Water, sanitation and hygiene

Improving children’s lives through clean water and clean environments

A girl drinking water from a water point
UNICEF Mali/2018/Keita

The challenge

Access to safe and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene protects children against common water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and also reduces stunting, which affects 24% of children in Mali.

However, in Mali, only about one-half of schools have an improved water point, and less than 20 per cent of schools have functional, separate toilets for boys and girls. In addition, two million people in Mali still practice open defecation, which has a direct impact on the health, dignity and the safety of communities. While 80% of Mali’s population now has access to improved sources of drinking water, this number drops significantly in rural areas. Displacement in conflict-affected areas of Mali has further limited the access of families on the move to clean water and sanitation.

The solution

une fille entrain de boire du point d'eau de son école
UNICEF Mali/2015/Dicko

UNICEF supports the Ministry of Energy & Water and the Ministry of Environment, Sanitation & Sustainable Development to improve equitable access to clean water and sanitation, with an emphasis on the needs of girls and the most vulnerable children. UNICEF in Mali and partners work in communities, schools and health centres to improve access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation in all areas of children’s lives. This is done through the construction, repair and rehabilitation of water points and latrines in schools, health centres and communities, as well as the promotion of key hygiene practices, such as handwashing with soap. We are also promoting the elimination of open defecation through community-led total sanitation — an innovative methodology for mobilising communities.

UNICEF also supports the distribution of household water treatment products to communities affected by conflicts, floods and seasonal water shortages.

UNICEF in Mali also contributes to broader efforts to build the resilience and coping capacities of vulnerable communities in complex humanitarian situations arising from conflict, forced migration, epidemics, malnutrition, and natural disasters.

In 2018, UNICEF and partners provided water supply services to over 199,000 people in humanitarian need.