During the last year, we have all been reminded of the importance of proper handwashing and hygiene to help prevent the transmission of diseases. Just twenty seconds with warm, clean water and soap can help remove the bacteria and dirt that cause sickness. During our global quarantine, we became hyper-aware of all the ways we could stay clean and protect ourselves. We had intense anxiety when we couldn’t buy things like soap, sanitizer and bottled water. For many of us, these shortages were only short-term, but for others, this was pretty normal. Did you know that in many countries around the world, shortages of basic hygiene products and clean water are typical? When these things are not available, lives are affected. Children are some of the most vulnerable, especially young, elementary students. 

What does this mean for the children? The truth is that seventy-five percent of school absences are due to illness. Around the world, illness is caused or exacerbated by a lack of clean water and hygiene education. The dirty water hosts parasites and bacteria, as well as can cause waterborne illnesses that often target the respiratory tract and cause diarrhea. Worldwide, children are at higher risk to contract these diseases, especially if they are from a low income family. This also leads to higher mortality rates among children. 

A comprehensive study done by the University of Nebraska shows that handwashing with clean water alone can reduce absences at school up to 50%. A study in Côte d’Ivoire saw that not only did waterborne disease decrease when children had clean water to drink and proper hygiene education, but so did transmission of other diseases like typhoid fever. Researchers in Egypt found that enforcing hand-washing decreases infection rates of diarrhea, conjunctivitis and influenza by up to 67%. Less waterborne illnesses from access to clean water means higher attendance for all students and their teachers.

If children are drinking dirty water and missing school, there can be lasting negative impact. Missing instruction can leave a child behind in coursework and lead to lower grades, even in future years. Those who are frequently absent are more likely to drop out of school and are at higher risk for addiction and other risky behavior. It has also been found that lack of education can lead to less opportunities for success for these students and higher rates of unemployment. 

Research done by the Institute of Education Studies has found that higher attendance means higher grades. School can also create other strong, successful skills in children like time management and healthy conflict resolution. Teacher attendance is important, too. When teachers are in class regularly, students learn more. According to the Journal of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, even if a class has a substitute, classes lose the continuity and intensity of their learning. Just 10 days more can increase student achievement by 10%. With these things in mind, we know that clean water is key for students and teachers. 

A simple glass of clean water might be all that is missing for a student to be successful in school. Would you like to partner with us to provide this glass? Our heart is to connect you with clean water projects so that you can make a difference in lives around the world. Becoming a water sponsor for five dollars a month will mean you can provide clean water to five students for all of their years in elementary school. Together, we can keep them healthy and strong, at a time when they are most vulnerable.

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