Today is World Toilet Day. It may not be considered a polite dinner conversation topic, but ensuring access to clean water and sanitation facilities like latrines is one of the most important global public health issues. Thousands in the developing world, primarily children, die every day of preventable water-borne illnesses. People are forced to walk for miles to fetch potable water. When schools don’t have clean water or sanitation facilities, many children simply don’t show up, especially girls who have reached puberty, and students who do attend tend to find themselves in difficult and unsafe learning environments. This reality is far more disturbing than talking about toilets.
Africare, the African Well Fund and the Batonga Foundation are recognizing World Toilet Day with the launch of a Water & Sanitation project in three schools in Benin. In Benin’s commune of Berembeke, less than 30% of students who are enrolled actually attend school, and although Berembeke is a higher-traffic city in Benin for people and goods, the local water and sanitation situation is poor. Cholera and diarrhea are endemic, and the high mortality rate is worsening. The new project will collaborate with the local population to improve clean water access and sanitation in three schools, upgrading the learning environment and enhancing public health in this important crossroads region.
To achieve sustainability, the project will contract with Association pour la Santé et la Médecine Africaine, a local non-governmental organization, and will collaborate with school authorities, students, parents’ associations and other local stakeholders. Depending on the specific needs of each school, the schools will be connected to Benin’s Rural Water Supply system, and they will receive improved latrine facilities and hand-washing stations. Murals by local artists and education sessions will teach pupils how to keep themselves safe from water-borne diseases, and each school will establish a committee with students and teachers to properly maintain their new infrastructure.
Africare and the African Well Fund have partnered on clean water access projects for more than a decade, and the Batonga Foundation partnered with both organizations on a similar project as recently as 2012 that benefited 630 students across four schools. Water and sanitation are major issues with straightforward solutions. Bring them up tonight at dinner.