Toilet Save Lives
According to UNICEF, over 50% of primary schools in developing countries lack adequate water facilities and two-thirds have no adequate sanitation. In Africa, half of the young girls who drop out of school do so due to the lack of a clean water supply, thus must travel miles to collect water. In addition, the schools do not have a basic functional toilet, putting the girls at risk of shame and event greater risk of sexual harassment including rape. We believe each child; irrespective of their social status has the right to be in a safe school environment with access to clean water, quality hygiene and sanitation practices. An estimated 1.5 million diarrhea-related deaths is recorded annually for children under the age of five, most of which are related to the lack of healthy, safe and quality sanitary practices. With just 14% of Cameroon’s population with access to improved sanitation since 1995, and just 19% and 30% of primary schools with access to a working toilet and pipe-born water respectively, increased progress is urgently needed.
The Toilet Save Lives (TSL) project has made a difference in 5 communities thus far. Construction of pit toilets in schools and providing access to clean water in poor communities in rural Cameroon has led to an increase in school enrollment rates especially for girls. There is thereby a clear correlation between WASH in Schools and high enrollment rates of girls when compared to boys, thus an effective attempt in bridging the educational gender inequality gap. Access to WASH services in schools also protects girls’ rights to education as they are more likely to drop out of school when toilets and washing facilities are not private, not safe, not clean, or simply not available. By providing access to WASH facilities and encouraging behavior among the children, the burden of disease can be lifted and opportunities for children expanded
Our innovation seeks to adopt an approach that engages the community as stakeholders in maintaining a clean environment in schools through proper supervision and maintenance of these toilets by engaging the children and other youth volunteers as toilet cleaners and monitors who will all receive proper training and be equipped to carry out the job thereby ensuring efficiency and sustainability.
In addition to being gender specific, our toilet facilities provide a change room for girls in order to improve menstrual hygiene. Target 6.2 of the recently adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals states that “By 2030, to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations”. Our long-term goal is to reach out to at least 20 primary schools by providing them with quality hygiene and sanitation facilities and create hygiene and sanitation clubs in schools by the end of 2020. This will directly impact the lives of over 10,000 school children and their families. By so doing we hope to urge decision-makers and key stakeholders to increase its investment for WASH in schools, with the full participation of communities, civil society, the media, and the children themselves.