WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) Projects in Schools is a programme which is supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to improve water, sanitation and hygiene conditions at schools.
The school manager, educators of PJ Badenhorst Primary School in Dysselsdorp and the Eden District Municipality (Eden DM) Municipal Health Section based in Oudtshoorn, collaborated to establish a WASH committee. The committee strives to ensure that sustainable good health prevails among educators and learners and that the school environment is kept clean and healthy. The committee is supported by the school governing body. Involvement of educators, learners, parents, communities and government institutions is important in WASH projects.
The Manager of the Eden DM Municipal Health Services: Klein Karoo, Mr Desmond Paulse, gave a presentation to the WASH committee on the important components of a Programme, which include:
- Water facilities, water conservation and access to water;
- Hygiene promotion;
- Control of communicable and vector-borne diseases;
- Cleaning and waste disposal;
- Food storage and preparation especially in case of school feeding schemes; and
- Importance of hand washing.
Environmental Health Practitioners Francois Koelman and Willie Plaatjies did a presentation to food preparers of the school feeding scheme on food safety and safe storage of food. The Municipal Health Section of Eden DM will continue to support the school with WASH projects.
Diarrhea and worm infections, which are two of the main diseases that affect school aged children, can be drastically reduced through improved water, sanitation and hygiene practices. Children can carry infectious agents from childcare settings and schools into the home and vice versa, causing those in contact with them to get infected. WASH in schools focuses generally on the prevention of diseases that can be transmitted from person to person, and the program aims to ensure the following:
- learners that are healthier,
- learners that can positively influence hygiene practice in their homes, among family members and in the wider community;
- learners to observe, communicate, cooperate, listen and carry out decisions about hygienic conditions and practices for themselves,
- change in current hygiene behaviour and continue better hygiene practices in the future like correct hand washing with soap which is an important barrier to transmission of infections and has been cited as one of the most cost-effective public health interventions. Hand washing with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea from 48 to 42 percent. Improved sanitation behaviour has also been associated with a reduction in gastro-intestinal illnesses.