Six million children back in school without sufficient water, soap

By Phan Anh   May 7, 2020 | 09:19 am GMT+7
Six million children back in school without sufficient water, soap
Students wash their hands during a break at the Nguyen Du Secondary School in Hanoi, May 4, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
Around 6.4 million Vietnamese students have returned to school without running water and other sanitation facilities, according to UNICEF Vietnam.

It said Tuesday that 30 percent of schools lack such facilities and needed priority attention.

Following an unprecedented, prolonged break since the Lunar New Year festival in late January due to the Covid-19 pandemic, over 22 million Vietnamese students began to return to school starting Monday.

As the schools reopen however, UNICEF, working with the Ministry of Education and Training, drew attention to the challenges 30 percent of Vietnamese schools were facing, lacking running water and other safe hygiene and sanitation measures.

Running water and soap was a priority need for children of these schools, the ministry acknowledged, while UNICEF called for immediate measures to ensure access to basic amenities even as more sustainable measures await.

"Providing better water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools not only reduces the spread of hygiene-related diseases like Covid-19; not only reduces the risk of parasite infections; it also helps to curb the number of schools days missed every year due to diarrhea," said Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative to Vietnam.

"Rather than an emergency measure at times of crisis – it must be a normal expectation for all children that schools will now have a budget line that ensures they are never short of the lifesaving soap."

UNICEF Vietnam said it will distribute, along with partners, soap, hand sanitizers and ceramic water filters to schools, commune health centers and communities in the northern provinces of Lao Cai and Dien Bien; the Central Highlands provinces of Gia Lai and Kon Tum; the south-central province of Ninh Thuan; and the Mekong Delta’s provinces of Ben Tre and Soc Trang.

Approximately 500,000 people, including 300,000 students, will benefit from the distribution in the coming weeks, it said, calling for additional support to reach all children in need.

For schools to reopen, they must satisfy a list of safety standards by the Ministry of Education and Training to prevent the spread of Covid-19. These standards include maintaining environmental and food hygiene, sufficient medical and sanitation tools such as thermometers and soap, mandatory body temperature checks, mask wearing, and appropriate distancing in the classroom.

Vietnam has recorded 271 Covid-19 cases, of which 39 are active. The country has recorded no community transmission in the last 20 days.

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