WASH from the START

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Diarrhoea is the largest preventable killer of children-under-five and it is the direct cause of death in more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined (UNICEF, WHO 2009). The highest rates of infection occur in the first two years of life with children in the majority world often suffering from 5-12 episodes per year. Diarrhoea is often deadly but attacks at any age of early childhood also have a long term impact on the child’s learning achievement and health condition later (Niehaus, 2002). Research has suggested that the safe disposal of faeces could reduce diarrhoea by 32 percent, the provision of safe drinking safe water by 39 percent, and the washing of hands with soap at critical times could reduce diarrhoea by 44 percent.

The aim of Millennium Development target 10 has been to cut in half, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. More ambitious targets are needed for the future and it is widely recognised that education provides a crucial component in meeting these challenges. The Organisation Mondiale Pour L’Education Prescolaire (OMEP) has been in the forefront of efforts to ensure that all those involved in the drafting of the next round of ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ are aware of the contribution that early childhood education has to make to these efforts (Pramling-Samuelsson and Wagner, 2012).

More effort is required to deal with these problems and a strong case for expanding WASH efforts significantly into the preschool phase of education can be made on two grounds:

1. Ethical practice requires our efforts be focused upon the youngest children as they are the principle victims.

2. It has been established that investments in early childhood education are more economic and effective.

A handwashing poster developed the by Quebec government. It has been used for many years in child care centers. It says "Hand washing" (title) and from left to right: "How"-15 seconds, "When", "After", "Before & after”.

WASH from the START – An OMEP-UNICEF Collaboration

WASH stands for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. The purpose of OMEP’s and UNICEF’s WASH from the START initiative is to extend UNICEF’s successful WASH in Schools (WinS) programs and services into early childhood settings, including homes, communities, health centers, and preschools. WASH from the START includes anything and everything OMEP members are doing around the world to ensure children’s basic right to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.

For the PowerPoint presented at UNICEF’s meeting with other WASH partners on September 17, 2014, please click here.

For the full rationale and arguments for supporting WASH from the START, please click here.

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