Access to Hand-washing Facilities Vital for Safe School Reopening

art-370-01Access to hand hygiene is essential to ensure a safe reopening and operation of schools

As schools around the world are reopening during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, governments are urged to prioritise access to basic hand-washing facilities in their school reopening and operation strategies.

In a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on 12 August 2020, around 820 million children globally lack basic hand-washing facilities at school and this is putting them at greater risk of COVID-19 as well as other transmittable diseases.

“Access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is essential for effective infection prevention and control in all settings, including schools,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Prolonged school closures worldwide since the onset of the pandemic have impacted children’s education and well-being negatively.

Thus, the report emphasised the imperativeness for governments striving to control the spread of the coronavirus to balance the need between implementation of public health measures and the social and economic impacts of lockdown measures.

“We must prioritize children’s learning. This means making sure that schools are safe to reopen – including with access to hand hygiene, clean drinking water and safe sanitation,” stated UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Based on guidelines on safe school reopening issued by UNICEF and partners in April, the report outlined resources for prevention and control of COVID-19 in schools, which include 10 immediate actions and safety checklists.

These guidelines comprise several protocols concerning hygiene measures, use of personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfection, as well as the provision of access to clean water, hand-washing stations with soap, and safe toilets.

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