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A School practising Handwashing with Soap

Sanitation and Hygiene are critical factors to sustainable development and meeting up with the MDGs. Sanitation has also been widely identified as a key impute for alleviating poverty. However, Nigeria is falling short in the sanitation and hygiene department.

According to UNICEF, nationally from 2004, less than half of the country has access to improved sanitation facilities, and the information from available data through measurement of hygienic practices as indicated by access to hand washing facilities including use of water, soap and presence of a basin is estimated at 43% of the population. Generally from mere observation, the level of hygiene practices is very low among the people and this has contributed significantly to high mortality and morbidity rates in the country.

Poor sanitation coupled with low level of good hygiene practices has ill effects on several other aspects of human livelihood but more pressing is its effect on the children, especially those living in the rural areas, where sanitation and hygiene practices are generally regarded as poor.

Diarrhoea in children under five, which is largely a poor sanitation and hygiene related disease, is the second main cause of infant mortality, after malaria, and the third main cause of under-five mortality in the country. It has been estimated that about 200,000 children die annually from diarrheal diseases.

Lack of water and sanitation facilities have been found to be more pronounced in schools in the developing world. The UNICEF sanitation and hygiene annual report in 2008 estimates that, only 43% of primary schools in 60 developing countries including Nigeria, have adequate water sources while just 37% have adequate sanitation facilities, this often leads to poor enrolment and attendance of children, especially girls, in school.

Also, bouts of diarrheal cases suffered by these children and other infections such as ring worm and Helminth, caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices increases the level of absenteeism among students, as they are forced to stay at home due to these illnesses.

Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in schools is a strategic approach which aims to provide safe drinking water, improved sanitation facilities and hygiene education hence encouraging the development of healthy behaviours for life.

WASH in schools helps fulfil children’s right to health and education and enjoys widespread recognition for its significant role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals – particularly those related to universal access to primary education, reducing child mortality and improving environmental sustainability (UNICEF, 2010).

The Centre for Water and Environment Development (CWED), an NGO in Kaduna state, committed to sustainable water and environmental resources development, is initiating WASH programmes in rural community schools across Kaduna state, where evidences of the problems associated with sanitation and hygiene are quite visible. So far, three community schools have been covered in Igabi local government, where hand washing Orientation has been delivered to the students and hand washing kits such as kettles, basins, soaps, towels and cups were donated to the schools.

Training was also given to the teachers to sustain the programme and integrate it into school activities while coordinators were chosen to oversee the activities of the students.

The WASH programmes initiated in these schools by CWED was designed to be a student participatory programme, to allow school children come up with ideas and innovations that will aid good sanitation and hygiene practices. The programme is also aimed at developing the school children into advocates that will take messages of good sanitation and hygiene practices back home to their friends and families in their communities.

Nevertheless more effort is needed in ensuring that the WASH programme has a better reach, many more community schools across the country are faced with similar challenges and must be covered. Therefore, the WASH programme in schools needs a well defined and harmonized institutional framework that will involve the Government at all levels as well as NGOs and the private sector to achieve more. There is also the need for provision of more improved sanitation facilities to increase the wiliness and to motivate the school children to sustain the good sanitation and hygiene practices that have been developed in them.

In conclusion, sanitation and hygiene promotion has to be accorded better attention and must be treated as a priority. The WASH programme could be veritable tool in improving the overall sanitation and hygiene situation in Nigeria and enjoying all the benefits that will accompany it.


The writer, Temitope Ogunrinde is the Program Coordinator of the Centre for Water and Environment Development (CWED) Kaduna.