Many schools in the West Bank (particularly in Area C, which is under Israeli security and administrative control) and Gaza suffer from water shortages and poor water quality. Schools not connected to the water network rely on tankers and cisterns for their drinking water supply, making storage capacity a critical issue for most of the schools. Schools connected to the water network in the West Bank receive water in limited and insufficient quantities, with some schools receiving water as little as one day per week. In Gaza, where 95 percent of the water is unfit for human consumption, schools connected to the water network, experience difficulties due to power shortages required to pump water to roof tanks for toilet flushing, hand washing with soap and general cleaning. Limited access to water supply in the West Bank and Gaza have led to a deteriorating level of hygienic practices among school children in a large number of government schools. Lack of water for toilet flushing and cleaning purposes can directly affect the cleanliness of school WASH facilities, students’ refusal to use facilities, and the general well-being of students.
Many of the most vulnerable schools in the West Bank and Gaza are also those suffering from insufficient number of toilets and handwashing facilities per students in comparison to the national recommendation in state of Palestine.
The information gathered by PHG from Hebron Governorate has shown that the WASH needs of those vulnerable schools vary from rehabilitating the existing sanitary units (41% of schools) to constructing new units (11%) and digging cisterns (37% of the schools)
According to Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s recommendations the sanitary units must have sufficient number of toilets to meet the needs of the students on the basis of 30-40 student/toilet. However, from the information gathered from number of schools in the southern part of West Bank, it was realized that on average there is one toilet for 42 students and this varies from 34 to 57 students per toilet.
On the other hand, many schools suffer from water shortage and water quality as they are located in water scarce communities. Schools not connected to the water network rely on purchasing tankered water with a cost that exceeds 20-30 NIS per cubic meter for water which is of unreliable quality.
The lack of access to safe water and sanitation has severe effect on the students’ health. The problem is magnified because these schools lack water storage facilities such as cistern and storage tanks. The unavailability of a cistern makes the schools’ storage capacity a critical issue, not allowing the storing of rain- and/or tankered water.
The lack of access to water and sanitation, which is one of the basic human rights and one of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child has a severe effect on human health and education development. Therefore, the national priorities and policies emphasize on improving both availability and access to water and sanitation to all Palestinian citizens. They also emphasize the right of every citizen to obtain water in sufficient quantity and adequate quality at an affordable price. The policy also calls for giving special attention to the most vulnerable and marginalized areas and groups including women and children. The WASH issues in schools including menstrual hygiene are linked to the overall WASH challenges faced in Palestine. Addressing these WASH-in-School issues are thus in line with the national WASH priorities and policies.
This PCA responded to the WASH needs of school children (both boys and girls) identified as the most vulnerable ones. Through this PCA school children, especially girls, received an improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene services. through the implementation of several activities, including the construction and rehabilitation of WASH facilities in schools, installation desalination plants powered by solar energy, the construction of gray water treatment units in schools and the establishment of storm water harvesting units from the roofs of schools and use in the irrigation of the school garden, maintenance of distillation units in 2 schools in Gaza Strip in addition to the celebration of the Global Hand washing Day and other activities in schools.