According to the World Health Organisation, childhood diarrhoea is closely associated with insufficient water supply, inadequate sanitation, water contaminated with communicable disease agents, poor hygiene practices and malnutrition. Having access to basic sanitation has a great impact on health and life. In schools, toilets will keep students healthy, comfortable, protected and able to focus on their study. In disadvantaged rural areas in Laos, there are not always functioning sanitation facilities at schools. In some cases, students must walk all the way back home or walk into the forest for defecation in the open and unprotected environment.
The distance from home to school may prevent students from returning to school after using their toilets at home while open defecation is an unsafe and unhygienic option which may keep children, especially girls, from even attending school. In Laos, 28% of the children are infested with intestinal worms which affects not only their health but also their attendance and participation in school. Proper sanitation facilities and handwashing have proven to successfully overcome these challenges.
On November 19th, we will be celebrating World Toilet Day. The Australian Government and the European Union, through the BEQUAL program,
supported the construction of 276 latrines in 132 schools, providing 8,465 school children (48% girls) with access to hygienic and gender-segregated ablution facilities. In addition, safe water supply was provided to 121 schools, through installation of gravity fed systems, pumps and water filters, drilling of boreholes or connection of schools to existing town facilities. 137 schools received WASH training according to MoES’ fit for school approach.
A school toilet is not just a toilet; it saves lives, protects a child dignity and keeps it safe. And we want to leave no one behind!