Globally 844 million people don’t have clean water, 2.3 billion people don't have a decent toilet, and 31 per cent of schools don’t have clean water. This means that 1 in 9 people in the world don't have clean water close to home, and 1 in 3 people don't have a decent toilet. In addition, every minute a newborn dies from infection caused by lack of safe water and an unclean environment. Diarrhoea, caused by dirty water and poor toilets, kills a child under 5 every 2 minutes, while 443 million school days are lost for school-going children every year because of water-related illnesses.
In The Gambia, 61.8 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation, with 1 per cent still practicing open defecation, and only 30.9 per cent of the population practicing hand washing with soap or other detergents.
Efforts to ensure access to safe drinking water have been effective over the past years. Children and their families in The Gambia have gained improved and equitable access to and utilize safe drinking water with 90 per cent of the population accessing improved water sources in 2018 from 86 per cent in 2010, however only 34 per cent (one third) of households are using safely managed drinking water services. 1 per cent of the population is practicing open defecation an improvement from 2.8 per cent in 2010 with 62 per cent having access to improved Sanitation. In line with the SDG service ladders of sanitation, only 47 per cent of the household population have access to a basic level of service. The proportion of household members with a hand washing facility where water and soap or detergent are present remains low at 31 per cent compared to 30.3 per cent in 2010 which requires intensified efforts (MICS 2010, 2018).
Inadequate water supply and improved sanitation in schools, health care facilities, and public places remains a challenge. In spite of 84 per cent of primary schools having WASH facilities that met national standards, there are significant disparities exist between the urban and rural schools. Ensuring provision of gender separated facilities that meet the specific needs for girls remains a key focus for the country office. Water quality in The Gambia is also of great concern, as 45.3 per cent of the water sources are contaminated with E.coli, and 73.2 per cent of the household population had E. coli in household drinking water.