Raising healthy kids: Thrive’s school sanitation and hygiene programs

Absence rates and risk of diarrhea and other diseases are lower when pre-primary and primary school kids can conveniently access handwashing and sanitation facilities. Children’s memory, attention, and general cognitive performance improve when they stay hydrated while in school, so providing clean drinking water is also crucial.

Many schools in Southeast Asia continue to face challenges in providing their students adequate water and sanitation facilities. As of 2018, only a third of schools in Southeast Asia have basic sanitation services, and in rural areas of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, adequate facilities and hygiene education programs are uncommon. We have found that in Vietnam as much as 152 children have to share one sink or toilet – a discouraging experience for kids who just want to wash their hands or are eager to return to their lessons from a quick bathroom break. Soap runs out by midday and sinks breaks down often. These situations happen in varying levels in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

The Ministries of Education and local school administrations face tight budgets, so support for water and sanitation programs are often deprioritized. But without these facilities, children can’t nurture their health and hygiene habits. This makes them prone to sickness and lose valuable time for school and play.

To help change this situation, we partner with local ministries of education and schools to implement integrated solutions for school children ages 6 to 11, starting with four provinces in Vietnam with the most cases of soil-transmitted helminths (STH) or parasitic worm infection.

Worm- and worry-free
Since 2010, we have been running school deworming programs in Vietnam in cooperation with government, businesses, and NGO partners. To date, we have administered regular treatments to over 2.1 million children. The positive results and learnings could potentially shape national policy, informing studies by Vietnam’s Ministry of Education in bringing the service to more children.

Fun with improved facilities
To help children avoid STH reinfection, we install toilets with nearby handwashing stations. Together with school staff, we teach students simple habits like handwashing after toilet use. Aiding their learning are colorful reminders and nudges, like rainbow footprints from the toilet to the handwashing stations. Trained teachers and school staff conduct games and activities in the classroom to reinforce these essential hygiene habits that the kids can pass on to their siblings and parents at home.

Happy and hydrated
Businesses are our main ally in bringing safe drinking water to schools (read about our work with the Kien Nam Group and Mast Cares). We install Ultraviolet-Reverse Osmosis water purification system that provides about 150 liters of clean water every hour, which is a sufficient water supply for the schools with over 1,000 students. To date, 34,000 young ones in Vietnamese schools don’t have to drink contaminated water while at school ever again.

We envision clean educational environments enjoyed by healthy kids who can focus on learning and playing. With our heads and hands together, we can give them school experiences that develop health and hygiene habits for life.