Global annual results report 2019: Goal Area 4
Progress, results achieved and lessons from 2019 by Goal Area 4: ensuring that every child lives in a safe and clean environment
UNICEF works to safeguard the right of all children to a safe and clean environment both in times of stability and crisis. Under Goal Area 4 of the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018–2021, programming is grouped under five output areas: water supply, sanitation, disaster risk reduction, children in urban settings and environmental sustainability. In each of these areas significant progress was made in 2019.
In 2019 UNICEF helped over 18 million people gain access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services through development programming and over 39 million people through emergency response, while expanding community handwashing promotion efforts to 90 countries and providing WASH services in thousands of schools and health centres. Working with partners, UNICEF also helped to build national WASH capacity and systems in countries around the world.
UNICEF also encouraged stronger linkages between humanitarian response and sustainable development to improve the resilience of communities, increased engagement in urban areas and with local government partners, and undertook a major expansion in climate resilience programming.
WASH COVID-19 pandemic response was initiated at the end of 2019, the year covered by this report, and has since expanded into a world-wide effort, focusing on guidance and supplies for hand washing with soap, along with support for WASH services in communities, schools and health-care facilities.
This report summarizes how UNICEF and its partners contributed to Goal Area 4 in 2019 and reviews the impact of these accomplishments on children and the communities where they live.
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Every child lives in a safe and clean environment
In times of crisis and stability, all children have the right to a safe and clean environment in their homes, communities, schools and health-care facilities. This right is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights instruments. In 2019, this right was increasingly placed under threat by extreme weather events, droughts, dwindling freshwater resources and other effects of climate change and environmental degradation, and by the growing number of emergencies and protracted crises around the world, many of which are linked to climate change.
Significant progress was made in each of the Goal Area 4 output areas in 2019. Millions of children and their families in vulnerable communities gained access to water and sanitation, an increasing number of countries had child rights-sensitive risk management plans, more countries had data on intra-urban disparities, and a total of 56 countries are now implementing child-inclusive climate resilience programmes.
18.3 million additional people
gained access to safe drinking water services through UNICEF-supported programmes
15.5 million additional people
gained access to basic sanitation services through UNICEF-supported programmes
Disaster Risk Reduction
had child-sensitive national or local risk management plans which address risks related to disasters, climate change, conflict, public health, emergencies or other crises
Children in Urban Settings
had data on intra-urban disparities, including girls and boys in informal settings
implemented child-inclusive programmes that foster climate resilience and low carbon development
Water, sanitation and hygiene
Significant progress was made in 2019 in the area of WASH. The rate of progress needed for reaching the target of 60 million people with water and sanitation over the 4-year Strategic Plan period was exceeded for water, but not for sanitation. However, the pace is accelerating for sanitation, and UNICEF expects to meet the target by 2021.
There are substantial challenges remaining in the area of sanitation, specifically in the campaign to stop open defecation: more than two-thirds of countries with the largest numbers of people still practising open defecation are not on track to achieve elimination or near elimination by 2030.
Countries implementing a climate resilient water service, 2019
Climate resilience WASH programming
UNICEF recognises the need to fully incorporate climate resilience into all WASH programming by the end of 2021.
UNICEF continues to expand its use of solar technology in WASH programmes to improve the resilience and sustainability of water supply systems and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In 2019, it supported the construction of 1,286 solar water systems in a total of 40 countries.
Safe water supply
In both 2018 and 2019, the Strategic Plan annual target of 15 million water beneficiaries was exceeded and UNICEF is well on track to meet the overall target of 60 million over four years. The largest number of people reached was in Nigeria, Iraq and Pakistan; the region with the most UNICEF water beneficiaries was the Middle East and North Africa, where UNICEF supports both emergency and development programming.
Ending open defecation and increasing access to basic sanitation
The number of people practising open defecation was halved from 1.3 billion in 2000 to 673 million in 2017 (the latest year of available data) and rates declined in all SDG regions except Oceania and with the greatest progress in South Asia. UNICEF contributes to this progress both through direct support for improved sanitation, and by working the governments and other partners to build national systems and programming capacity.
