in South Sudan are extremely low. Survey data indicates that the rate of completing the eight-year primary cycle is currently 30 percent for boys, while the girls’ completion rate lags far behind at 17 percent. Secondary school completion rates are even worse.  This cannot only be attributed to the long conflict in this country, which prevented many girls from attending school, but also to other unique cultural and financial barriers.

One rampant cultural barrier is early marriage. Persistent poverty has been cited as a major reason for parents marrying off their daughters in exchange for money. Moreover, cultural norms in some places dictate marriage readiness for girls as young as 13. Communities often stigmatize older girls in schools, causing them to give up their education.

With USAID’s mentoring support and some tuition stipend, many girls now stay in school, and some who were married at an early age are now able to return and complete their secondary schooling.

The GEE program’s three components include:

  a scholarship program;
  an advocacy, community mobilization, and mentoring program;
  and an institutional support program.

Regina Anek was trained as a mentor, enhancing her skills to intervene in communities where girls face social pressure to leave school to get married.

“I was informed that a student from one of the schools in my state was about to be married off, and I hurried to convene a meeting with the family and community. Meanwhile, I asked the parents to allow me [to] accommodate the girl at my house so that she could continue attending school as we resolved her marriage case,” Anek said.

After weeks of negotiating and educating the community leaders and the girl’s parents on the importance of an educated girl to the family and society, the girl was allowed to return home and continue with school.

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Albergue ayuda a disminuir deserción escolar en zona afectada por el conflict

ICRC 21 November 2012

Los niños de la vereda El Camuya, Caquetá, sur de Colombia, tienen ahora un albergue al lado de su escuela para dormir y así no tener que hacer, día tras día, caminatas de más de dos horas para llegar a estudiar. La lejanía entre sus casas y la escuela los exponía a grandes riesgos asociados al conflicto armado, como la contaminación por armas o la posibilidad de terminar en medio de un enfrentamiento, pero también generaba altos índices de deserción escolar: a veces era más difícil llegar a la escuela que aprobar las lecciones de matemáticas. Ahora, gracias a un albergue escolar construido por el CICR, los niños de esta vereda aseguran un lugar para dormir, bañarse, comer, y acceder al estudio diario, lo que los fortalece frente a los riesgos del conflicto armado en la región. Lea más sobre el programa de Agua y Hábitat en el Informe Colombia 2011.

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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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