2 in 5 schools around the world lacked basic handwashing facilities prior to COVID-19 pandemic — UNICEF, WHO
As schools worldwide struggle with reopening, the latest data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) reveal that 43 per cent 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 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Global school closures since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have presented an unprecedented challenge to children’s education and wellbeing,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “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.”
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. More than one third of these children (295 million) are from sub-Saharan Africa. In the least developed countries, 7 out of 10 schools lack basic handwashing facilities and half of 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.
“Access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is essential for effective infection prevention and control in all settings, including schools," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "It must be a major focus of government strategies for the safe reopening and operation of schools during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.”
Other key findings from the report include:
- Of the 818 million children who lacked a basic handwashing service at their school, 355 million went to schools which had facilities with water but no soap, and 462 million to schools which had no facilities or water available for handwashing.
- 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 service at their school.
The report identifies several resources necessary for COVID-19 prevention and control in schools, including 10 immediate actions and safety checklists. It builds on guidelines on the safe reopening of schools issued by UNESCO, UNICEF, WFP and the World Bank with practical advice for national and local authorities on how to prepare for safe school reopening and keep children safe when they return to school. The guidelines include several WASH-related protocols on hygiene measures, use of personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfection, as well as providing access to clean water, handwashing stations with soap, and safe toilets.
UNICEF and WHO are committed to achieving equitable access to adequate WASH services worldwide. The agencies recently launched a joint initiative, Hand Hygiene for All, to support the most vulnerable communities with the means to protect their health and environment. It brings together international partners, national governments, public and private sectors, and civil society to ensure affordable products and services are available, especially in disadvantaged areas.
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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
The World Health Organization directs and coordinates international health within the United Nations system. Working with its 194 Member States, WHO’s mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.
For more information about WHO, visit www.who.int.
About the Joint Monitoring Programme
The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene is responsible for monitoring global progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets and indicators relating drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The JMP produces national, regional and global estimates of progress on WASH in households, schools and health care facilities.
My message to the young and the young at heart:
Today as we commemorate International Youth Day, we would like to recognize the role young people play towards shaping a better future in health and beyond. The theme this year ‘Youth engagement for Global Action’ puts the spotlight on how the proactive engagement, resilience and creativity of young people at local, national, and global levels can drive progress, especially in times of crisis. This has been true especially for efforts to end tuberculosis(TB) - the world’s top infectious killer.
There has been significant progress over the past year since WHO launched its global youth movement to end TB titled the 1+1 Initiative, followed by the adoption of the Youth Declaration to End TB at the first-ever Global Youth Townhall on Ending TB. The 1+1 Initiative has expanded to include thousands of youth across the world in countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Kenya and Viet Nam. The social media platforms set up as part of the 1+1 youth initiative and social media posts are followed by over 20 000 people, with the number growing each day. More than 100 different youth-led activities and events on ending TB have been conducted worldwide. This includes peer education training in schools and universities, sensitizing young people, encouraging them to become TB advocates, and supporting TB patients in the community with resources and advice.
One inspiring example of youth action to end TB is in Nepal. Young people in the country have established national and provincial youth networks to empower young people to end TB, through capacity building and by ensuring their participation in policy making and community level awareness building. Likewise, in March 2020, Viet Nam's National TB programme launched the National Youth Movement against TB which aims to reach 10 million young people, and educate all primary school students with knowledge and good practices on combating TB and lung diseases. We urgently need more such inspiring youth initiatives to end TB.
If you are a youth and looking for an opportunity to contribute to the fight against TB, we are just one message away. We are always happy to guide you, provide you with appropriate learning opportunities and a global platform to demonstrate your innovative ideas and creativity.
Please share your ideas, stories and experiences with us and the rest of world using the hashtags #EndTB and #Youth2EndTB or join our Facebook group Youth2EndTB.
Together we can End TB and make our world a better place.
Dr Tereza Kasaeva
Director, WHO Global TB Programme
- Viet Nam
National Youth Movement to End TB Launched officially in Vietnam
On March 20, 2020, on the occasion of World TB Day, Vietnam National Lung Hospital held a congress of the Youth Society against TB and lung diseases - Vietnam Lung Association. The congress elected 11 young people to represent the youth of the country in the Executive Committee of the Association for the term 2020–2022. This was the official commencement of Vietnam's youth movement against tuberculosis which is the adoption of the Global Youth Movement against TB at a national level. The event was virtually attended by the Director of WHO's Global TB Programme, Dr Tereza Kasaeva, who encouraged the youth gathered to instill new vitality in efforts to end TB.
The youth movement in Vietnam aims to reach 10 million young people and educate all primary school students with knowledge and good practices on combating TB and lung diseases.
