On Global Handwashing Day (15th October) 2022, GOAL is committed to ensuring that vulnerable communities have access to safe and clean water to prevent disease and help save lives.
It’s a normal day at a secondary school in rural Eastern Uganda, over 150 kilometres east of the country’s capital city, Kampala. A group of pupils walk back from newly constructed latrines (toilets). At the front of the new latrines, is a 100-litre container of water that is fixed with a tap as pupils take turns washing their hands with soap before returning to their lessons.
“We place these containers in these positions so pupils can wash their hands after visiting the toilets,” says 15-year-old Eunice, a member of the school’s Health Club.
Eunice is among the 30 Health Club members that were trained as part of the Children’s Hygiene and Sanitation Training (CHAST) and Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) projects. The new facility and hygiene management training projects are taking place in 25 schools across Bugiri and Namayingo districts in Eastern Uganda. GOAL teams are delivering the project, thanks to funding from Charity: Water.
Improving Hygiene and Sanitation
Along with the new borehole and latrine blocks, the girl’s latrine block is also fitted with an incinerator for safe disposal of sanitary pads. While improving hygiene in the school, the new toilets are also encouraging students to return to the classroom. School management report a huge improvement in school attendance , especially for girls. Students are also coming into school earlier and staying longer. Before the facilities were built, many girls would be absent for 3-4 days each month. The school has also seen an increase in enrolment from 700 last year to 950 pupils.
Health and Sanitation Club leader, Jessica, says there is evidence of improved hygiene and sanitation practices, as well as better litter management in the school.
“This all started because of the new borehole and latrines for the boys and girls in our school. Our pupils previously had a habit of defecating behind the old latrines due to the limited number of stalls. This caused poor sanitation with a number of them being sick and often missing classes,” she recalls.
To further tackle the issue of absenteeism, the school is involving boys as a way of creating understanding and supporting the girls to stay in school longer.
15-year-old Semu is a member of the school Health Club, where he helps to make sanitary pads for girls experiencing menstruation.
“I volunteered in joining the Health Club so that I can make a difference since many girls were missing school for lack of menstruation pads. As members, we take up different roles in the club. I’m not ashamed to do this, as I see the girls are now more comfortable and staying longer in school,” says Semu.
Improved Facilities Making a Difference
By the end of 2021, the WASH facilities in schools were directly benefiting 8,500 pupils across the districts of Bugiri and Namayingo. For many girls in rural areas, the provision of proper sanitation facilities is often the difference in ensuring they stay longer and complete their studies.
For girls like 15-year-old Hasifa, the lack of facilities hampered their education. Now, they can come to school and study without worrying about their menstrual cycle.
“I now participate in making the pads. I no longer have to stay at home and miss school because of the shame that girls used to experience before these latrines were constructed by GOAL,” Hasifa says.
Global Handwashing Day
The Covid pandemic helped to raise awareness of hand hygiene and its importance. Global Handwashing Day is celebrated every year on the 15th of October as a reminder that handwashing with soap and water is one of the best practices we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
Over 700 million people in the world are deprived of access to clean water and a further 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. GOAL’s work improving access in the world’s most vulnerable communities is more important than ever.