Access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene in schools

November 20, 2016


The good health, well-being, education and dignity of schoolchildren cannot be guaranteed without access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in schools. In a booklet published by the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, this issue is explored from a pan-European perspective.

Attainment of healthy school environments for all children in the pan-European region is a core pillar of the 2010 Parma Declaration on Environment and Health. All countries in the region have committed to provide all child-care centres, kindergartens and schools with safe drinking-water and sanitation and to revitalize hygiene practices by 2020. 

Universal access to safe WASH services for children

Clearly underpinned by the human rights to water and sanitation and to education, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aspires to reach universal and equitable access to safe WASH services and create educational facilities that provide safe learning environments for all. The 1999 Protocol on Water and Health is the primary policy instrument in the WASH domain in the pan-European region, aiming to ensure access to drinking-water and sanitation for everyone – including children in schools.

The impact of inadequate WASH in schools transcends sector boundaries. Health, education, nutrition and WASH are closely associated and complementary. This is well reflected in the European health policy framework Health 2020, which emphasizes the need for enhanced collaboration and joint investment between health and other policy sectors, such as education.

By underlining how inadequate WASH in schools compromises pupils’ education, health and well-being, this publication advocates for policy-makers of all involved sectors to prioritize this in the context of the Protocol, incrementally realizing the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Parma Declaration.

Access Prioritizing pupils’ education, health and well-being. Water, sanitation and hygiene in schools in the pan-European region, WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2016 – available in English and Russian