Every day, young people are enriching institutions and processes at the local, national, and global levels.
This year, the theme of International Youth Day is "Youth Engagement for Global Action." It highlights the importance and value of young people’s contributions and draws lessons on how their representation and engagement in formal institutional politics can be significantly enhanced.
The theme of the day raises three questions:
What is meaningful youth engagement?
What are the benefits and challenges of meaningful youth engagement?
How does WHO strive to practice meaningful youth engagement in its work?
Meaningful youth engagement, as defined by the 2018 Global Consensus Statement, is an inclusive, intentional, mutually-respectful partnership between young people and adults. Power is shared and respective contributions are valued.
Young people’s ideas, perspectives, skills, and strengths are integrated into the design and delivery of programs, strategies, policies, funding mechanisms - and organizations that affect their lives and their communities, countries, and world.What are the benefits and challenges of meaningful youth engagement?
Meaningful youth engagement ensures that young people are equal and valuable partners – not only beneficiaries – in efforts to improve their health and wellbeing. It increases the likelihood that policies and programmes will be acceptable, appropriate, and responsive to their needs and preferences.
Although global rhetoric increasingly acknowledges the value of meaningful youth engagement, it often remains more of an aspiration than a reality. There is still considerable resistance to giving young people a place at the table.
When young people are given opportunities to contribute, it is most often older, urban, educated, and well-connected young people that are selected. Their engagement is often tokenistic and their responsibilities small, for instance leading energizer activities at conferences, taking notes during meetings, or formatting references in reports. Additionally, young people’s contributions are rarely measured effectively to demonstrate their value, and their contributions are often not appropriately acknowledged, either with authorship or compensation.
This must not be the case. Meaningful youth engagement is central to the success of policies and programmes aimed at improving young people’s health and wellbeing, and can provide young people with opportunities to develop skillsets they will need as the next generation of leaders.How does the WHO strive to practice meaningful youth engagement in its work?
The WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and the Human Reproduction Programme (HRP) strive to apply the principles of meaningful youth engagement, as defined in the Global Consensus Statement, particularly with work on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (ASRHR).
For example, it put meaningful youth engagement into practice with the WHO and UNFPA-led supplement of the Journal of Adolescent Health. This supplement takes stock of progress made in ASRHR in the 25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development and sets out priorities for the future.
The process of developing the supplement was:
Transparent and informative. Seven young people from Botswana, Fiji, India, Lithuania, Mexico, Pakistan, and Turkey were identified using a structured selection process, in collaboration with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child (PMNCH). Their selection was based on profiles with specific criteria, the same as for representatives from international organizations, governments, academia, civil society, and funding agencies.
Rights-based. The young people engaged actively and as equal partners with the other contributors throughout the process. They played a key role in ensuring that young people’s rights were front and center in the content of the supplement.
Voluntary and free from coercion. The young people were issued formal contracts, assuring co-authorship and compensation for their time and effort. These contracts were developed with and approved by the young people, themselves.
Safe. The contracts spelled out clear expectations regarding their roles and responsibilities, which were fully in line with their abilities. Additionally, throughout the process, they had a focal person they could turn to for support.
Respectful of young people’s views, backgrounds, and identities. The young people began by sharing their individual ideas and perspectives, and then worked collaboratively with each other and with the broader group of co-authors to pull together key themes and messages and develop the papers. Next, they worked with an artist to develop an illustrated video to bring the supplement to life, highlighting what they felt to be the most important messages of the supplement.
The International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) and the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP), two of the organizations represented by the young people, are contributing to upcoming regional webinars to disseminate the supplement and draw out its particular relevance for each WHO region.
Rapid Risk Assessment: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the EU/EEA and the UK – eleventh update: resurgence of cases
Member States adopt the Global Strategy for TB Research and Innovation at 73rd World Health Assembly
Member States have adopted the global strategy for TB research and innovation through an unprecedented written silence procedure of the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) last week. The global strategy was developed to support efforts by governments and other partners to accelerate TB research and innovation, and to improve equitable access to the benefits of research in line with the commitments made in the WHO End TB Strategy, the Moscow Declaration to End TB and the political declaration of the United Nations high-level meeting on TB. The development of the strategy was requested by Member States during the 71st WHA with a view “to make further progress in enhancing cooperation and coordination in respect of tuberculosis research and development”.
Four major areas for action are highlighted in the strategy: creating an enabling environment for TB research and innovation; increasing financial investments in TB research and innovation; promoting and improving approaches to data sharing; and promoting equitable access to the benefits of research and innovation. In the spirit of fast-tracking efforts to end TB, a prerequisite for success is that all stakeholders make concerted efforts and collaborate. Hence, the strategy also makes the case for a unified and aligned response in which key national and international partners and affected communities support Member States by undertaking the investments and partnerships that are necessary for accelerating innovation. The primary audiences for the document are Member States, particularly ministries of health, science and technology, finance and education.
