Multimedia, Slideshow

Bangladesh: Learning by Doing

Text by Chulie de Silva, Photographs by Saikat Mojumder/Drik

SIRAJGONJ, Bangladesh, Aug 29 2011 (IPS) - Six year-old Moly scrubs and cleans her hand under a running water from a tap in her village here in Sirajgonj city, 110 kilometres north-west of the capital city Dhaka. The hands she proudly holds out are squeaky clean.

Meanwhile, 55 year-old Hanifa Begum holds out two glasses of water – one with clear water and the other with opaque and brownish liquid.She is learning the importance of safe drinking water for her health.

Both young and old are following classes conducted by the Sirajgonj municipality, supported by the Bangladesh government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).Teaching people the importance of hand washing, maintaining good hygiene and use of proper latrines are essential ingredients for Bangladesh to achievethe Millennium Development Goal target of halving by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Bangladesh faces a huge challenge to provide safe water and sanitation facilities to its population of 164.4 million. However, it has made some significant achievements to meet this target amid challenges and climate-affected setbacks such as droughts, floods and cyclones. The official MDG indicators used to measure and report on progress towards this target arethe proportion of population using an improved drinking-water source and an improved sanitation facility, in both urban and rural areas.

In its 2008 report on water and sanitation coverage, the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation says there was an increase in the number of rural Bangladeshis using improved drinking water sources, from 76 percent in 1996 to 78 percent in 2006. Similarly, the rural population using improved sanitation facilities increased from 26 percent in 1996 to 36 percent in 2006.

The country has recognised the potential of the school and village communities as agencies of change.The government initiated the School Sanitation and Hygiene Education programme in 1992 with support from UNICEF. Much importance has been given to implementing this countrywide to improve facilities and encourage more children to attend school. This is because girls are often denied their right to education because their schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities.

The schools’ programme, coupled with community education programmes like that in Sirajgonj, pushes Bangladesh closer towards halving by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

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