* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Pakistan: When sanitary conditions stand in the way of education
Blocked roads, schools destroyed and homes carried off by floodwaters. More than 20 million Pakistanis saw their daily lives affected by the intense flooding in 2010. Added to this were heavy rains felt during the monsoon seasons in 2011 and then in 2013. The consequences of these disastrous rainfalls are still very much present. Terre des hommes (Tdh) is renewing its support for this country that is still one of the poorest in the world.
Natural catastrophes have left the population in great disarray. Currently only 65% of inhabitants have access to drinking water and decent sanitation facilities are accessible to only 39% of the population. In Pakistan, close to half a million children die even before their fifth birthday following water-related illnesses.
School enrolment rate linked to sanitary conditions.
Tdh’s Pakistan-based teams quickly realised that children’s enrolment at school was strongly correlated with their access to drinking water and proper sanitation. In fact, school establishments are all too often places where children fall ill, due to a lack of adequate infrastructure. As such, parents hesitate sending their children to school because of the risks involved and, given the difficult access to drinking water, many of them are also inclined to send their children off in search of this precious resource. The high rate of absenteeism, particularly among young girls, is worrying.
Tdh, along with FLOWERS, their local partner for more than 10 years, therefore rapidly setup a project (http://www.tdh.ch/en/news/pakistan-end-of-the-emergency-intervention-make-way-for-rehabilitation), especially in school establishments heavily impacted by flooding, to equip them with proper water infrastructure. At the start of this year, Tdh launched a new 3-year program with the ambition of completing and reinforcing the previous project which terminated in August 2013. This project received more than just encouraging results. For example, children made aware of the importance of washing their hands are 60% more likely to perform this simple and extremely effective hygienic gesture.
Turning the community into a key actor
Tdh’s intervention is concerned with three main focus points. The supply of drinking water, the construction of latrines and the establishment of an educational program for the promotion of hygiene. Tdh envisage providing 72 wells, repairing 140 latrines and reconstructing another 302 (of which 72 will be adapted for children with reduced mobility). As such, they are targeting 18,649 school children from 73 primary schools situated in Nowshera (http://www.tdh.ch/en/countries/pakistan), the region the worst affected by natural catastrophes in the last few years. The Foundation aims to offer a healthy stable environment to school children, in order to also encourage a large number of parents to enrol their children at school. The results of the previous project show the obvious link between integral sanitation infrastructure and school enrolment rates. The amount of confidence placed in school establishments by both children and their parents has also risen, along with the number of enrolled school children. 2621 new school goers – 1634 girls and 972 boys – have come forward, which represents a rise in school enrolment rates of 27.2%.
Consequently Tdh encourages school children, parents and teachers to get involved. Alongside information programs on practicing good hygiene, Tdh has setup different committees – the Parents and Teachers Committee and the Hygiene Committee – that take on a leading role in the smooth continuation of the project. Responsible for maintenance activities – verification that infrastructure is functioning correctly, soap supplies, etc. – the members of these committees become actors of change. As such, the Foundation hopes to develop a continuous engagement within these groups, along with the collective and cooperative mindset necessary to encourage a lasting impact that will be beneficial for the entire population.
Every year, Terre des hommes offers sustainable solutions and a better future for over two million children and their relatives. Learn more about our projects in Pakistan (http://www.tdh.ch/en/countries/pakistan).