As schools worldwide struggle with reopening, the latest data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) reveal that 43% of schools around the world lacked access to basic handwashing with soap and water in 2019 – a key condition for schools to be able to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the report, around 818 million children lack basic handwashing facilities at their schools, which puts them at increased risk of COVID-19 and other transmittable diseases. In the least developed countries, 7 out of 10 schools lack basic handwashing facilities and half of the schools lack basic sanitation and water services.
The report stresses that governments seeking to control the spread of COVID-19 must balance the need for implementation of public health measures versus the associated social and economic impacts of lockdown measures. Evidence of the negative impacts of prolonged school closures on children's safety, wellbeing and learning are well-documented, the report says.
Other key findings include:
• In the 60 countries at highest risk of health and humanitarian crises due to COVID-19, 3 in 4 children lacked basic handwashing service at their school at the start of the outbreak; half of all children lacked basic water service; and more than half lacked basic sanitation service.
• 1 in 3 schools worldwide had either limited drinking water service or no drinking water service at all.
• 698 million children lacked basic sanitation services at their schools.