Water, sanitation and hygiene

Providing children with a clean environment to live, play and learn

Children use soap to wash their hands at at primary school

The challenge

Nearly 25 million people in Indonesia don’t use toilets. They defecate instead in fields, bushes, forests, ditches, streets, canals or other open spaces. Open defecation is not only an affront to dignity, it also poses huge risks to child and community health.

Open defecation and untreated wastewater contaminate water supply and facilitate the spread of diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera.  A quarter of all children under 5 in Indonesia suffer from diarrhoea, which is the leading cause of child mortality in the country.

Water quality is poor regardless of socio-economic conditions. A 2017 survey of drinking water in Yogyakarta, a well-off urban centre in Java, found that 89 per cent of water sources and 67 per cent of household drinking water were contaminated by fecal bacteria. Moreover, only 7 per cent of wastewater in Indonesia is treated.

A young boy winking and showing thumbs up.
UNICEF Indonesia

Building latrines, and safely managed fecal waste – together with hand washing – is key to keeping children and families healthy.

However, the poorest Indonesians are being left behind, with significant gaps in access to sanitation among households in the two lowest wealth tiers of society – 40 and 65 per cent in urban areas and 36 and 65 per cent in rural areas.

Safely managed sanitation is recognized as a top priority for improving health, nutrition and productivity of people, and is an explicit target of the sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).  Reaching SDG 6, therefore, requires a closer look at strategies for reaching the poorest Indonesian children and families with better access to safely managed water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

The solution

UNICEF supports the Government of Indonesia to accelerate access to safely managed water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

At national level, emphasis is placed on high level advocacy and political will along with aligning WASH policies and programmes with ground realities and ensuring that they are based on reliable and up-to-date information and data.

One of the biggest challenges with achieving safely managed sanitation is  changing  behaviors – from building political will to creating a new national social norm in support of safely managed sanitation.

In Indonesia, UNICEF motivates social behaviour change through high level advocacy and engagement in the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, peer to peer learning to support sub national advocacy and  through social mobilization  in marginalized communities where open defecation is widespread.

A child given bath with soap and water.
UNICEF Indonesia

Primary schools and surrounding communities are also primary partners in strengthening hygiene behaviour. UNICEF helps to improve the capacity of teachers, parents and local village administration in developing and implementing school sanitation plans, which involve promoting healthy practices such as hand washing and menstrual hygiene management.

In addition, UNICEF helps to strengthen government data quality and monitoring systems so that WASH programmes with cross-cutting relevance to health, nutrition and wider level health and social interventions can be expanded.