Providing Access To Clean Water Worldwide
Because of the fundamental importance of these issues, PCI integrates water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions within all our programming worldwide. Through improved infrastructure, behavior change support, and community mobilization, we work diligently to increase access to and consumption of safe drinking water, expand access to and use of clean sanitation facilities, eliminate the practice of open defecation, as well as promote better household hygiene and safe cooking practices.
Promoting Safe Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Schools
PCI is using its school feeding programs as an opportunity to improve access to clean water and sanitation and promote healthy hygiene practices—not just in schools but in surrounding communities as well. By organizing community handwashing campaigns and training teachers on safe hygiene practices, students and parents are adopting simple practices, such as hand washing with soap and proper use of latrines, that promote better health. PCI is also partnering with communities to develop sustainable water systems by digging wells, building latrines, and constructing safe water and sewage systems.
PCI’s Food for Education programs in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Tanzania are designed to follow the Ministries of Education and Ministries of Health regulations and guidelines for primary schools. This means schools must have accessible toilets and sinks for each gender, as well as access to clean drinking water and adequate solid waste management.
In the Mara region of Tanzania, PCI works with schools to improve irrigation systems for school gardens and demonstration plots, which in turn helps improve children’s diets and family income. PCI/Tanzania also participates in joint meetings with district engineers and education leaders to determine regional priorities for safe water systems at primary schools including latrines, handwashing stations, wells, boreholes, and rainwater harvesting tanks.
In Guatemala, PCI helps construct innovative systems, such as rainwater collection tanks, to improve the availability of water for handwashing in schools. PCI designs these systems in collaboration with municipal governments, Guatemala’s Ministry of Education, community members, and other stakeholders in order to garner support for the construction process.
Members of the school’s parent organizations are trained on infrastructure maintenance and use of the systems, which they become responsible for maintaining. PCI also works with community leaders and municipal authorities to build a shared responsibility for ensuring access to water in schools. Both of these efforts strengthen sustainability beyond the life of the project.
PCI also developed and uses “Cleanliness Stoplight” in Guatemala—a system that encourages cleanliness awareness in various areas of the school (e.g. classrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, schoolyard). The spotlight is used as a monitoring and accountability tool for school administrators, teachers, and students to ensure clean and healthy learning environments.
Supporting Adolescent Girls at School
When schools struggle with inadequate or non-existent sanitation facilities, young adolescent school girls are the most vulnerable. Poor facility maintenance and improper use of latrines particularly affects menstrual hygiene management and these issues remain a source of embarrassment and shame for adolescent girls.
When on their periods, some girls must skip school because they don’t have access to running water, sanitary products, or infrastructure, such as private changing rooms, all of which negatively affect their academic experience. Additionally, these girls often don’t receive sufficient information from school teachers or caretakers at home. In fact, some social environments often prohibit young adolescent girls from having peer-to-peer and peer-to-teacher discussions about puberty and menstruation.
To address these issues, PCI constructs, modifies, and improves latrines with girls’ changing rooms, which ensures girls have access to sanitary products and privacy at school during their periods. Items kept in the changing rooms include sanitary pads, napkins, clean cloth, soap, water, and skirts. PCI also promotes good menstrual hygiene practices, such as proper handwashing, body-washing, and disposal of menstrual products.
PCI is also reaching adolescents with health, nutrition, and life skills education and support through health clubs, a common school-based platform. During health club meetings, both male and female students learn about puberty and menstrual hygiene management. These clubs help de-stigmatize and normalize changes that happen to the body during adolescence, which creates an empathetic and supportive school environment.