UNICEF provides technical assistance to increase sustainable access to safe drinking water, eliminate open defecation and improve access to adequate sanitation as well as improve good hygiene practices. Interventions focus on indigenous groups in remote rural areas to provide services at household level as well as in schools. School sanitation facilities are constructed to be gender-friendly with separate toilets for boy and girls. In addition, UNICEF is starting to work in menstrual hygiene management which encompasses gender, protection, and physical health issues around WASH services. UNICEF also supports emergency preparedness and interventions during humanitarian emergencies, ensuring families have access to safe water.
Reducing school dropouts with appropriate hygiene promotion and menstrual hygiene management (MHM)
Through this project, UNICEF has the specific goal of retaining girls in school by improving their knowledge and hygiene practices including menstrual hygiene management (MHM).
In 2013, UNICEF published a qualitative study highlighting the challenges faced by girls in schools as their menstruation begins. This study pointed to the lack of appropriate information, support and materials to manage hygiene during menstruation and to the poor state of the WASH facilities in most educational establishments, which increases the stress and difficulties faced by girls to attend, concentrate and participate actively in school. Additionally, menstruation is often a subject of many taboos, myths and stigma that adds discomfort to young girls and adolescents. The study came up with important recommendations, pointing at the need for intervention strategies, validated by girls, and culturally and environmentally contextualized.
Thirteen schools in three rural municipalities of Cocapata, Tacopaya, and Independencia of Cochabamba were selected to carry out hygiene promotion interventions, including MHM, through an education programme based on life skills. An important innovation in the project was the introduction of MHM to the three key hygiene practices traditionally promoted. These included relevant gender considerations underlining the different needs of men and women regarding water, sanitation and hygiene.