by Amobichukwu Chukwudi Amanambu
Next to air, water is the most important natural resource to humans. Water availability and proper sanitation are essential to protect children’s health and their ability to learn at school. There is an interesting close relationship between water supply and sanitation. Any school that requires proper sanitation must have a stable source of water. In this light, one may regard water sources like taps and wells as examples of sanitation facilities.
World Health Organization (WHO) defines sanitation as “the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and faeces” (Water Services Trust Fund [WSTF], 2014). Water availability is not itself a facility; rather the structures such as taps, wells etc. that allow for the availability and accessibility of water can be referred to as facilities of sanitation.
These facilities are essential for proper sanitation in any institution. The provision of these facilities ensures accessibility of water and hence quality sanitation. This therefore means that, generally, for the proper disposal of human urine and faeces, there must be available and accessible water. This simple fact defines the strong relationship between water and sanitation.
Distance Decay as outlined by Getis (2008) and Location Theory as pointed out by Alfred Weber (1929) can be used to explain this intricate relationship. And their understanding vis-a-vis the pressing issue of sanitation is likely to lead to better welfare of students and an increase in the number of schooling girls, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WATER AND CHILD HEALTH
Water availability is inextricably connected to health and related issues. Millions of children die every year from water-borne diseases, and from a lack of hygiene and basic sanitation facilities (especially those ensuring water availability). According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF, 2013), globally, an estimated 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhoeal diseases and of these some 1,800 deaths are linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. The same source states that almost 90 per cent of child deaths from diarrhoeal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation, or inadequate hygiene.
CONCEPT OF DISTANCE–DECAY
Distance Decay is the experimental decline of an activity, function, or amount of interaction with increasing distance from the point of origin (Getis 1998). It explains the fact that there is a greater intensity (greater spatial interaction) in the use of facilities near the school area, especially the distance between the water source and the school building(s).
The facilities in the school include toilets, wells, boreholes, streams, taps and the school buildings. It is expected that the amount of water used to maintain proper hygiene and sanitation by the schools will depend on the distance between the major sources of water and other facilities that need water for proper sanitation and hygiene. For instance, toilets (and schools) that are closer to a water source are expected to use more of water for the maintenance of hygiene, hence they become the cleaner. Various uses of water by the schools will also vary with distance.
The location theory is concerned with the geographical location of activities or distributional patterns of activities in space. In the words of Alfred Weber (1929), “location theory includes the concern of solving optimization problems of choosing facility.” The theory rests on the assumption that agents act in their own self-interest. Thus, people choose locations that maximize their profits and individuals choose locations that maximize their utility.
Oyebande (1977) explained that the location theory, in addition to providing theoretical framework for analysing the location of water sources, also provides understanding for water usage. Location has a great impact on the overall maintenance of hygiene and sanitation. Expectedly, the ideal location for a water source should be central enough to permit maximum access to the potential users. The Sphere Project (2004) states, for instance, the need for all people to have a safe and equitable access to a sufficient quantity of water for hygiene. The closer one is to the water source, the more use is made of water. One must then submit that, in a practical application of this theory and for resource optimisation, a central location could be considered in the provision of boreholes, tap water etc. for secondary schools.
IMPACT OF WATER ON GIRL-CHILD EDUCATION
Water is arguably linked with quality sanitation, proper education and even gender equality. Girls who have to spend time gathering water for family use are likely not to be in schools; and where schools have proper sanitation, attendance for girls is usually higher (Kofi, 2004). Studies have shown that girls are more likely to enroll in schools – and stay enrolled – when they have a measure of protection and respect. Lack of appropriately private and sanitary facilities has a greater impact on girls, determining whether they ever attend and how long they stay in school.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, 2006), about 443 million school days are lost annually due to water-related illness and the lack of basic sanitation facilities. And in 2001, two-thirds of the 115 million primary school-aged children not attending school were girls (UNICEF, 2007).
UNICEF and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (2005) also agree that sanitation is a key factor in keeping girls in school. According to them, over half of the girls in sub-Saharan Africa who drop out of primary school do so because of poor water and sanitation facilities. Often, girls are forced to drop out of or miss school once they reach puberty and begin menstruation due to a lack of separate latrine facilities and sanitary supplies (UN Water, 2008).
One may thus conclude that an understanding of the relationship between water and sanitation, using the concepts of distance decay and location theory and the application of this to secondary school education, will ultimately give rise to better health in children and an increase in the number of children, girls especially, who attend schools particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Amobichukwu Chukwudi Amanambu
Water and Environmental Management, WEDC, Loughborough Leicestershire, UK.
State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Science.
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