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Beyond SDG 6: How clean water and sanitation are integral to the SDGs

Beyond SDG 6: How clean water and sanitation are integral to the SDGs

Splash, a nonprofit organization, has launched an ambitious initiative called Project WISE (WASH in Schools for Everyone), which supports the SDGs broadly, and SDG 6 specifically

Published on February 8, 2021 at 6:59 pm

Updated on March 16, 2021 at 05:05 am

Aerial overview of Addis Ababa. – Make Beautiful

BY CYNDIE BERG, CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, SPLASH

Did you know that some 1.8 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion people lack decent sanitation? Fulfilling these basic human needs is the focus of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all. At the same time, equitable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are closely interconnected to multiple other SDGs – from good health and well-being (SDG 3) and quality education (SDG 4) to sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) and partnership for the goals (SDG 17).

Splash, a nonprofit organization, has launched an ambitious initiative called Project WISE (WASH in Schools for Everyone), which supports the SDGs broadly, and SDG 6 specifically. As children, youth, and teachers in many parts of the world prepare to go back to school following closures due to COVID-19, it is essential that they have access to WASH services to help prevent the spread of disease.

WASH in Schools for Everyone

Project WISE aims to deliver improved WASH infrastructure; behavior change programs for kids and adults; and strengthened menstrual health services to 100% of government schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Kolkata, India. Working in kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools serving students aged 5-18, we plan to reach one million underserved young people by 2023. The impact will be healthier students and improved school attendance, especially for girls.

With over a decade of experience delivering child-focused WASH programs, Splash has developed a simple, scalable, and cost-effective solution to improve WASH in schools that includes the following components:

  • Increasing Access – We install commercial grade water filtration systems to ensure safe water, along with water storage capacity and drinking and handwashing stations. Toilets are rehabilitated or constructed to ensure they meet global standards for safety, privacy, cleanliness, and accessibility.
  • Behavior Change – Splash works through schools to implement a multi-faceted behavior change program to encourage children to adopt hygienic practices, like handwashing with soap, and to encourage adults to sustain the program. School leaders, parents, teachers, and student clubs are engaged to promote healthy WASH behaviors schoolwide.
  • Menstrual Health – Splash strengthens school-based menstrual health services by improving infrastructure and providing targeted education. We ensure toilets are girl-friendly and deliver education sessions on puberty and menstruation for all children over 10 years of age.

While there are WASH in Schools programs being implemented around the world, our unique, holistic approach is best understood through the lens of the following SDGs:

 SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being

Splash is focused on the health and well-being of children, as they are the most vulnerable to waterborne illness. Poor WASH conditions have serious consequences for kids due to transmission of diarrheal disease and acute respiratory infections, with associated impacts on nutrition, child development, and family health. Among children under 14, more than 20% of deaths and years lived with disabilities are attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, or insufficient hygiene.

Student hygiene club members in Addis Ababa. – Make Beautiful

Our focus on schools is now more important than ever given the need to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO and UNICEF have recommended an increased focus on WASH interventions in schools given that, “large numbers of people frequent these institutions, and the risks associated with inadequate WASH in these settings are high, as diseases may be transmitted more easily and have more serious impacts on vulnerable groups.”

Teacher and students handwashing with soap. – Shivam Photofarm

 SDG 4: Quality Education

In order for children to thrive in school and obtain a quality education, they need access to safe drinking water, handwashing facilities, and decent toilets. As UNICEF states, “Children spend a significant portion of their day at school where WASH services can impact student learning, health, and dignity, particularly for girls.” However, a recent report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Program found that globally, 37% of schools didn’t have decent toilets and 43% did not have handwashing facilities.

Splash sees WASH in schools as a key component of a safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environment as called for under SDG target 4.a: Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

While most people think of rural areas when they consider SDG 6, WASH services are critical to the sustainability of cities and urban communities. Given rapid population growth and urbanization, many governments struggle to provide equitable WASH services to the urban poor. As a result, children in slum and resource constrained neighborhoods significantly lag behind in health and education. The problem is growing worse by the day as 3 million people move into cities every week around the world.

There is now an opportunity to change the course of the future and make cities more livable for the urban poor. Through Project WISE, Splash aims to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, starting with rapidly growing Addis Ababa and Kolkata.

SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals

The SDGs can only be realized with strong global partnerships and cooperation. Splash leverages government co-investment and public-private partnerships to ensure long-term sustainability. In Ethiopia, the municipal government of Addis Ababa has committed to fund $8,000,000 – one-half of the in-country project costs – with international donors providing the balance of funding.

We also work closely with schools and government stakeholders — across bureaus of health, education, construction, and finance — to coordinate implementation of the work, while ensuring the allocation of funding for maintaining WASH infrastructure and continuing behavior change programs.

Beyond the SDGs

Project WISE represents the front line of emerging global efforts between governments and philanthropy to co-invest toward lasting and scaled solutions. A project at this scale is groundbreaking for the WASH sector and can serve as a model for other organizations. While most international development work is conducted at a limited, pilot project level, this approach rarely leads to the systemic change that is required.

Splash believes that the density of urban poverty creates opportunities for new solutions. And these solutions can scale in partnership with governments and international philanthropy to build community resilience in the post-pandemic world.

 

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