More than four in ten schools (43%) in Bangladesh lack basic sanitation facilities composed of gender-segregated toilets with privacy, according to a report by Unicef and WHO.
In a joint fact sheet, the UN agencies noted that despite a steady decline in the proportion of schools without basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services, deep inequalities persist between and within countries.
Schoolchildren in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and fragile contexts are the most affected, and emerging data shows that few schools have disability-accessible WASH services.
According to the fact sheet, one in five schools (19%) lack safe drinking water in Bangladesh, impacting 8.5 million schoolchildren.
The institutions also lack basic hygiene services composed of handwashing stations with water and soap (44%), impacting over 19 million schoolchildren.
The report also highlights that 7% of schools in Bangladesh have no WASH facilities at all, meaning that over 3 million children go to a school where there is no safe drinking water, no latrine and no handwashing station.
"Far too many children go to schools without safe drinking water, clean toilets, and soap for handwashing—making learning difficult," said Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF Director of Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Climate, Environment, Energy, and Disaster Risk Reduction.
"The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of providing healthy and inclusive learning environments. To protect children's education, the road to recovery must include equipping schools with the most basic services to fight infectious diseases today and in the future," she added.
"Access to water, sanitation and hygiene is not only essential for effective infection prevention and control, but also a prerequisite for children's health, development and well-being," said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. "Schools should be settings where children thrive and not be subjected to hardship or infections due to lack of, or poorly maintained, basic infrastructure."