Foreign donors gift water system, toilets to 2 poor Vietnam schools

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Students at a school in Binh Dinh Province which got a UV water filtration system from the East Meets West Foundation Thursday

US and Canadian donors funded the installation of a drinking water system and construction of toilets at two secondary schools in Vietnam's south central province of Binh Dinh Thursday.

They will benefit more than 1,000 students and teachers at My An Secondary School and My Chanh Tay Secondary School, according to the donors -- East Meets West Foundation, a US-based nonprofit, and Talisman Energy Inc., a global oil and gas company from Canada.

"Many rural schools in Vietnam lack access to clean water and sanitary latrines, which puts our young people at risk of water-borne diseases," Ly Van, Regional Communications and Development Manager at East Meets West, said in a release.

The schools are situated in two impoverished communes in Phu My District, where the students used to lack access to clean water. There's a nearby local water source which is polluted with high level of sediment and many students had to bring water from home every day.

Fund shortages also meant around 600 students and teachers at My An Secondary School had no toilets, while nearly 400 students and teachers at My Chanh Tay Secondary School shared one decrepit restroom.

Now the schools have UV water filtration systems and two restrooms each, one for boys and one for girls.

East Meets West said there is still a serious shortage of clean water and sanitary facilities in many schools across Vietnam, and it is seeking more funds to continue with its program.

It said in August it received a US$10.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve sanitation and hygiene practices among rural poor in Vietnam and Cambodia, where open defecation and the unsafe disposal of human waste result in an estimated 17,000 deaths annually, 90 percent of them of children under age five, and $1.2 billion in economic losses.

The foundation has drafted plans and hopes to help 1.7 million people in the two countries.

Vietnamese government data shows that 50 percent of households in the country do not have sanitary facilities.

"As countries like Vietnam stand poised to advance economically, poor sanitation and hygiene practices threaten to cripple our progress, creating a breeding ground for illness, decreasing the productivity of adults and threatening human lives," Nguyen Minh Chau, Vietnam Country Director for East Meets West, said in a report.

"We are working with our local partners to change this one household at a time, to increase demand to ensure healthier communities, and to scale progress to support the development of our nation as a whole."

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