Since 2003, the Ministries of Education and Public Health conducted jointly with United Nations agencies (WHO, UNICEF, WFP and NGOs) several actions to improve sanitary conditions in schools. However, the issue of school health has been limited to isolated projects to build latrines, and deworming campaigns conducted by NGOs. These efforts have not been supported by a long-term vision to ensure a healthy school environment nor sustainable.
The impact of the 12 January 2010 earthquake on education services in Haiti was devastating. It reduced some 3,978 schools to rubble (out of 22,000 schools nationwide), caused the death of an estimated 1,500 teachers, and led to the interruption of education for some 2.5 million children, aggravating a situation which was already dire. The impact not only affected infrastructure and human resources, but the overall capacity of the sector to deliver quality education. Although studies and surveys in the aftermath of the quake have shown that parents value education far above any other service for their children, approximately one in four displaced children who had attended school prior to the earthquake no longer attends school (25%). The majority, (90%), cite lack of financial resources as the primary deterrent, while 5.8% state the reason being the damage or destruction of the school, including WASH facilities.
More than 80% of the schools are non–public and it is estimated that more than 70% of schools had no access to drinking water before the earthquake, and 60% had no sanitation facilities. In total, more than 52% of the schools had insufficient WASH facilities, exposing directly over 873,000 children to waterborne diseases when they are at schools. In 2010, an assessment conducted in 20 primary schools of Port au Prince, revealed that 94.4% of schools lacked either a proper hygiene promotion practice or a WASH facility that would be key to ensuring a sanitary environment for students. Some 72% of the schools visited have poor hygiene and sanitation conditions. In 83.3% of these schools, students did not practice hand washing after using toilets and 11% of schools threw garbage directly into rivers or gullies.
In October 2010, the outbreak of cholera underlined the importance of WASH in Schools. Ironically, cholera intervention has brought many new partners into the WASH in Schools action. Many of them have also developed some communication materials. The challenge is keeping them all in the WASH in Schools activities and reinforcing the coordination link between the DINEPA and the MoE.
Since 2010, UNICEF has started a WINS program that assists more than 100 schools destroyed by the earthquake. The effort is constant to support the Back to Schools initiative launched by the Haitian government after the earthquake. This action helps to provide permanent WASH packages in 150 schools. Similar actions were conducted by several NGOs and in total more than 550 schools have received WASH packages contributing to children’s dignity rights– with the understanding that good sanitation conditions and hygiene practices lead to fewer diseases. In response to the epidemic period of cholera, UNICEF provided prevention kits and hygiene promotions for 5,000 schools.
UNICEF WinS program in Haiti supports national programs that increase equitable and sustainable access to safe water and basic sanitation services, and promote improved hygiene in primary schools. UNICEF’s effort is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of government and partners at national and sub-national levels, and to addressing the challenges of recovery and development over the medium-and long-term.
The program has four main pillars:
A recent consultation of the key actors (MoE, DINEPA, USAID, WFP, WHO, SC, ACF, UNESCO etc.) recommended working on 3 key priority actions to scale-up the WinS programming in Haiti :