The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), with support from Irish Aid, has started the distribution of 2307 handwashing stations to Government and Government-assisted Primary schools in eight districts in Sierra Leone.
The distribution started on Thursday 6th August in Western Area Urban, and will continue in Western Area Rural, Kenema, Bo, Port Loko, Tonkolili, Kono and Bonthe in the coming weeks.
The handsfree handwashing stations will support the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education’s (MBSSE) priority to keep schools safe for learning during the period of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Good hand hygiene is one of the key measures being prioritized to make every school safe for students and teachers.
“As a government, our priority is clear: continue to ensure that school is the safest place for all our children. Any contributions from government and our partners to guarantee that safety is highly welcome, and we will do everything in our powers to facilitate, augment and ensure utilization,” said Hon. Minister Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, MBSSE.
Handwashing with soap, when done consistently and correctly, is critical in the fight against a wide range of diseases from diarrhoeal diseases to COVID-19. However, many students across Sierra Leone do not always have close access to water for them to practice proper and regular hand hygiene.
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, whose primary defense mechanism is handwashing with soap and water, setting up handwashing stations at schools is essential.
The handwashing stations will make it possible for water to be safely stored and easily accessed by students and teachers to regularly wash their hands especially before entering the classroom, after using the toilet and before eating.
“Irish Aid is delighted to partner with UNICEF and MBSSE to support necessary measures for the safe reopening of schools,” said Ms. Mary O’Neill, Head of Development, Embassy of Ireland, Freetown.
Together with the distributed hand stations, students and teachers are receiving information on the right steps to take in washing their hands, while the school administrators are receiving tips on the safe handling and storage of the handwashing stations.
“The health and safety of all students and teachers is a shared responsibility. UNICEF will continue to partner with Government, Development Partners and communities to make handwashing more accessible to every child,” said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh. “When sanitation facilities are adequate and when handwashing is practiced diligently, disease transmission can be minimised and children will spend more of their time learning.”