Handwashing with soap and educational achievement are closely linked.
Long before children are of school age, inadequate hygiene practices can lead to diarrhea and other infections that contribute to stunting. Stunting is a condition that not only impedes a child’s physical height, but also their cognitive development, setting students back from their peers even before the first day of school. One of the reasons we co-founded the Clean, Fed & Nurtured Community of Practice was to explore how an integrated approach might fight stunting.
Handwashing with soap is a foundational component of healthy schools.[i]
Once in school, good hygiene practices help ensure children are healthy so they can attend class and focus on their lessons. Diarrhea is globally responsible for children missing a cumulative 272 million school days each year, and handwashing with soap—a simple behavior that can be promoted and practiced at school—has been found to help reduce school absenteeism due to diarrhea, influenza and conjunctivitis by up to 40-50 percent and the use of hand sanitizers was found to reduce rhinorrhea.[ii] [iii]
The availability of handwashing stations with soap and water also help girls to hygienically manage their menstruation. When girls decide to stay at home while menstruating due to inadequate hygiene facilities, these absences interrupt their education leading to reduced academic performance, delays in academic and social development, and can impact on their future earning potential. Learn more about menstrual hygiene management here or celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28 to help reduce the stigma around menstruation.
[i] Pearson J & Mcphedran K (2008) A literature review of the non-health impacts of sanitation. Waterlines 27, 48–61.
[ii] Hutton, G. & Haller, L. (2004). Evaluation of the costs and benefits of water and sanitation improvements at the global level. Geneva: World Health Organization.
[iii] Pickering AJ, Davis J, Blum AG, Scalmanini J, Oyier B, Okoth G, Breiman RF and Ram PK. Access to Waterless Hand Sanitizer Improves Student Hand Hygiene Behavior in Primary Schools in Nairobi, Kenya. Am J Trop Med Hyg 2013; 89: (3) 411-418.