In Sri Lanka, 91% of the population now have access to sanitary toilets, according to the latest data from the World Health Organisation (WTO). However, a survey of the country's primary and secondary schools has revealed that nearly 1,300 schools (around 14%) have no proper sanitation. The survey found that a huge number of schools either lacked toilets completely or had no toilets with a water supply, allowing for the safe disposal of faeces.
Speaking to the news agency IRIN, one sanitation expert called this situation in schools "a silent crisis", adding that the problem not only increased absenteeism among girls, but also led to significant health issues. Apart from leaving children at greater risk of disease, schools without toilets are apparently encouraging both students and teachers not to drink during the day to avoid the need for visiting the toilet. Over a long period of time, this practice has reportedly led to some individuals developing renal failure.
A priority for the future
According to a new paper from Sri Lanka's National Water Supply and Drainage Board, the issue of improving sanitation in schools will be among 16 new priority areas. However, the Board acknowledges that to rectify the situation will be a challenge. Nevertheless, there is a general recognition that "child-friendly toilets, separate for girls and boys" are absolutely essential.
In the meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren and their teachers will simply have to continue to struggle through long hot rainy days without access to proper toilet facilities.