Children in nearly half of the primary schools in Iraq are studying in unsafe and unhealthy environments, according to a United Nations-backed survey that was released today.
The study, which was supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and conducted between 2007 and 2008, revealed that 48 per cent of the 150 schools assessed were dirty.
In addition, some 63 per cent of the schools lacked chlorine testing procedures for drinking water, placing children at high risk of water borne diseases. With 65 percent of the water supplied to these schools coming from government networks plagued with leaky pipes that are vulnerable to contamination, the threat to children is increased.
The report also found that primary school boys are more likely to be exposed to trauma than girls and noted a higher incidence of trauma related eye injuries, suggesting that male students are more active and willing to engage in violent behaviour.
WHO is very concerned about the current environment of Iraqi schools and for the health of the children who attend them especially the older students who demonstrate a higher prevalence of health problems, said WHO Representative in Iraq Naeema Al-Gasseer.
Ms. Al-Gasseer warned that delays in the early detection and treatment of visual and hearing difficulties and musculoskeletal abnormalities may lead to deteriorated school performance, learning disabilities and other health problems in the future.
On a more positive note, however, the study noted that the majority of food served in school canteens was found suitable, and only a minority suffered from health problems, such as visual and hearing difficulties or musculoskeletal abnormalities. Hearing aids and glasses were also provided to students in need and those reporting body abnormalities were sent to specialized clinics.
The School Health Survey was conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Education (MoE), Central Organization of Statistical and Information Technology (COSIT), and Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education in Kurdistan region in close collaboration with WHO.