A few months ago, Thaingkhali High School in south-eastern Bangladesh had neither safe water supply nor adequate facilities for handwashing. Without safe water in the school premises during the dry season, students felt dehydrated, becoming sleepy and unable to concentrate during lessons.
Recently I visited Manikganj in rural Bangladesh to see BRAC’s work in water and sanitation. A shopkeeper at a local market said that he knew handwashing was important, but soap was expensive. “What’s more expensive,” I asked, “soap or the medicines for treating diarrhea and fever?” “Medicine,” he said. He knew the answer - but that didn’t change his actions.
“People are developing a taste for healthy living. They want improvement‑ compared to us and what we are doing, they want better,” says Md Amin Uddin, one of the elders in Arua village in Keshabpur upazila, Jessore, Bangladesh who is optimistic about the future.
Sutarkhali is located in Khulna, next to the mangrove forests of Sundarbans. Climate change in this southern region has seen cyclones with more damaging effects. The sea level is rising, and loss of land through erosion and saltwater intrusion makes it hard to find safe drinking water. There are 40 million people living in the coastal belt of Bangladesh who rely on natural water sources to sustain their livelihoods and daily needs.
“A study undertaken in Bangladesh revealed an 11 per cent increase in girls’ enrolment mainly due to the provision of sanitary toilets.” -Technical paper series/IRC, In Bangladesh the standard number of toilets in schools has been set as a minimum of one toilet for every 60 students. However, this is far from being achieved. The infographic below shows that on average, schools in Bangladesh have half the number of toilets required. However, although 94 per cent of schools have latrines within the compound, a large number remain unusable because they are dirty or broken.
This article was originally posted on IRC WASH blog on 1 August 2014 by Cor Dietvorst and Vera van der Grift Dr. Mushtaque Chowdhury from BRAC on the Bangladesh public health miracle, aid or trade, arsenic, floating latrines and the post-2015 development agenda.
For students who are not taught proper hygiene at home, health education can greatly influence their lives. In many countries, comprehensive hygiene education is government-mandated. In Bangladesh, it is not. BRAC’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme works in schools to compensate for this.
When I visit communities for the BRAC Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme, I am met with examples of both good and bad practices. One can draw inspiration from the many success stories while also taking into account the many obstacles that some families have to continually deal with.
The BRAC Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme in Bangladesh is planning to convert faecal matter from pit latrines into commercially viable fertiliser, biogas and electricity. The aim is to complete the sanitation chain by making material from millions of pit latrines safe and economically productive. Babar Kabir, senior director of the BRAC WASH programme, says that there is a sound business case for investment in bio-energy units that could generate electricity on a large scale.
The 2011 Lancet series says that about 2.6 billion people lack access to proper toilet facilities and about 980 million young people under 18 live in homes without basic sanitation. Moreover, research has shown that unimproved hygiene, inadequate sanitation, and insufficient and unsafe drinking water account for about seven per cent of the total disease burden and 19 per cent of child mortality worldwide.