Water, Sanitation & Hygiene

Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are basic human need and vital for the survival and development of children

two girls in their classroom besides a unicef-supplied water filter
UNICEF DPRK/2017/Nazer


Lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation contributes to a higher incidence of diarrhoea, respiratory tract infections and waterborne diseases. The delivery and maintenance of WASH infrastructure and services remains a challenge across the country, but especially for children in rural areas and children in institutions. It is  estimated that 50 per cent of schools and health facilities and 38 per cent of nurseries lack adequate water and sanitation facilities.

Only 61 per cent of households have access to safely managed water services

MICS 2017
UNICEF/Simon Nazer

Piped water supply systems constructed by the Government in the 1970s and 1980s have not received sufficient investments in maintenance and rehabilitation to remain fully operational.The situation has become critical due to recurring flood damage. A Water Assessment Survey conducted by the Ministry of City Management and the Central Bureau of Statistics between 2013 and 2014 indicates low sustainability of pumped water delivery systems.

MICS 2017 also shows the excreta of 93 percent of people living in households with improved on-site sanitation facilities (improved pit latrines or septic tank) are partially treated/unsafely disposed of in agricultural field, uncovered pit, open ground, water body or elsewhere. The economic pressure to use faecal matter as fertilizer leads to widespread and unsafe handling of excreta in agriculture.


In line with sector strategies, UNSF and the CPD 2017-2021- focusing its activities exclusively in the nine convergent counties; WASH programme focuses on current humanitarian priorities in DPRK on improving access to to sustainable clean water supplies, ensuring water quality and promoting improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including the safe management of excreta in communities, schools and health facilities.

a woman pumping water in her home
UNICEF DPRK/2018/Nazer

Specifically, with our partners UNICEF works to:

  • Provide technical and other support to complement local resources used to establish gravity-fed water systems. 
  • Support the delivery of services at the community level through technical assistance, coordination, evidence-based sector planning, monitoring and leveraging resources for expanded services.
  • Help government design and implement appropriate gender sensitive national standards and guidelines, build institutional capacity and design interventions.
  • Promote hygiene education and behavior change communication strategy to address risky hygiene behaviors.
  • Strengthen the resilience of communities and the Ministry of Urban Management at subnational levels to cope with emergencies such as floods and droughts.
  • Work with national government partners as well as with other humanitarian partners to achieve WASH improvements at scale

The main implementing partner is the Ministry of Urban Management (MoUM) that is responsible for water supply and sanitation in both urban and rural areas. Other implementing partners include Hygiene and Anti-Epidemic Stations (HAES) of the MoPH for water quality testing, Education Commission for school sanitation and hygiene promotion and people’s committees mainly at the county level. Strategic partners include SDC. IFRC, ICRC, European NGOs, locally known as EUPS Units.