Thursday, February 21, 2013

Child-friendly toilets key in fight to improve global sanitation

Julie Mollins in AlertNet: If toilets meet children’s needs, this will keep them in school longer, reduce the spread of life-threatening diarrhoeal diseases and help meet development goals, according to the charity Water For People. At least 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have proper sanitation facilities. The combined effects of improper sanitation, unsafe water supply and poor hygiene are estimated to cause almost 2,000 child deaths per day, the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, reports.

“Allowing youth to become comfortable using toilets and practising good hygiene from a young age, means that as they grow up there are fewer people to educate and convince of the reasons that improved toilets are important,” said Kate Fogelberg, Water For People’s regional manager in South America.   “It’s much more difficult to change adult behaviour than children’s behaviour -- solving the sanitation crisis is as much about changing people’s behaviour as it is about installing toilets.”

Governments are not on course to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of the population without sanitation by 2015 -- one of eight targets agreed in 2000 by U.N. member states.

Water For People works with partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America to deliver improved water and sanitation services, part of its goal to ensure that every household, school and  clinic has access to water and sanitation.

“Children spend several hours a day at school, so improving toilets both at home and at school is crucial to solving the sanitation crisis,” Fogelberg said. “At schools, constructing hand washing stations with taps at varying heights makes it more accessible for children to wash their hands and creates a more hygienic environment.”...

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