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Water and Sanitation
Given how vital water is for human life, it’s not surprising that the World Health Organization estimates that more than 1.5 billion people today lack access to clean drinking water—and 2.6 billion live without hygienic sanitation. Of these, 300 million are children under five and women. Lack of access to adequate sanitation and drinking water threatens the health, safety, and security of women and children. Women and girls often bear the brunt of the burden when it comes to accessing sanitation facilities. The challenge of caring for children with diarrhoea is complicated by a lack of sanitation, clean water, soap, and towels.
In India, for example, it takes an average rural woman 16 hours a week to find water and collect fuel to light the home. For women in Guatemala, it takes 28 hours a week, and for women in Kenya, 26 hours. In Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, the U.S. State Department reports that as many as 40 percent of girls may skip school during their menstrual periods because they lack basic sanitation facilities and safe places to store and dispose of sanitary pads.
Providing women and girls with safe wash is key to empowering all of humanity to live long and healthy lives. Yet those who receive limited or no water, sanitation, and hygiene services disproportionately include women, girls, children, and communities in poverty. Safe water, sanitation and hygiene for urban women could prevent an estimated 21-41% of diseases in women and children in the world’s poorest countries.” Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are one of the most cost-effective investments development agencies and governments can support. Studies have shown that each dollar spent on safe water and sanitation (approximately $3 million per year in global funding) has the potential to save lives, cure diseases, prevent accidents, and raise productivity.
Efforts are being made to improve these conditions by installing water and sanitation systems in schools, but how do you determine if the infrastructure is reaching the people it’s intended for? One way is through a biometric toilet, a relatively innovation that has the potential to be a game-changer for schools. Providing sanitation for girls and women doesn’t just mean building toilets. It means helping them receive education, stay healthy, keep their dignity, and break the cycle of poverty.