HO CHI MINH CITY - Dirty toilets and bathrooms gave 40 per cent of HCM City students diarrhea, according to UNICEF Viet Nam.
Last month, the city's Health Department reported that 220 students at District 12's Nguyen Khuyen Elementary School were unable to go to school, as they suffered a digestion-related disease caused by unclean school toilets. Two children in the southern city died in July from a similar condition.
The Ministry of Health reported 3,719 diarrhea cases in HCM City in the first six months of 2014 out of 301,570 nationwide in the first eight months.
School bathrooms and toilets in urban areas of the city are often in poor condition due to the large number of students and teachers that use them, as well as the lack of soap and fresh water for cleaning.
The problem is even worse in rural areas of HCM City, where schools have no bathrooms at all. In those areas, 27 per cent of children have to go to the toilet outside the school.
"Students rarely die of diarrhea. However, diarrhea-related deaths often happen in areas where hygienic standards are not assured, where waste is not collected and water is polluted," said Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long.
Diarrhea can have a serious impact on children. Ha Vinh, director of HCM City Hospital for Tropical Diseases' Pediatrics Department B, said that diarrhea could prevent children from reaching their maximum potential height. It could also reduce intelligence, said Nguyen Thi Lam, director of the National Nutrition Institute.
To tackle the problem, the Health Environment Management Agency under the Ministry of Health and Unilever Viet Nam launched a programme in 2012 to improve hygiene standards for 10 million Vietnamese people by 2018.
On Wednesday, they announced that they had improved hygiene standards for two million Vietnamese people, repaired 400 school toilets and educated 950,000 students on how to maintain individual hygiene and a clean environment. The two organisations aim to repair an additional 800 school toilets by the end of 2016.