Dubai Cares, the UAE-based philanthropic institution founded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, has announced the launch of “WASH-in-Schools” programs along with its international NGO partners in the West-African countries of Mali and Sierra Leone, with the objective of improving children’s access to quality primary education.
The water and sanitation facilities and hygiene education programs will directly benefit over 1.7 million children in both countries. Access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities is an essential component to increasing school enrolment rates, decreasing pupil absenteeism, and promoting children’s overall health while also encouraging girls’ attendance.
Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares stated, “Following the success of the 2009 ‘Thirst for Education’ campaign to promote ‘WASH-in-Schools’ in developing countries and this year’s worldwide Call to Action for ‘WASH in Schools’ during DIHAD, Dubai Cares has allocated $18 million dollars, more than AED 66 million, to better access and improve quality of education in Mali and Sierra Leone. These actions form an integral part of Dubai Cares efforts in implementing His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision to ensure quality primary education for children in developing countries”.
In Mali, 55% of schools do not have a water point and 54% do not have adequate sanitation facilities, according to national statistics. The lack of access to safe water and appropriate sanitation at schools, increase the incidences of water-born related diseases, which further negatively affect a child’s ability to attend and excel in school.
Dubai Cares’ intervention will include a multi-partner, four-year integrated “WASH-in-Schools” program to be implemented by UNICEF, Save the Children, CARE, Oxfam GB and WaterAid. This wide ranging intervention will cover 726 schools in a number of regions across Mali.
At its core, the program will provide basic low-cost water and sanitation infrastructure to ensure a healthy and adequate learning environment. It will also focus on hygiene promotion in both the school and the community to ensure behavior change over the long term.
In Sierra Leone, only 39% of the population has access to improved sanitation while only 57% has access to an improved water source, according to UNICEF. Only 1 in 3 adults are able to read and write and 300,000 children are out of school. Poor sanitation facilities and shortage of clean water are one of the key factors affecting school attendance, particularly for girls.
Dubai Cares will support UNICEF and Plan International to implement fully integrated pilot “WASH-in-Schools” programs in two Area districts. These will provide WASH facilities, peer education on healthy water and sanitation practices, as well as, on the community level, implement school and community-led total sanitation approaches to ensure the reach and sustainability of healthy sanitation. The program will employ participatory learning techniques to allow school children to adopt positive hygiene practices. Essential School Sanitation Hygiene & Education (SSHE) materials will be distributed across all 5,000 primary schools in Sierra Leone.