The UNICEF Game Plan to End Open Defecation, launched in 2018, focuses on the 26 high-burden countries with the greatest numbers (more than 5 million) of people practising open defecation. Major new national open defecation road maps, plans and related instruments developed with UNICEF support were launched in several countries in 2019, including new road maps with costed plans in Côte D’Ivoire and Indonesia.
Emergency WASH Response
UNICEF responded to emergencies around the world in 2019, including major responses to cyclone Idai in Southern Africa and to the ongoing security and cholera crisis in Yemen. In total, UNICEF helped restore water services for over 39 million people in 2019, and sanitation services for over 9 million people. UNICEF’s Water Under Fire campaign – launched in 2019 - calls on stakeholders to improve and adequately fund humanitarian response, while making the long-term investments in resilient WASH systems needed to help prevent large-scale collapse of WASH systems in crisis situations.
WASH and Gender
Menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) is one of the five priorities in the UNICEF Gender Action Plan 2018–2021, due to its transformative potential to empower adolescent girls. UNICEF support for MHH across country programmes continues to expand with activities in 72 countries.
Innovation focus: Oky menstrual health application
UNICEF launched the Oky app to help girls track their periods and access unbiased, accurate information about menstrual health. The app was developed through user-centred design and co-creation sessions with 400 girls and their close social circles in pilot countries Indonesia and Mongolia, and is designed to work with low-end phones and in situations of limited connectivity.
WASH and disability
The human rights-based approach adopted by UNICEF means that WASH programmes work to ensure that that all children’s rights to water and sanitation are met, including those with disabilities. This imperative holds a prominent place in the UNICEF global WASH strategy, and in other policy and strategy instruments, which stress that it is the responsibility of UNICEF to address the specific needs and the rights of children with disabilities in programme design.
Disaster risk reduction, resilience strengthening and peacebuilding
UNICEF is increasingly focusing on the linkages between humanitarian response and longer-term sustainable development, strengthening resilience to climate change and disasters, and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies.
Risk analysis and risk-informed programming
Risk-informed programming contributes to effective humanitarian programmes, which save children’s lives, alleviate suffering and lay the foundations for long-term recovery and sustainable development.
In Sri Lanka
UNICEF worked with government ministries to roll out a child-centred Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programme to foster adolescent participation. This included a toolkit used in children’s clubs to facilitate meaningful participation in disaster and development settings and identify and prevent broader child protection concerns.
The UNICEF-promoted Comprehensive School Safety approach resulted in the support for 52 schools in disadvantaged communities to enhance school safety and resilience, with school vulnerability and capacity assessments conducted for staff and students, and improved capacity of those schools in preparedness and safety measures.
Peacebuilding and sustaining peace
UNICEF continued to address the social dimensions of conflict and social tensions through its programming. Across all seven regions in 2019, 59 country offices implemented Country Programmes with explicit objectives to promote peaceful and inclusive societies and address the underlying grievances that lead to violence, conflict and challenges to social cohesion.
In the Mindanao region of the Philippines, UNICEF has been working to strengthen the peacebuilding skills of existing youth networks in the region, to consolidate peace and heal divides between communities. In partnership with the Mindanao Peace Institute, it has trained 50 adolescent and young leaders in peacebuilding. Their networks collectively represent some 15,000 adolescents and young people, who are now implementing peace workshops across communities.
Urban programming and local governance
An estimated 1.4 million people move into urban areas each week. With many of them ending up in slums or informal settlements, the poor urban population continues to increase both in actual numbers and in proportion to the overall urban population. Currently, more than 1 billion people live in slums, including 350 million children.
These children are disproportionally affected by the inequality, exclusion and environmental and health hazards that are common in poor urban areas.
UNICEF is increasingly focusing its programmes on children living in urban settings, in response to the explosive growth of the urban population in recent decades.
UNICEF is working closely with UN-Habitat to integrate child-related indicators in the City Prosperity Index, which is used to measure a city’s overall achievements with respect to prosperity, insofar as they are related to how cities are governed or how they create and distribute socioeconomic benefits. It is also working with UN-Habitat on developing a United Nations System-wide urban monitoring framework.
UNICEF works with local governments to help ensure that plans, budgets and service delivery are child-responsive, and that services are consistent with the preferences, needs and perspectives of children. UNICEF programming strengthens local governments’ capacity to plan, organize services, prepare for emergencies, budget equitably and monitor and receive feedback on critical child services. These actions support results across UNICEF priority areas, particularly in health, WASH, early childhood education and child protection, where services are frequently provided by local governments.
