Water, sanitation and hygiene

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

A girl smiles while drinking water at a water point in the village of Adone, Ta Oi District, Saravane Province. The village is home to the Pacoh ethnic group.


Huge strides in the region have been made in recent years, but over 500 million people still do not have access proper sanitation facilities. Around 130 million are unable to access safe water. Pneumonia and diarrhoea remain the biggest killers of children under five-years-old in this region 

Fourth-grade students from Hnen Ser Kyin Middle School wash their hands at a community water point in the village of Hnen Ser Kyin, Magway Region, Myanmar
UNICEF/UNI193997/Gilbertson VII Photo

Without basic access to safe water and toilets, the lives of millions of children are at risk. For children under five, water- and sanitation-related diseases are one of the leading causes of death.

Sanitation and hygiene remain among the main contributing factors to high child mortality and under-nutrition (stunting and anaemia) rates. Differences in access to safe water and sanitation reveal persisting inequities, with rural areas, urban slums and poorest part of the population lagging far behind.

Around 83 million people or 4% of the population in the region - mostly the poor - are estimated to practice open defecation. In the Pacific sub-region, both sanitation and water coverage is far below the East Asia average.


UNICEF’s approach is to strengthen national systems and capacity through a mix of community based-activities and collecting evidence to advocate for equitable investments in children. During emergencies, we are also there to provide support for those in need. 

A girl buy a unicef-supported tap in the Philippines

UNICEF plays a critical role in development and testing of models and approaches and sharing of good practice of WASH services to reach the most vulnerable

With our partners, and in support of the Sustainable Development WASH Goals, UNICEF works to:

  • Help governments design and implement appropriate gender sensitive policies, national standards and guidelines, build institutional capacity and develop interventions
  • Provide training and resources for communities to improve water quality, secure water supplies and safer sanitation facilities
  • Support scale-up of the 3-Star WASH in Schools approach for the provision of safe water, gender appropriate  sanitation, hand washing facilities and hygiene education in schools
  • Raise awareness in household on the basics of household water treatment and safe storage
  • Support public awareness campaigns about personal hygiene
  • Undertake multi-country research to identify the main bottlenecks, and support strategies to address these at country level
  • Facilitate exchange of lessons and good practices between countries.
  • Work with national government partners as well as private sector, donors, academia and media to achieve WASH improvements at scale