Thursday, May 22, 2014

Innovating for water in schools

Carlos Vasquez reports on an innovative initiative bringing water to schools:

Providing water in schools for hand washing is as crucial in Lao PDR as many other initiatives to improve the lives of students. There are many far-reaching benefits linked to hand washing: fewer infectious diseases, fruitful results of existing school meal plans and healthier lives. This is why German development organisation GIZ and UNICEF have joined forces to test a new design to get clean water flowing into schools.
Designed by GIZ, a new kit to easily assemble a hand washing station was tested last week in Vientiane. Small teams from GIZ and UNICEF gathered at Phonsinuan public school and installed a new design solution that has not yet been tested in Lao.

In less than 3 hours the simple structure was up and ready for final steps. The system consists of one water tank connected to a steel pipe with small holes to release water. Children were curious about all the action taking place, and very curious about this new system that would allow them to wash their hands.

After the work was done, 14 children stepped in front of the newly built hand washing station - the first of its kind in Lao. Using a few bars of soap inside a stocking and some water, and children were washing their hands before lunch time. At the same time, the technicians from both teams stood by discussing ways to make the next design even simpler and more sustainable for remote communities and schools. This is something that can clearly have a benefit to so many Lao people.

GIZ aimed at developing and testing the simplest design, to be built with the minimal use of materials and tools. The result is a kit that can be set up by three people, using steel tubes, some cement, three buckets, and a 20-liter water tank.

This solution can allow partners and communities to deploy hand washing stations in the most hard to reach rural areas, where transportation is a challenge. Using minimum resources the system can serve a group of 14 children at once. With 10 litres of water one group can brush their teeth and wash their hands.

GIZ and UNICEF have a variety of campaigns in Lao PDR with the same objective and this project focuses on improving children’s health in order to improve learning outcomes. GIZ and the ‘Fit for School’ programme advocates for daily hand washing with soap amongst two other activities; daily tooth brushing and deworming campaigns. GIZ works together with the MoES in the development of training tools for school heads, teachers and community members to support the planned scale up of the government.

UNICEF also provides water and sanitation (WASH) facilities and water points in rural areas throughout Lao PDR through the ‘WASH in School Programme’. Water points will support any future hygiene activities that will include hand washing, clean drinking water, accessible latrines and school compound cleaning. In a geographically challenged place like Lao PDR, ingenuity and design solutions can play a big role in the quest to reach as many school children as possible.

Stay tuned for the next working event.

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