New WASH project will make children returning to school in Solomon Islands safer

Children returning to school in the Solomon Islands after months of COVID-19 disruptions will be safer after a new Save the Children project plans to bring clean water, handwashing, toilets and hygiene facilities to schools.

Working alongside local communities, provincial education authorities and national Ministry staff, the project will upgrade 11 schools in Malaita and Western provinces - including several in remote locations - to meet new government guidelines designed to make schools safer during the pandemic.

The programme, which will cost around $500,000 NZD and take 12 months to implement, will upgrade Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure across the 11 schools. This includes climate and disaster resilient water and hygiene facilities, such as water tanks and catchment areas, toilet blocks, and handwashing areas.

The project follows the government’s three-month staged reopening of schools across Solomon Islands which were shut from January until June after widespread community transmission prevented all 1000 schools from reopening in the new school year.

"When community transmission happened earlier this year, everything closed down, and this has had a huge impact on children," says John Lilo, Save the Children Solomon Islands Director of Humanitarian Programming.

"Most children have missed out on six months of learning and are eager to return to school but only a handful of schools meet the government standards in terms of WASH facilities initially required to open safely. The COVID outbreak has exacerbated the situation already present in schools around WASH and it’s been really difficult for many schools to support children returning safely. That’s why this project is so important."

Save the Children New Zealand this week launched an appeal to help raise crucial funds for the project.

International Programmes Director Rachael Waugh says the project seeks to create a safer school environment for children in Solomon Islands now and into the future.

"While COVID has highlighted the need of upgrading WASH infrastructure in schools, it is just one of the health risks facing children without safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

"Well-managed WASH infrastructure is vital to keeping children and communities safe."

Ms Waugh says the project team is currently completing risk assessments, including planning where facilities will go in order to withstand, for instance, the impacts of climate change and other hazards.