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In the original version of the MDGs, water and sanitation were grouped as part of goal 7, to ensure environmental sustainability. There is considerable evidence that improved water, sanitation, and hygiene at home can lead to reduction in diarrhea and respiratory infection among children under 5. However, in the 2015 MDGs, the direct individual benefits of water and sanitation were not specified and hygiene was not mentioned. Whereas the previous WASH indicators do not address the quality, quantity and reliability of water supply, the new indicators specifically call for safe, affordable, and sustainable access. The post-MDG indicators are a step forward, but due in no small part that the previous ones were so limited.
In the 2015 MDGS, there was no mention of WASH in institutional settings, such as schools. There is now some limited evidence that WASH in schools can improve health, support an enabling environment for menstrual management, improve gender equity, and lead to reduced absence. Safe water, sanitation and hygiene-care practices are essential to ensuring that children get the best start in life; that they are able to enter school healthy, alert and ready to learn. The lack of WASH in schools indicators in the 2015 MDGs may have led to a lack of attention and funding. Without adequate indicators and data, it has been difficult to make appropriate policy decisions by national governments to prioritize WASH in schools. The post-2015 MDGs attempt to mitigate that gap. We need to continue to build our efforts not only in empirical scientific evidence but also in our practical know-how around WASH in schools.
Clearly, the proposed list will need to be paired down, however, the proposed indicators on WASH in schools by the JMP Post-2015 Working groups address the multi-dimensionality of WASH access – reliability, sustainability, safety – that were lacking in previous versions. In addition, there is a strong equity component missing from the 2015 MDGs, which led to the world “achieving” the water target, even when the poor were mostly excluded from access. Collection of the Post-2015 WASH and WASH in schools indicators will focus attention on health and development aspects of improved WASH and help target funding towards sustainable, safe, and affordable access by donors and governments.
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