Climate, energy and environment
Children are the least responsible for climate change, yet will bear the greatest burden of its impact. They are the most vulnerable to vector-borne diseases that will increase as a result of climate change, and to air pollution, which is associated with climate change. Close to 90 per cent of the burden of disease attributable to climate change is borne by children under 5 years of age. Climate change also affects a child’s right to learn: extreme weather events destroy schools and extreme heat can affect a child’s ability to learn. For children who are already disadvantaged, the risks of climate change are even higher. Poorer families have a more difficult time coping with shocks, and as climate crises become more common and more severe, it will become harder to recover from them.
Advocacy and evidence generation
The climate crisis is a children’s rights crisis, but is often not recognized as such. At the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid (COP25), UNICEF hosted a high-level event, ‘We Dare: Children and Youth vs the Climate Crisis’ to reinforce the need for climate change negotiations and commitments to integrate the protection of children’s rights.
Engagement and empowerment of children and young people on climate, energy and the environment
With the growing movement of young people demanding accelerated and more ambitious actions on climate change, UNICEF has a unique role to play to ensure that their voices are adequately heard and responded to by decision makers. UNICEF supports the meaningful engagement of children and young people in a range of formal and informal consultation mechanisms at country, regional and global levels, helping them to engage meaningfully in decision-making processes on climate change.
UNICEF supported a programme for children to use low-cost testing devices to monitor their local air quality, which is now being deployed across the country. Children have been empowered to develop and propose environmental sustainability actions such as recycling projects and better waste collection, to reduce the burning of refuse.
UNICEF supported children, youth and communities to promote environmentally sustainable innovations in waste management, sustainable energy and sustainable agriculture, and to cultivate a culture of environmental stewardship as part of the Green Innovations Hub and Sustainable Energy for Health Facilities and Surrounding Facilities project.
Reducing emissions and pollution
The only long-term solution to address climate change is a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition to advocacy with governments and other partners, UNICEF is focusing on reducing emissions and pollution in its own programmes across all results areas. This includes increasing the use of solar and other forms of sustainable energy (already in use by the WASH programme in 40 countries), minimizing waste and prepositioning supplies, all of which are also effective methods of building resilience to the impacts of climate change.
UNICEF continued supporting the Cash-plus Energy approach that provides solar devices to schoolchildren from vulnerable families, allowing them to study in the evenings after completing their household chores. As most of these cash beneficiaries are single mothers or widows, they are also encouraged to engage in income-generating activities, such as using the solar devices to charge neighbours’ phones. The payment scheme for the solar energy is flexible and adapted to the circumstances of poor families, and is therefore a business model that can be scaled up by the private sector in hard-to-reach areas.
In Papua New Guinea
UNICEF supported solar power in health-care facilities to provide an energy supply for both water pumping and cold chain equipment. The designs for such a dual purpose system are being reviewed by the Government for adoption as a national standard.
Internal sustainability/greening UNICEF
UNICEF is committed to cutting its own environmental impact by reducing GHG emissions from air travel, vehicle fleets and facilities, and through reductions in water consumption, paper use, single-use plastic and solid waste. The United Nations has set targets of reducing GHG emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, and sourcing 80 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030. UNICEF is aligning its own emission reduction goals with these targets, and will continue to actively reduce its emissions.
Good progress has been made in 2019 with most results areas on track to meet the UNICEF Strategic Plan targets but no result areas are currently on track to meet the 2030 SDG targets. At the time of writing, UNICEF is in the process of realigning its programmes for children in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Future progress and results will depend on how the ongoing COVID -19 crisis continues to impact programming.
UNICEF will continue to focus on the targets of eliminating open defecation and increasing access to basic sanitation, but will also shift programming towards the imperative of meeting the more ambitious sanitation and hygiene targets. In the work of climate, energy and the environment, areas to scale up include climate-resilient WASH facilities to help address water scarcity; ‘climate-smart’ health centres and ‘green schools’ that incorporate elements such as sustainable energy and disaster risk reduction; and accelerating response to address the impacts of air pollution as well as other forms of toxic pollution on children.