In 2015, the United Nation introduced the sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) -- Clean water and sanitation.
The first two targets under this goal are achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all and access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all. Both the targets have been set to be achieved by 2030.
Bangladesh targeted to achieve access to safe and affordable water by 2025, five years ahead of the deadline and ensure 100 percent of the population has access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene by 2030.
In reality, the country is far from achieving the targets for school children, let alone the entire nation.
As there are more than 45 million school-going children in the country, it is important to ensure safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for them to achieve the nationwide targets.
We can assume that because of the pandemic, we will not achieve the targets on time.
But a recently published data of the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) by the World Health Organisation and Unicef revealed that Bangladesh was lagging in achieving the goal for school going children before 2020. The pandemic may widen the detachment, but we cannot hold it entirely responsible.
Bangladesh can ensure safe and affordable drinking water for school students before 2030, as 82.2 percent students enjoy basic drinking water or safe drinking water, available from improved sources.
However, after setting the global goal in 2015, in the four years that followed, only 5.6 percentage points were improved.
Although the improvement is very little, still universal safe and affordable drinking water for school students is achievable by 2030. A 1.78 percentage point improvement per year is needed to achieve it by 2030.
Hygiene services were limited (handwashing facilities with water but no soap available) in more than one-third of schools in Bangladesh as the country has maintained high coverage of the handwashing facilities with water only.
Around 93 percent of children who went to school in 2019 had access to water but no soap, it was 87 percent in 2015. From 2015 to 2019, the improvement has been only 6 percent.
Moreover, the country has increased the coverage of basic hygiene services (handwashing facilities with soap and water available) by 12.6 percentage points in four years, which stands at 50.7 percent in 2019 from 38.1 percent in 2015.
Where 67 out of 110 countries had more than 75 percent coverage of basic hygiene services in schools in 2019, Bangladesh ensured only 50.7 percent.
The question is whether Bangladesh can achieve basic hygiene services in schools, as 49.3 percent still needs to be ensured within the next ten years.
However, the latest report from JMP said, achieving universal access to basic hygiene services in schools by 2030 will require a four-fold increase in the current rate (57 percent) of progress and a five-fold increase in the current rate (63 percent) of progress in basic sanitation services.
As proof of the poor basic sanitation services (single-sex and usable, which is available, functional, and private) in schools, Bangladesh could not come out of the 50 percent band even after setting the SDG target.
Very little progress has been seen in the last four years, the basic sanitation services have increased by only 4.1 percentage points, rose to 56.3 percent in 2019 from 52.2 percent in 2015.
While 71 out of 117 countries had already ensured more than 75 percent coverage of basic sanitation services in schools in 2019, basic sanitation coverage in schools in Bangladesh was also below the average for Central and Southern Asia (64 percent).
Miles to walk
The slowly increasing number of socio-economic indicators is often seen as a measure of economic success. However, the numbers do not lead us to believe that we can achieve our goals by 2030.
Based on the current situation, the country needs a miracle to achieve universal basic hygiene and sanitation services for school students.
As only 10 years are left for achieving these targets, around five percentage point improvement is needed for basic hygiene and 4.37 percentage point improvement needed for basic sanitation per year, to achieve the target within the stipulated time.
Meanwhile, the country improved 3.15 percentage point in basic hygiene services per year and 1.02 percentage point in basic sanitation services till 2019.
This evidence makes one thing clear; the country needs a serious acceleration to make sure 100 percent school going students use single-sex functional and private sanitation systems and wash hand with not only water but also soap.
It is needless to say that the pandemic has jeopardised the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) global agenda.
The above statistics of SDG 6 reflects that Bangladesh, even before Covid-19 struck, had made us feel doubtful whether the goals could be achieved by 2030.