Cooperation in action

"Fit for School" in Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines

Schoolgirls washing their hands

Many children in South-East Asia fall ill with diarrhoea, worm infestations and tooth decay, for instance, due to a lack of proper hygiene. These illnesses affect childrenʼs health and well-being. School attendance and learning opportunities are also adversely affected as a result. Then again, schools are the ideal environment in which children can learn new patterns of behaviour. Health-promoting learning environments enable children to adopt healthy behaviours and to make optimal use of their educational opportunities.

Launched in 2011, the "Fit for School" regional programme supports the education ministries of four South-East Asian countries in gradually implementing strategies to improve water supply, sanitation and hygiene in schools. The programme thus helps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on health, education, and clean water and sanitation set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs 3, 4 und 6).

Toothbrushes of pupils in a Philippine elementary school

The programme supports the education sector in incorporating simple preventative measures into the school routine, including

  • daily supervised handwashing with soap,
  • daily supervised toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste,
  • regularly cleaning school toilets, washing facilities and the school playground,
  • measures to improve menstrual hygiene, and
  • bi-annual deworming.

A programme evaluation showed that after a two-year implementation phase both access to water and soap and hygiene practices in the involved schools had improved. The project has also boosted implementation of existing national deworming programmes. Daily toothbrushing has prevented the incidence of tooth decay.

At the Global South-South Development Expo 2009, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) voted "Fit for School" the most innovative strategy in the health sector.

After the programme was successfully introduced in the Philippines, it was then also adopted in Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia. The BMZ regional programme supports the governments of these countries in implementing the programme and expanding it to cover other regions and schools. Following its launch in only a few model schools, the strategy is currently being applied in more than 6,500 schools in the region, giving more than 2.3 million schoolchildren better access to washing facilities plus soap, clean sanitation and daily hygiene activities.

The strategy is also currently being tested in various countries in Africa with support from the BMZ.


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