Agua Escondida Community is located on Lake Atitlan in the Western Highland region of Guatemala. Located on the side of Lake Atitlan with less tourist activity, it does not attract much donor attention despite its many infrastructure needs. In this area, 81% of people live in poverty, limiting access to improved water sources. Moreover, schools in this rural region are underfunded and often forgotten.
The school of EORM Padre Gregorio Schaffer is no exception. EORM Padre Gregorio Schaffer is the community’s only school, attended by 590 students pre-Kindergarten through high school. Given the school’s lack of resources and urgent need for water, sanitation, and hygiene improvements, repairs carried out by parents and community members are unable to support the needs of the students of EORM Padre Gregorio Schaffer.
The school has only five functioning toilets for 590 students. In other words, there are approximately 162 male students per toilet and 89 female students per toilet, over three times as high than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of 50 male students per toilet and urinal and 25 female students per toilet(1).
The quality of the bathrooms used by the school’s youngest students is particularly poor: only some of the facilities are separated by gender, and in some cases, the toilets are not separated by walls or enclosed by doors. Concerningly, the school is affected by sporadic access to water, exacerbating the aforementioned problems. Some of the toilets may only be flushed by using buckets of water since they are no longer adequately attached to piped water. Furthermore, one of the three septic tanks is causing a bad odor, discouraging use of the facilities.
There is no adequate hand washing station in the entire school. The sinks lack soap and frequently lack running water, they do not drain, and many are too high for the youngest students even to reach the faucet. While many students are aware of the importance of hand washing, they are unable to clean their hands after using the bathroom at school. This leaves all students vulnerable to parasites and communicable disease. Proper handwashing hygiene has been found to reduce diarrheal disease incidence by 31 percent(2).
To improve the sanitation situation for EORM’s students, several of the toilet facilities need to be remodeled, and additional facilities need to be created to meet the needs of the school.
We plan to address these deficiencies with the following plan:
Phase 1: Demolish three unused toilet stalls. Build three female toilet stalls, two toilet stalls and a urinal for males, and a handwashing station.
Phase 2: Rebuild a second bank of toilet stalls with three female toilet stalls, two toilet stalls and urinals for males, a toilet stalls for teachers, and an additional handwashing station.
These improvements will [double/triple] the number of toilets available for use by students at the school.
Funding this project will improve EORM Padre Gregorio Schaffer’s facilities and benefit the health of the broader community of Agua Escondida. The WHO estimates that for every US$1.00 invested in sanitation projects, there is a return of US$5.50 due to a reduction in health costs, an increase in productivity, and fewer premature deaths(3).