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World Water Day is an annual event celebrated on March 22. The day focuses attention on the importance of fresh water and advocates for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. Under the theme ‘Water and Wastewater’, the year 2017 provides an important opportunity to consolidate and build upon the previous World Water Days to highlight the symbiosis between water and wastewater in the quest for sustainable development.

The Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure everyone has access to safe water by 2030, making water a key issue in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated March 22 as World Water Day. World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners.

In Uganda, young women and girls are still facing challenges related to Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) such as inadequate water and sanitation facilities, with many schools having insufficient numbers of private, safe and clean latrines; lack of access by schools to clean water within or near the latrine or toilet facilities for washing off menstrual stains from clothes/uniforms and their hands before and after changing their sanitary pads; and inadequate mechanisms in schools for the disposal of used menstrual materials or menstrual waste. Inadequate disposal facilities include those within the latrine or toilet stall/block itself (such as a dustbin) and a system for safe, culturally and environmentally appropriate disposal of the collected waste (such as an incinerator or burying pit).

In celebration of World Water Day 2017, Public health ambassadors Uganda (PHAU) with support from Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF) visited the “Ensonga” implementing partner schools where they sensitized and distributed 10 (ten) hand washing facilities in Wakiso district. The hand washing facilities where branded with colorful message stickers “Did You Wash Them” aimed at reminding students to always wash their hands after visiting the toilet and/or changing room for the young girls. Good hand washing practices and attitudes contribute to improved menstrual hygiene management; young girls are able to clean and wash themselves after changing the sanitary towels.

   
Some of the members of the “Ensonga” sanitation clubs receiving hand washing facilities during the commemoration of World Water Day 2017. 

 

    
Some of the members of the “Ensonga” sanitation clubs receiving hand washing facilities during the commemoration of World Water Day 2017. 

There is often a higher risk of infections during the menstruation period because the blood coming out of the body creates a pathway for bacteria to travel back in to the uterus. Using unclean sanitary towels especially when inserted in to the vagina can introduce or support the growth of bacteria that could be harmful to the body. Therefore, access to clean water and the hand washing facilities is very crucial in achieving a sustainable MHM in schools.

we shall now be able to wash our hands easily after changing our pads since now the hand washing facility is now next to our toilet
– Ruth from Wakiso

In addition to the above, these hand washing facilities are meant to provide quick access to water for girls especially during menstruation as well as hand washing for the general school population to prevent diseases such as cholera and diarrhea.

   
Some of the young girls the “Ensonga” implementing partner schools demonstrating how to use the hand washing facility.

The “Ensonga” sanitation health clubs with support from the respective school administration committed to handle the facilities with care, always provide/refill water in the facilities and avail soap so that they can serve their proper purpose.

 

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