Nearly half million Iraqi school children to benefit from UN sanitation initiative

Nearly half million Iraqi children will benefit from upgraded sanitation facilities at schools across the country this year thanks to United Nations initiatives aimed at raising a new generation of educated Iraqis to help their country rebuild from war, it was announced today.

"In any country, sanitation is a critical public health issue, especially for children, but in Iraq clean water is all the more important because hospitals are already overwhelmed and we must do everything we can to guard against the outbreak of disease", Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative for Iraq, said in Baghdad.

"Protecting schoolchildren and enabling them to receive an education is also the best possible investment in the future development of a stable and peaceful Iraq," he added.

UN-backed efforts to improve conditions at 800 schools will foster safer conditions for some 460,000 boys and girls this year. The UN has been helping Iraq's Ministry of Education by providing over 1,300 directors with computer literacy and communications skills. Hundreds of computers were provided to schools which also received 36,000 sports and recreational materials.

Over 130 schools have been rehabilitated with UN assistance in the lower southern region, while in the north, the UN is working to renovate primary schools in rural communities where refugees are expected to return.

The UN is also procuring 1 million school bags for new first graders and 5 million school kits for all students up to the sixth grade.

Rebuilding Iraq's schools benefits not only the students but also the thousands of workers who gain employment through the projects which have contributed to generating over 3,400 jobs per day.