Preparing schools for future pandemics: Insights on water, sanitation and hygiene solutions from the Brazilian school reopening policies

Elsevier, International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, Volume 257, April 2024
Poague K.I.H.M., Blanford J.I., Martinez J.A., Anthonj C.

Post-COVID-19, schools urgently need to enhance infection control and prevention (IPC) measures, including water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), to prepare for future outbreaks and pandemics. Particularly in Brazil, that is of particular concern, as students are still recovering from the 20th longest school closure in the world. Hence, the current study had two goals: (i) to describe WASH solutions outlined in policies released at the federal, state, and capital city levels in Brazil during the COVID-19 pandemic for the safe reopening of schools and (ii) to discuss their potential to enhance school's capacity to remain operational during a new pandemic or outbreak. With a qualitative exploratory approach, we performed content analysis to discuss the direction (what, where, how and for whom?) of 66 public policies by integrating four frameworks. Solutions were discussed in the light of the principles of human rights and the human rights to water and sanitation, international guidelines for WASH and IPC in schools and the Sphere minimum standards for humanitarian aid. One hundred and fifty-nine solutions, spanning five thematic areas and five population groups, including software and hardware interventions, were compiled for potential use in Brazil and beyond. While suggested solutions have the potential to provide a cleaner and safer learning environment, it is essential to exercise caution when implementing these measures and adapt them to the specific circumstances of each school.