Water, sanitation and hygiene

Kyrgyzstan moving forward in making proper sanitation and hygiene a norm

A young child in red winter hat washes hands at outdoor sink in wide open field
UNICEF Kyrgyzstan/2016/Simon Lister

The challenge

The lack of access to safe water and improved sanitation is a pressing problem for marginalized communities in Kyrgyzstan, which reinforces social vulnerability and poverty. Water and sanitation infrastructure is in need of substantial repair. National policies relating to water, sanitation, and hygiene are largely focused on large systems, and no specific water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in schools’ policy or coordinating body exists. Rural schools are more likely to have limited or no WASH in schools access.

Over 36 per cent of schools nationwide have no water supply within school boundaries and 91.8 per cent of children confirmed that they wash hands more often at home than at school.

The large investments in expanding water and sanitation services have also brought to the fore the challenge of ensuring sustainability, particularly in rural areas. Longstanding problems with water supply reliability and quality, sanitation, public health and hygiene practice were highlighted during the 2010 crisis, which required the involvement of UNICEF for emergency relief.

Sanitation facilities are not always designed in a way that takes the special needs of girls and children with disabilities into account.

Many schools haven’t been renovated since Soviet times and lack heating and proper sanitation facilities. The lack of adequate facilities in schools and the poor condition of school infrastructure in rural area contributes to school-age children, including adolescent girls, dropping out of school. This is compounded by stigma based on social norms and attitudes towards puberty and poor menstrual hygiene management practices at schools. There is also an issue of lack of awareness or capacity in schools that create an unfavourable environment, which affects girls in particular.

people taking water from the river
A mother with her two children collects fresh water in Kyrgyzstan. According to UNICEF and WHO data, 663 million people still used unimproved drinking water sources in 2015 worldwide.

The solution

children wash hands at schools
UNICEF/2017/Simon Lister
Children wash hands in the secondary school in Ak-Tuz village, Chui province. With support of UNICEF, the teachers and school administration improved their skills in hygiene promotion and sustainable maintenance and operation of their WASH facilities.

UNICEF began its water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme in Kyrgyzstan following the emergency in 2010. Assessments conducted during the crisis highlighted longstanding problems with the reliability and the quality water supply, sanitation, public health and hygiene awareness and practices. Continued awareness raising campaigns conducted by the Government in partnership with UNICEF and civil society organizations produced some noteworthy results:

The population using appropriately treated water increased from 34.6 per cent in 2006 to 77.2 per cent in 2014.

The percentage of children aged 0-2 years whose last stools were disposed of safely increased from 42.7 per cent in 2006 to 75.8 per cent in the country. Hygiene promotion materials and methodology for school children and administrators as well as parents were developed and approved by the Government for national scale-up.

However, the percentage of household members using improved sources of drinking water has remained at 87.0 per cent with much regional disparity, which reflects the fact that water, sanitation and hygiene are yet to become a State priority, as funding is limited and national strategies to make good hygiene a norm are yet to be adopted.

UNICEF supported the construction and renovation of sanitation facilities in targeted schools, community-based kindergartens and hospitals.

The design took into account the special needs of girls and children with disabilities. UNICEF is working to create social norms on proper sanitation and hygiene by resorting to a bottom-up approach. UNICEF carries out interventions promoting better hygiene standards in target schools designed for the local context, and provides training materials for children, parents and teachers.

At the national level, the Government is supported to address gaps and weaknesses in standards and designs for water, sanitation and hygiene, and to ensure the sustainability of existing infrastructure. Country-wide media campaigns support a discourse on sanitation and hygiene.


These resources represent just a small selection of materials on water, sanitation and hygiene produced by UNICEF and its partners in Kyrgyzstan. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information.

WASH Guidebook and Flashcards

Three star approach to WASH

MHM for Girls I & II

MHM for parents 

MHM for teachers

WASH in Schools website

Keremet Koch playlist on WASH