Water, Sanitation and Hygiene


© UNICEF/UN013080/Sharma
Team Swachh messaging, signage and banners on display during the opening day of ICC T20 World Cup 2016 date 09-03-2016. In 2015, the ICC Cricket for Good and UNICEF launched a five-year global partnership. This visionary collaboration aims to build a social movement for sanitation and toilet use, thereby leading to an open-defecation free India.

Sanitation is essential to the survival and development of children. Currently, there are 2.4 billion people worldwide who do not use improved sanitation (a facility that safely separates human waste from human contact). 946 million people go in the open, known as “open defecation”. While progress has been made to improve access to sanitation in some parts of the world, millions of children in poor and rural areas have been left behind.

Key sanitation facts:

  • 1 in 3 people don’t use improved sanitation.
  • 1 in 7 people practice open defecation.
  • Since 1990, 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation.
  • 5 countries, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan, account for 75% of open defecation.
  • We must double our current efforts in order to end open defecation by 2030.

Ending open defecation
Open defecation is when people go out in fields, , forests, open bodies of water, or other open spaces rather than using a toilet. It is incredibly dangerous, as contact with human waste can cause diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, diarrhea, worm infestation and under nutrition. Every day, over 800 children under five die from diarrhea-related diseases.

Currently, 1 in 7 people, or 946 million people, practice open defecation. Of those who do, 9 out of 10 live in rural areas. Globally, India has the largest number of people still defecating in the open: more than 564 million.

Not just toilets, but behavior
One of the biggest challenges to ending open defecation is not just providing clean and safe toilets, but changing the behavior of entire communities. A large part of UNICEF’s work in ending open defecation is to generate awareness, share information and to spur behavior change in an effort to bridge the gap between building toilets and their proper use.

What is sanitation?
Sanitation is a comprehensive term and it means more than just toilets. Sanitation can be understood as interventions that reduce human exposure to diseases by providing a clean environment in which to live. It involves both behaviors and facilities, which work together to form a hygienic environment.

UNICEF’s work
UNICEF is working in countries around the world to improve sanitation and to advocate for government attention and funding to key sanitation issues. We do this by creating a framework (known as a programme model) and supporting governments and partners to implement the sanitation framework in their country.

UNICEF is also leading innovative solutions for sanitation. This involves improving sanitation technology, ensuring basic toilets are affordable, accessible and that they meet criteria for safety, effectiveness, sustainability, environmental impact and child-friendliness.

UNICEF fosters community-based approaches for sanitation, to empower communities to end open defecation themselves. Communities are encouraged to carry out an analysis of existing defecation patterns and threats, and to use local resources to build low-cost household toilets and ultimately eliminate the practice of open defecation. This approach is often referred to as Community Approaches Total Sanitation (CATS) and has been particularly successful in Cambodia and Zambia.

World Toilet Day is held on the 19th of November every year.

Comprehensive package for priority countries
1 Promoting a balanced national WASH programming framework:
UNICEF will encourage a three-pillar approach including the provision of water supply and sanitation services that are complemented by the promotion of improved hygiene behaviour and supported by an enabling environment.

2 Supporting  intersectoral approaches: Maximum child survival and development benefits are realized when hygiene, sanitation and water programmes are coordinated or integrated with other sectoral programmes including education, health and nutrition.

3 Providing catalytic and continuous support for scaling up sustainable WASH programmes: Targets will be met only when national service delivery programmes are significantly scaled up, and UNICEF will prioritize support activities that contribute to this end. However, increased coverage without improved sustainability is not true scaling-up, and UNICEF will actively work to identify and promote models to improve the sustainability of WASH services.

4 Supporting community management through effective decentralisation processes: UNICEF will support measures that help create strong institutions at the intermediate level (municipal, district, province, etc.), since they are critical to supporting community managed service provision, which is in turn essential to the sustained scaling up of WASH coverage.

5 Promoting  safe and sustainable water supplies through improved water resources management: UNICEF and its partners in the WASH sector have a responsibility to promote and implement measures to protect the freshwater resource base.

6 Focusing on sanitation, water quality and hygiene at the household level: There is increasing evidence that a greater focus on the household level increases the effectiveness of sectoral programmes, especially in the areas of sanitation, water quality and hygiene promotion. UNICEF will continue to promote affordable, safe household latrines; technology development in the area of household water treatment, and programmes that seek to improve key household hygiene practices.

7 Addressing a child’s right to health and education through the provision of WASH in schools: UNICEF is committed to ensuring that all children have access to high quality water and sanitation services at school, and the benefit of hygiene education. School-based WASH activities represent an opportunity to directly address a child’s right to both education and health.

© UNICEF/HQ06-1579/Shehzad Noorani
Girls collect water in a displaced-people camp north-eastern Sri Lanka.
In Emergencies
UNICEF has defined four key strategies to guide WASH programming in countries in crisis and transition:

1 Support to national emergency preparedness planning

2 Coordinating UN and NGO emergency response programmes (as the IASC designated lead agency for WASH in emergencies)

3 Acceleration and adaptation of existing programmes to rapidly and efficiently respond in emergency situations

4 Ensuring that emergency response inputs during emergencies reinforce best practices in the sector and contribute to national priorities as defined by government, UNICEF and partners.

In all countries
Strategies for all other countries where UNICEF works:

1 Advocacy and technical support for improving hygiene awareness and promoting behaviour change: Including through education, health, nutrition and young child survival and development programmes.

2 Technical support for water quality: In the areas of water-safety planning, water-quality monitoring and quality mitigation programming.

3 Development of emergency preparedness plans for WASH: Drawing on its competencies in emergency WASH programmes, UNICEF provides appropriate assistance to governments and other stakeholders in the development of national plans for WASH emergency preparedness.

4 Support to national monitoring for achievement of MDG target 10: UNICEF, with WHO, is the focal agency for global sector monitoring, and UNICEF also provides technical support to for monitoring at the national level.



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