Children Should Carry Books, Not Water

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U.S. Raising Clean Hands Campaign Launched Today: WASH (WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene) Is Essential to Achieve Universal Education. Even for those children that have the opportunity to go to school, students lose 443 million school days each year due to diseases associated with the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Repeated episodes of diarrhea and worm infestations diminish a child’s ability to learn and impair cognitive development. This problem is exacerbated by the more than half of all schools in developing countries that lack adequate WASH facilities.

I had no idea of the magnitude of the issue and I was shocked to find out the severity of the crisis and the number of students like me across the world that still don’t even have a toilet at their school. Doing something about this has become a really big deal for me

Nathan Strauss, 17, a student at Abington Senior High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is part of a growing movement of America’s youth who are stepping up to make a change in the lives of the students around the world who are carrying water and not books.

Even for those children that have the opportunity to go to school, students lose 443 million school days each year due to diseases associated with the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Repeated episodes of diarrhea and worm infestations diminish a child’s ability to learn and impair cognitive development. This problem is exacerbated by the more than half of all schools in developing countries that lack adequate WASH facilities.

“I had no idea of the magnitude of the issue and I was shocked to find out the severity of the crisis and the number of students like me across the world that still don’t even have a toilet at their school. Doing something about this has become a really big deal for me,” said Nathan Strauss. “I think America’s youth has great potential to do something about this problem; if everyone gets taught the issue, we can all help. Imagine if all the students in America were a part of this; the change would be enormous,” he continued.

Nathan is not alone. Nearly 30 organizations launched a campaign in the United States today at an event at AED to demonstrate that providing water, sanitation and hygiene education in schools globally can help solve the WASH and education challenge around the world. Through this campaign, and an exhibit called “Bathroom Pass,” these organizations highlight the solutions they are currently implementing and urge the U.S. Government, the World Bank, and other actors in the education and health sectors to bring WASH to schools in the developing world.

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero stressed, “The bottom line is this: if we are serious about improving child health, achieving universal primary education, ensuring gender equity and stimulating economic development, we need to be serious about providing safe water, sanitation and hygiene in schools.” She emphasized the important role of students, like Nathan, to participate in service learning projects that help them engage in concrete actions to help others around the world. Earlier this year on World Water Day, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized that global water issues would be a priority for the U.S. Government.

Other speakers who highlighted the need to act included Carol Bellamy (Education for All - Fast Track Initiative), Clarissa Brocklehurst (UNICEF), Jack Downey (AED) and Denise Knight (The Coca-Cola Company). Jon Hamilton of NPR served as the moderator.

Nathan took action by helping to start a club through H2O for Life to raise funds to help schools in developing countries; the money is used to improve access to clean water, build toilets and handwashing stations, and provide hygiene education. So far 120,000 students across the U.S. have participated in H2O for Life service learning programs. Nathan’s story is highlighted in the “Bathroom Pass” exhibit, as are the stories of three students from Honduras, Madagascar and Nepal.
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As a part of this campaign the organizers are challenging you to:

  • Live for one day on the global minimum standard for water—approximately 5 gallons per person per day for drinking, cooking and bathing.
  • Wash your hands at critical times: after using the toilet and before preparing food or eating.
  • Start an H2O for Life club at your school like Nathan and his classmates did. Visit http://www.h2oforlifeschools.org/

The launch of this campaign is timed to coincide with the week of Global Handwashing Day, October 15, when 200 million children, parents, teachers, celebrities and citizens in over 80 countries are raising attention for handwashing and for WASH in Schools. Visit http://www.globalhandwashingday.org/
Nathan Strauss is available for print, radio and broadcast interviews. He will also be touring the “Bathroom Pass” exhibit in Washington, DC on Friday October 15 for photo and video opportunities.

Attention broadcasters: for WASH in Schools b-roll visit:

UNICEF – http://weshare.unicef.org/pickup?key=S8cf8f010-4b81-42f5-8339-5aa78cfc0cd9
Water For People – https://waterforpeople.box.net/shared/f9yvcdfqf0

For background documents, scroll to bottom of the page at http://www.wateradvocates.org/forschools.htm

Press Contacts:

  • John Sauer, Water Advocates, Tel: 202-293-4003, Email: jsauer(at)wateradvocates(dot)org
  • Michelle Galley, AED, Tel: 202-884-8388, Email: mgalley(at)aed(dot)org

“Bathroom Pass” Exhibit Description
In collaboration with nearly 30 partners, AED will launch Bathroom Pass: A Hands-On Exhibit On Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools at Idea:Exchange on October 13, 2010. Every child has the right to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in their school. In this kid-friendly exhibit, visitors experience WASH in schools through the stories of four children from around the world: Adán, age 12 from Honduras; Mamisoa, age 10 from Madagascar; Nathan, age 17 from the United States; and, Sarita, age 15 from Nepal. Find out how WASH in schools ensures students reach their full potential. Learn how you can make a difference. For more information on group scheduling or events, please contact Zoe Plaugher, zplaugher(at)aed(dot)org or 202-884-8618. The exhibit is free and open to the public from October 25 through November 19, Monday-Friday, 3PM-7PM. Location: AED | IDEA:EXCHANGE, corner of Connecticut Ave. & T St., 1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009.

Organizations supporting this event include: Action Against Hunger, AED, Basic Education Coalition, CARE, CRS, Children Without Worms, Global Environment & Technology Foundation, Global Water Challenge, H2O for Life, Millennium Water Alliance, PATH, Plan USA, Project WET, PSI, Ryan's Well Foundation, Save the Children, UNICEF, USAID, US Fund for UNICEF, WaterAid, Water Advocates, Water and Sanitation Program, Water Centric, Water For People, World Water Relief

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