Only 58% of Bhutan’s population has access to improved sanitation

Access to improved water sources has increased to 98% in 2015 compared to 54% in 1990 with the promotion of access to sanitation facilities. This was done through demand creation in rural households, construction of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities and hygiene promotion activities in schools and nunneries and certain integration of programs related to health and hygiene.

Despite the improved water source coverage, the WHO-UNICEF joint monitoring programme found out that only 58% of Bhutan’s population has access to improved sanitation where more than one-third of hospitals are lacking continuous water supply, lack of functional toilets and water for hand washing with soap in 1 in every 5 schools where, in addition, it was found that one-third of primary schools lack access to improved water sources.

The Menstrual Hygiene Management assessment by Ministry of Health also revealed that very little was known about menstrual hygiene management where the lack of facilities in schools and nunneries result in 43% adolescent girls and 50% nuns missing out school lessons and other activities as per the MHM needs assessment 2017. To top it, the situation in monastic institutions is reveled to be even worse where almost half lack access to improved sanitation and water supply.

The recent Royal Center for Disease Control (RCDC) quarterly disease surveillance bulletin has also shown that only 54% of water in urban areas are safe for drinking and only about 17% of streams and 28% of spring water sources in rural areas are safe for drinking.

To enhance the improved water and sanitation, the government in the last few years piloted universal toilets in schools with Special Education Needs (SEN) programme and trained various groups of people like school health coordinators, engineers, caretakers and head of monastic and nunneries to promote sustainable use of water and sanitation.

However, to further enhance the access to improved sanitation; it was outlined that the safe disposal of child feces needs to be practiced at homes. The functionality, quality and safety of water needs to be improved in all the monastic institutions and schools through WASH facilities.

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