Wash in schools fast facts

11 facts you didn’t know about water, sanitation and hygiene (wash) in schools


When children have access to safe water, toilets and soap for handwashing at school, they have a better environment to study, to learn, and to realise realize their full potential.

When schools have safe water, toilets and soap for handwashing, children have a healthy learning environment, and girls are more likely to attend when they are on their period. Beyond the schoolyard, children who learn safe water, sanitation and hygiene habits at school can reinforce positive life-long behaviors in their homes and their communities. However, millions of children go to school every day in unsafe learning environments, with no drinking water, no proper toilets, and no soap for washing their hands.

The latest global assessment from UNICEF and WHO, Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools: 2018 Global Baseline Report, establishes global, regional and national level estimates of progress towards Sustainable Development Goal targets for both WASH (SDG6) and education (SDG4).

“If education is the key to helping children escape poverty, access to water and sanitation is key to helping children safely maximize their education. To neglect this is to be careless with the wellbeing and health of children,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, Global Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF.  “However,” she added, “we face the uphill battle of ensuring funds are prioritised to install and maintain basic water, sanitation and hygiene services in all schools.”

11 key facts about wash IN sCHOOLS

Drinking water:

  1. Globally 69% of schools have a basic drinking water* service.
  2. In 1 in 4 primary schools there is no drinking water service. Worse, that number drops to 1 in 6 at the secondary school level.
  3. Overall, nearly 600 million children lacked a basic drinking water service at their school in 2016, and less than half the schools in Oceania and only two thirds of schools in Central and South Asia have a basic drinking water service.


  1. Globally only 66 per cent of schools had a basic sanitation service** in 2016.
  2. 1 in 5 primary schools have no sanitation service as well as 1 in 8 secondary schools.
  3. One third of schools in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania have no sanitation service. In most countries where data is available, less than 50 per cent of schools have toilets accessible to students with limited mobility.
  4. Globally, 600 million children do not have a basic sanitation service at school.


  1. Nearly 900 million children worldwide lacked a basic hygiene service*** at their school.
  2. 1 in 3 primary schools have no hygiene service and over a quarter of secondary schools have no hygiene service.
  3. Over one third of schools worldwide and half of schools in the least developed countries have no hygiene service.
  4. UNICEF has WASH in Schools programmes in more than 90 countries and reaches an average 3 million children a year.


Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools: 2018 Global Baseline Report was produced by the WHO/UNICEF JMP -- the custodian of global data on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The JMP has been monitoring global progress since 1990 and is responsible for reporting on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets and indicators related to WASH.

For more information about the Joint Monitoring Programme, please visit this link.

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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org  

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For more information, please contact:

Yemi Lufadeju, UNICEF Cambodia, + 855 70 936 785, glufadeju@unicef.org

Georgina Thompson, UNICEF New York, +1 917 265 4524, gthompson@unicef.org


* Basic drinking water services means water from an improved source (piped water, boreholes or tubewells, protected dug wells, protected springs and packaged or delivered water), and water is available at the school at the time of the survey.

** Basic sanitation service means improved sanitation (flush/pour flush to piped sewer systems, septic tanks or pit latrines; ventilated improved pit latrines, composting toilets or pit latrines with slabs), at the school that are single-sex and usable (available, functional, private) at the time of the survey.

*** Basic hygiene service means a handwashing facilities with water and soap available at the school at the time of the survey.