“Research and innovation are vital if we are to break the stronghold of TB - the world’s top infectious killer -that continues to claim millions of lives each year. This global strategy will guide Member States and other relevant stakeholders in translating political commitments on TB research and innovation into concrete action backed by investment, as an integral part of efforts to end TB” said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme “We welcome this renewed commitment by Member States at a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many gaps in TB service provision that need to be addressed through innovation”.
Under the leadership of WHO, the strategy was developed during the past two years through a consultative process with Member States including managers of national tuberculosis programmes (NTPs) and other officials from within and beyond ministries of health such as ministries of science and technology; the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Tuberculosis (STAG-TB); the WHO Global TB Research Task Force; representatives of civil society and affected communities; research funding institutions; and other stakeholders in TB research and innovation. The strategy has also benefited from an open web consultation, where extensive comments were received on a zero draft of the strategy.
The Assembly also passed a resolution requesting WHO to provide a report on the implementation of the strategy to WHA, biennially until 2030. The resolution also called for the support of the scientific community, international partners and other relevant stakeholders to undertake research and innovation aligned to the needs of the countries most affected by TB; to strengthen public-private partnerships; and to facilitate knowledge sharing. Furthermore, it requested WHO to provide technical and strategic assistance to Member States in the implementation of the strategy.
“This resolution reflects Member States’ recognition of research and innovation as a key priority for ending TB, and their commitment to take concerted action to address unmet needs. It will help pave the way for the successful implementation of the strategy,” said Dr Matteo Zignol, a.i. Unit Head, Prevention, Care and Innovations at WHO’s Global TB Programme.
The United Nations High-level Political Forum (HLPF), a mechanism that tracks and advances the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was convened virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on 7–16 July 2020, on the theme "Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development ". Given the considerable impact of the pandemic on human health and the global economy, the Forum strongly focused on the potential impact of the pandemic on the implementation of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, and how the international community can respond and get back on track to achieving the sustainable development agenda.
WHO actively participated in the Forum, by contributing to the background materials and agenda for four of the six official thematic sessions (Advancing human well-being; Ending hunger and achieving food security for all; Protecting the planet and building resilience; Sharing economic benefits) as well as in the virtual special events, side events and the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). The 47 countries that presented VNRs, echoed the need to undertake substantial measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure the proper functioning, preparedness and strengthening of health systems.
The eight WHO co-sponsored side events, focused on UHC and investing in health; tobacco control, COVID-19 and children; global strategy to leave no one behind during the COVID-19 pandemic; COVID-19 vaccines, Nutrition, as well as education in time of COVID-19, among others.
WHO’s main side event, co-hosted by Dr. Nata Menabde of the WHO office at the UN, focused on Investing in Health: the Key to Building Back Better from COVID-19 and Accelerating Progress for UHC and Sustainable Development, was organized in collaboration with the Group of Friends of UHC and Global Health and UHC2030. It addressed the extent to which COVID-19 has endangered global health and human security, threatening the progress made on the SDGs, as well as best practices and lessons learned to help accelerate response and recovery. Dr. Tedrosaddressed the meeting in a video message, urging leaders to fulfil the commitments made in the UHC Political Declaration to build back better, accelerate action to achieve the SDGs, and leave no one behind.
WHO was also represented by Mr. Stewart Simonson, Head of the WHO Office at the UN, at a side event on “Education and the Trying Times of COVID-19”, organized by theMission of the State of Qatar to the UN. He highlighted the vulnerability of children and young people due to the health and socioeconomic impacts resulting from the pandemic and stressed the need for national health system reform to be led by a strong multi-sectoral and whole-of-government approach.
The WHO VNR lab event cosponsored by the Financing for Sustainable Development Office of UNDESA and UHC2030, featuring Dr. Agnes Soucat, Director of Health Systems Governance and Financing at WHO, raised awareness of the health financing gaps as well as showcased solutions to financing health systems and build on lessons learned from COVID-19.
WHO also participated in thevirtualSDG Media Zone focusing on sustainability, solidarity and solutions, as the pillars for recovering back better. Dr Bruce Aylward, Epidemiologist and Senior Advisor to the WHO Director-General, highlighted the importance of vaccines in the global response efforts to COVID-19 and the crucial need for equitable access to them, once they become available.
Prior to officially concluding the Forum, the ECOSOC President, unveiled new UN stamps which pay tribute to frontline workers in the pandemic. Proceeds from an added surcharge will go directly to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to support the WHO and partners.