A Dubai Cares delegation led by Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer has conducted final trips to Indonesia and Sierra Leone, in order to conclude its successful Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs. The programs in both countries demonstrated the importance of a healthy learning environment in schools, and how fundamental this is in ensuring and improving quality of education.
Speaking on the importance of WASH programs, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said: “Every year, millions of school age children fall prey to diseases linked to poor water and sanitation which leave them weakened and unable to attend school on a regular basis or participate to their full potential. The tragedy of the situation is that this could be easily prevented by enforcing sound hygiene and sanitation practices. Through our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs in countries such as Indonesia and Sierra Leone, we are tackling the issue by changing student attitudes towards hygiene and showcasing how an act as simple as washing hands with soap, will ensure better productivity at school.”
In Indonesia, Dubai Cares implemented the WASH-in-School Empowerment (WISE) Program to contribute to the improvement of the wellbeing of children through the integration of water and sanitation facilities and hygiene activities, and to foster adoption of health practices among school-aged children in the primary schools of Indonesia. The Dubai Cares AED 20 million (USD 5.5 million) grant supported the WISE program to improve health-related knowledge and changed students’ attitudes in the most remote regions of the country, reaching 90,000 school children. Over the course of two and a half years, Dubai Cares collaborated with UNICEF, CARE and Save the Children which also contributed to the program to reach a total of 135,000 children.
The program also spurred the government to realize the importance of WASH-in-schools. “One of our main objectives while implementing interventions is to get the local community and government’s “buy-in” and commit resources to the continuation of the program after we have concluded it. In Indonesia, the Primary Schools Directorate of the Ministry of Education and Culture, developed the Clean and Healthy schools program using the approach and guidelines implemented during the WISE program. In addition, the local government will continue to invest in replicating components of WASH-in-schools, starting with the hygiene component,” Al Gurg added.
In addition to Indonesia, Dubai Cares concluded a pivotal WASH program in Sierra Leone, which focused on preventing water-borne diseases through education and building much-needed WASH facilities in schools. Due to the complex post-conflict environment following the civil war, only around 55% of children in Sierra Leone were completing primary school. Although attendance levels have gone up since, there is still room for improvement. Poor sanitation facilities and shortage of clean water have been identified as significant obstacles to school attendance, particularly for girls.
The program in Sierra Leone, in collaboration with UNICEF and Plan International, enabled access for 27,500 students to child-friendly WASH facilities in schools, promoting total sanitation through the School-Led Total Sanitation (SLTS) and Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approaches. In addition, the program focused on educating 99,250 students, their families and community members on good sanitation and hygiene practices through School Sanitation and Hygiene Education (SSHE). The education element received a further impetus through SSHE Teachers Training focused on child-centered active teaching and learning for 2,520 teachers in more than 1,260 primary schools. The program also included a community-wide campaign on Cholera prevention and control.
According to UNICEF, 2.5 billion people around the world lack improved sanitation facilities and 768 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, has contributed to the high mortality rates amongst children in several parts of the world and has led to decreased national productivity.
“Our WASH programs strike at the heart of a problem that is seriously affecting attendance levels in schools across the world. Schools must be a safe haven for children to exercise their creative and intellectual capabilities and should adhere to high standards in sanitation and hygiene. Through our WASH programs, we are also using schools as a platform to encourage children and adults to incorporate hygienic practices into their everyday life,” Al Gurg concluded.
Dubai Cares is currently reaching over 8 million children in 31 developing countries. The organization’s mission to increase children’s access to quality primary education is realized through integrated programs that eliminate the underlying obstacles that prevent children from going to school and learning. This is achieved through building and renovating schools and classrooms, improving water, sanitation and hygiene in schools, providing school feeding, school-based deworming activities, early childhood education, as well as teacher training, curriculum development, literacy and numeracy.