Water, sanitation and hygiene
We work with government and partners to ensure that every child in India has access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities, and practices good hygiene behaviors
Strengthening sustainable WASH programming
India has made rapid progress in ending open defecation across the country, which significantly impacts improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
In 2015, nearly half of India’s population of around 568 million people suffered the indignity of defecating in fields, forests, bodies of water, or other public spaces due to a lack of access to toilets. India alone accounted for 90 per cent of the people in South Asia and half of the 1.2 billion people in the world that defecated in the open.
UNICEF extended the objective of eradicating open defecation to effective solid and liquid waste management in all cities and villages. By 2019, according to the latest estimates, the number of people without access to toilets has reduced significantly by an estimated 450 million people.
A tremendous achievement, only possible because of the Government’s flagship programme, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) (Clean India Campaign), led by the Prime Minister himself. UNICEF has been a proud partner of the Swachh Bharat Mission, which is now in phase two of its implementation.
India has made rapid progress in ending open defecation across the country. The number of people defecating in the open in India has reduced significantly by an estimated 450 million people. However, we all need to ensure sustained use of toilets and hygiene practices at all times. Open defecation has historically been most prevalent among the poorest citizens in the cities or the countryside.
The risk of spreading diarrheal and waterborne diseases gets compounded by the lack of regular handwashing and microbial contamination of water in their homes and communities. This practice amounted to tonnes of faeces introduced daily into the environment, regularly exposing India’s children to excrement through direct contact. The situation contributed to nearly 100,000 diarrhoeal deaths of children under five years in India.
Poor sanitation can also have a ripple effect when it hinders national development because workers are suffering from illnesses and living shorter lives, producing and earning less, and unable to afford education and stable futures for their children. Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in India’s health facilities contributes to the high neonatal mortality rate, which is currently 24 deaths per 1000 live births.
Sepsis – mainly spread in health facilities – contributes to 15 per cent of the overall neonatal mortality and 11 per cent of maternal deaths. Moreover, the risks do not end there when they are brought home to a community that lacks toilets.
(Source: Lancet report 2014)
In India’s schools, reports show that 22 per cent did not have appropriate toilets for girls, 58 per cent of preschools had no toilet at all, and 56 per cent of preschools had no water on the premises.
(Source: Rapid survey on children 2013-14)
Chemical contamination of water, mainly through fluoride and arsenic, is present in 1.96 million dwellings. Meanwhile, less than 50 per cent of the population has access to safely managed drinking water (located on-premises, available when needed and free of contamination). Moreover, two-thirds of India’s 718 districts are affected by extreme water depletion, and the current lack of water safety and security planning is a significant concern.
Collaboration and convergence are a vital feature of the UNICEF Country Programme in India, where WASH is positioned as cross-cutting support contributing towards results in all aspects of a child’s survival, growth and development.
The WASH programme is also positioned to prevent malnutrition and preventable diseases, reduce neonatal mortality, and improve education outcomes.
UNICEF supports the Government of India’s flagship programmes, including the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Jal Jeevan Mission and WASH in Schools (including preschools called ‘anganwadis’).
UNICEF also supports WASH in health care facilities and district-wide WASH interventions, supporting planning and implementation and incorporating behaviour change into state and national guidelines and costed plans.
To support lagging states and districts, UNICEF works in 16 states and 192 districts, technically supports the Government, assists in alternative service delivery approaches, and mobilizes public institutions and partners, including the private sector, around WASH services.
UNICEF has expanded its programme from rural to urban areas, where the urban poor are often left out of the sanitation equation.
Monitoring and evaluation for WASH
WASH programming is grounded in empirical data, rigorous research and thoughtful analysis. To ensure community participation, gender mainstreaming, and efficient programming, all water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions get supported by social and behaviour change communication (SBCC.
The interventions are also supported by monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and knowledge management (KM) frameworks.
India has accelerated its efforts over the past five years to assure its citizens, especially children, the right to WASH services. The monitoring process for the India Country Office includes internal monitoring based on the five-year country programme.
The process includes external monitoring, primarily for donors and external partners, and system monitoring, referring to the support extended to government partners for setting up monitoring systems such as management information systems, online applications, and dashboards.