Water, sanitation and hygiene
Clean water, safe sanitation and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of children
Rapid gains in access to water, sanitation and hygiene have been made in recent years in the East Asia and Pacific region. Yet nearly 910 million people still do not have safe sanitation services and an estimated 116 million lack basic drinking water. In 13 countries where data is available, more than 19 million people lack handwashing facilities with soap to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19 or pneumonia and diarrhoea, two of the biggest killers of children under five-years-old in the region. The lives of millions of children are at risk.
Sanitation and hygiene remain among the main contributing factors to high child mortality and under-nutrition (stunting and anaemia) and act as barriers to quality education for girls and boys in the region. Differences in access to safe water and sanitation reveal persisting inequities, with rural areas, urban slums and the poorest parts of the population lagging far behind.
Around 40 million people or 2 per cent 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, highlighting the need for special efforts to reach children in these countries.
Climate-related extreme weather events such as cyclones affect large parts of the region, causing widespread devastation and significant damage to existing WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) infrastructure. In other places, people are at risk from droughts, declining water tables and deterioration of water quality.
UNICEF’s approach is to strengthen national systems and capacity through evidence-based advocacy for equitable investments in children and support to essential areas like policy, monitoring, financing and capacity. Strengthening the enabling environment for WASH programming is fundamental to scale up services. In the most vulnerable areas, UNICEF supports community-based activities that expand service provision. During emergencies, we are also there to provide support for those in need.
UNICEF’s WASH programmes will scale up a focus on climate resilience to ensure that we have the resources and skills to strengthen the capacity of governments and partners to design and implement appropriate low carbon and climate resilient technologies.
Continuous support for hygiene at scale is critical, bringing hand hygiene and menstrual hygiene to schools, communities, and other settings with people in need, particularly the most marginalized and vulnerable. UNICEF is continuing to collaborate with regional organizations and the business community to support collective actions to solve the challenges.
UNICEF plays a critical role in the 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 WASH in Schools for the provision of safe water, gender appropriate sanitation, hand washing facilities and hygiene education in schools
- Raise awareness in households 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 across the region
- Work with national government partners as well as private sector, donors, academia and media to achieve WASH improvements at scale
- Provide support to ensure that WASH programmes and services are climate resilient
These resources represent just a small selection of materials produced by UNICEF and its partners in the region. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information.