KAMPALA – The Government of the Republic of Iceland has 17 March given UNICEF US$300,000 (approx. 1.1bn Uganda Shillings) to provide critical handwashing facilities and supplies to 400 government-aided primary and secondary schools across the country.
This means that an additional 200 schools supported by UNICEF in 2020-2021 will also receive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) supplies only in order to control the transmission of COVID-19.
All the 600 schools will receive from the Government of Iceland liquid soap, bleach, boots, gloves, cleaning mops, sprayers, and alcohol-based sanitizers to promote proper hygiene practices in the benefiting schools.
According to UNICEF this is meant to support adequate use of the WASH packages and that the benefiting schools will ensure availability of water and manpower for effective cleaning of school facilities and hygiene promotion.
Through the same fund, the schools will also receive several child-friendly posters reminding schoolchildren about the importance of personal hygiene and handwashing with soap and clean water.
According to the Ministry of Health, Improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Healthcare facilities (HCFs) is of significant public health importance and is associated with a reduction in the transmission of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs), increased trust and uptake of healthcare services, cost-saving from infections averted, increased efficiency and improved staff morale.
This means that provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene conditions plays an essential role in protecting populations from infections during pandemics including the COVID-19 outbreak.
While speaking at the signing of the agreement of the funds 17 March at UNICEF offices in Kampala, Dr. Munir Safieldin, UNICEF Representative in Uganda said the support from the Iceland Government is timely now that schools are continuing with Term One lessons and that with this contribution, UNICEF through the Ministry of Education and Sports, respective district local governments and school administrations will boost hygiene and keep schoolchildren safe in selected schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Inadequate WASH services in schools and communities can result in poor health and increase several diseases like diarrhoea, infections, malnutrition, water-borne diseases among others which all hinder the growth of children. With this additional funding from the Iceland Government, UNICEF will contribute to the reduction of water-borne and poor hygiene-related diseases in 600 schools,” said Dr. Safieldin.
“As the Government of Uganda continues to contain the spread of COVID-19, it is important that schools remain open to benefit millions of children currently catching up on what was missed when schools closed,” Dr. Safieldin added.
Dr Safieldin said the Iceland support will ensure safe and continued learning to benefit children especially the most marginalized that were most affected by the pandemic.
Ms Þórdís Sigurðardóttir, Head of Mission, Embassy of Iceland retaliated their commitment to supporting efforts towards eradication of disease, illiteracy and poverty globally.
“In Uganda, the COVID-19 pandemic has had adverse effects on health, learning, and livelihoods of communities and the most affected are children especially girls, and youth. The WHO and CDC emphasize hand washing with soap as a practice that could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhoea and 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections including COVID-19. This will in turn improve school attendance leading to improved child development,” said Ms Þórdís Sigurðardóttir.
“As a country that upholds human rights in all its strategic interventions, Iceland recognises the role played by UNICEF in promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child globally and we are glad to contribute to UNICEF’s mission through our modest support that will be used to improve handwashing facilities and practises in 600 schools in Uganda,” she explained.
In Uganda, schools have been open since January 2022 and to ensure they remain open, investments in infection prevention and control through adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities are key and will go a long way to contribute to limiting exposure to the disease and probability of its transmission amongst pupils, students, teachers, and non-teaching staff within the schools.