Photos by Hope Spring Water
Every child with access to education spends an average of six hours a day in school. However, 50% of schools in Nigeria do not have access to improved water supplies. Hope Spring Water, through its WASH-2-School Initiative is empowering school children to take action to end the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) crisis in schools.
Poor access to improved water and sanitation in Nigeria remains a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children under five. The use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea, which leads to deaths of more than 70,000 children under five annually. Seventy-three per cent of the diarrhoea and enteric disease burden is associated with poor access to adequate WASH facilities and is disproportionately borne by poorer children. Frequent episodes of WASH related ill-health in children, contribute to absenteeism in school, and malnutrition.
Although children in schools, spends an average of six hours in a classroom, approximately 50% of schools in Nigeria do not have any source of improved water supply. The reason for increased spate of deaths from water-related diseases amongst children, is therefore not far-fetched. Relying on contaminated water has led to several deadly diseases amongst children, most common of which are typhoid and diarrhoea. These incidences have continued unabated due to lack of improved water source, sanitation and hygiene facilities, thus, a pragmatic approach is needed to curb this ugly trend.
The Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation (SDG6) is ambitious but attainable. Majority of the Nigerian population are below the age of 18. However, the knowledge among Nigerian youths on WASH is poor. Therefore, a strategic approach that actively involves the youths is vital for Nigeria to achieve the goal of reaching everyone with safe water and sanitation by 2030.
One sustainable way of achieving this goal is to take awareness to the schools in Nigeria. Schools are respectable and structured institutions, which serve as a veritable platform to promote water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). WASH education in schools has been widely recognised for its significant contributions to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, for the more sustainable and ambitious targets of the SDGs, a pragmatic approach to WASH education is crucial.
Too often, children miss out on an education due to lack of adequate WASH facilities in schools. Poor WASH knowledge and services in schools are detrimental to children and youths who spend long hours there. Schools, where WASH facilities are not functional or unavailable, have major consequences on the children and host communities. These consequences include denial of basic rights of children, exposure to sexual violence, unhealthy children and communities through open defecation which further pollutes the limited water resources and cause various illnesses.
Hope Spring Water Charity Foundation, as a Non-Governmental Organisation with a core focus in providing WASH education in communities, found it imperative to extend WASH education to schools by establishing WASH clubs in Nigeria schools under the “Hope Spring WASH to School (W2S) Initiative” to bridge the knowledge gap and raise a young generation of WASH champions, to impart and develop life skills among school children in the area of WASH, to promote child friendly schools with appropriate WASH initiatives, and to improve the health of school-aged children and by extension, that of their families and communities.
Hope Spring Water launched the WASH-2-School initiative by organising an Inter-secondary School WASH Quiz competition in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on 20th March 2019. The event, which was one of the key activities, by Hope Spring Water to mark Water Action Month, also served as a build-up to the planned activities for World Water Day 2019. The event had in attendance over 50 participants from five schools in Abuja and the students that participated at the competition were inaugurated as pioneer members of WASH Club in their respective schools.
The WASH Club programme has kicked off in the five schools that participated in the recently concluded WASH Quiz competition. The WASH Club activities are centred around promoting WASH in schools while the members serve as WASH vanguards in their respective schools. In order for the WASH clubs to be effective, basic water and sanitation materials will be provided for the schools at the initial phase. These include sanitary materials for menstrual hygiene management and a source of clean water, such as the Life Straw Community Water Dispenser, which was gifted as first prize to the winning school as part of the Quiz competition. The WASH Club members will work closely with the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) to ensure sustainability of the project. In addition, the WASH Club members will drive fundraising campaigns in their respective schools and communities, through organising WASH events.
Hope Spring Water Charity Foundation is committed to expanding its reach to more schools across the country and is open to partnership with organisations that are passionate about imparting lives through provision of WASH to the poor and vulnerable in the society.