WASH: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Only 63 % of the Bhutanese population have access to basic sanitation services. That is why we work with our partners to provide water, sanitation and hygiene services to the communities, schools and monastic institutions.

WASH in schools


In Bhutan, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme at homes, in schools and in monastic institutions is a vital component of child survival and development. However, challenges remain in increasing access to improved WASH services.

Only 63 percent of the Bhutanese population have access to basic sanitation services. Out of these, majority are in the rural communities.

One in every five schools lacks water for handwashing with soap and functional toilets. Nearly one third of schools have no separate toilets for girls. These deficits severely affect children’s well-being and physical and mental development, while they also bear gender-specific repercussions.

For instance, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) for adolescent girls remains a key challenge. A recent needs assessment study revealed that about 44 percent of adolescent school girls and 50 per cent of nuns missed school lessons and other activities during menstruation. Apart from pain and discomfort, lack of water and clean toilets were one of the main reasons why they missed school.

Most monastic schools and nunneries in Bhutan lack basic hygiene, water and sanitation facilities and water heating systems. The poor sanitation facilities and consequent inadequate personal hygiene lead to serious skin infections, worm infestations and diarrhoea. UNICEF has been working with religious institutions since the 1990s through the Central Monastic Body’s Religion and Health Project. However, there are still many monastic schools and nunneries that require new or continued support. Today, about 34 percent of monastic institutions lack proper sanitation and about 65 percent lack a water supply.

Water, sanitation and hygiene services in healthcare facilities are also limited, with 40 percent of the district hospitals having severe water shortage.

WASH in monastic institutions

Safe water, sanitation, and good hygiene practices

In Bhutan, UNICEF has focused its support to provide quality water and sanitation facilities to schools through the Ministry of Education. UNICEF also provides assistance to the government through technical design of water supply schemes and supports capacity building to ensure quality and maintenance of existing facilities. 100 percent of schools in the country have at least a basic toilet and two thirds are equipped with flush toilets. Over 80 percent of school toilets are fully functional.

It supports environmentally sustainable solutions for water supply such as rainwater harvesting and has partnered with the government in training school health coordinators and water caretakers on how to operate and maintain water and sanitation facilities. More than 95 percent schools have trained school health coordinators.

UNICEF has been supporting religious institutions since the 1990s through the Central Monastic Body’s Religion and Health Project. Together we promote personal health and hygiene, realizing the need of child monks and nuns and recognizing the positive impact that such approaches will bring. UNICEF supports the monastic schools with building water and sanitation facilities, and hygiene promotion activities and trainings. About 53 percent of monastic institutions have received access to toilets, bathing and handwashing facilities.

In Bhutan, UNICEF also provides menstrual hygiene management training to adolescents through government partners and civil society organisations.

Since 2008, we are working with partners on rural sanitation and hygiene programme in supporting communities to achieve the Open Defecation Free Status and 100% improved sanitation coverage.

Access to improved sanitation (and free of open defecation) in Bhutan increased from 0 to 19 percent between 2014 and 2017.

WASH in schools