Global Annual Results Report 2020: Goal Area 4
Ensuring that every child lives in a safe and clean environment
Every child lives in a safe and clean environment
Goal Area 4 progress against 2020 targets across five output areas
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of a safe and clean environment for children. But it also underlined the fragility of systems and services upon which they rely. The numbers of households, health centres and schools without access to adequate water and hygiene services were already unacceptably high, and the impacts of the pandemic on national economies and family incomes quickly made the situation worse -- especially in the most vulnerable communities and for children.
17 million people
gained access to safe drinking water services
13.4 million people
gained access to basic sanitation services
implementing national community-based hand-washing programmes
As the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the world in early 2020, it quickly became clear that WASH would be at the centre of the UNICEF response. Health-care facilities needed WASH services to prevent and control infections, schools needed handwashing facilities in order to reopen safely and community handwashing promotion campaigns needed to be rapidly expanded. And people everywhere needed easy and affordable access to soap and other hygiene supplies.
It was also critical to maintain water and sanitation systems, to expand them where possible, and to ensure services were affordable, especially in high-risk areas such as poor urban neighbourhoods and migrant camps.
Working with governments and other partners UNICEF helped to ensure that water, sanitation and hand hygiene systems continued to function, that soap and menstrual supplies were available in all settings, that hygiene promotion efforts were expanded, and hygiene measures were strengthened in health-care facilities, schools and other high-risk contexts such as displaced people camps.
Ultimately this response reached 106 million people in 120 countries across all UNICEF regions with critical WASH supplies and services, making the 2020 emergency response effort the largest ever for UNICEF.
From the beginning of the pandemic, handwashing with soap was identified as the first line of defence against the transmission of COVID-19. In response, UNICEF significantly expanded handwashing promotion efforts through media and social media campaigns, and provided support to community-based handwashing promotion programmes in 110 countries, more than ever before.
UNICEF procured and distributed tens of millions of hygiene kits, brokered major donations of soap from global manufacturers, and worked with local companies to increase soap manufacturing capacity. The Hand Hygiene for All initiative, launched in June 2020 with partners, highlighted the importance of handwashing with soap to control the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to ensure that efforts lead to lasting infrastructure and behaviour change.
Blue soap in Burundi helps millions protect themselves against COVID-19
The Government of Burundi, UNICEF, the World Bank and SAVONOR, Burundi’s largest soap manufacturer, launched an innovative partnership to cut the price of a basic bar of soap by 50 per cent, a key initiative in a country where just 6 per cent of people have a basic hand-washing facility with soap and water at home. UNICEF also developed training modules and trained officials on COVID-19 prevention, with a focus on hand washing and hygiene.
Menstrual health and hygiene
Improving menstrual health and hygiene for girls and women is a challenge in the best of times, during a global pandemic the challenge became that much greater. Through the ‘periods don’t stop for pandemics’ campaign, UNICEF helped girls and women get access to menstrual pads and culturally- and age-specific information and provided emergency menstrual hygiene supplies and services for 1.2 million girls and women in 2020.
Safe water supply
A total of 17 million people gained access to safe water services through UNICEF direct support in 2020, and an additional 30.2 million people were provided with short-term emergency water services, such as water trucking. Other people were reached through UNICEF advocacy efforts to waive tariffs and subsidise water utilities during the pandemic. UNICEF also continued to work with partners to improve the safety of water supplies, including support in 33 countries for water safety planning initiatives to reduce the risks from bacteriological and chemical contamination.
UNICEF launched its Water Game Plan in 2020, outlining its contributions to meeting the 2030 SDG water target with a focus on equity, sustainability and climate resilience.
Emergency support for water supply in vulnerable urban areas
To support vulnerable people (including Venezuelan migrants) living in peri-urban areas with sporadic or insufficient water supplies in Ecuador, UNICEF responded with a water-trucking operation that reached over half a million people. The trucks, which announced their arrival in a community with a special jingle, became the centre of community hygiene promotion activities, including the distribution of soap and infection prevention and control (IPC) supplies.
UNICEF is committed to promoting climate resilient WASH to ensure that benefits for children are realised now and in the future, and that WASH systems – and communities that depend on them – have the tools and support to cope with climate change. In 2020, UNICEF provided support for climate-resilient WASH solutions in a total of 46 countries. This included the provision of climate resilient water services for a total of 6.3 million people.
The promotion of solar powered pumping systems is part of this effort, providing more water for households, schools and health centres while reducing carbon emissions. In 2020, UNICEF constructed 1,448 solar powered water systems in 41 countries.
Climate-resilient solar water systems for institutions and communities
In rural areas of Malawi, UNICEF is using a new programming approach to provide safe and sustainable piped water to schools, health-care facilities and communities. The solar-powered systems are designed to be resilient to the risks associated with climate change, including extreme weather events. To date, 64 solar-powered systems have been constructed.
WASH in schools and health centres
WASH in institutions programming was ramped up in 2020 in support of the global effort to address COVID-19, particularly in the areas of hygiene promotion, infection prevention and control, and ensuring the functionality of WASH systems.
A key part of the COVID-19 emergency response was support for safe school reopening programmes through the large-scale provision of WASH facilities and supplies in schools or temporary learning spaces, ultimately reaching an unprecedented 15.3 million children in 2020. Direct UNICEF support for WASH in health-care facilities also expanded significantly, reaching a total of 5,613 health-care facilities in 66 countries, more than ever before.
In many countries these efforts generally involved an acceleration of what UNICEF was already doing. The promotion and support of handwashing, for example, was already at the core of the UNICEF programme through efforts in health-care facilities and through long-running group handwashing promotion programmes in schools.
Fundamentals first: eight practical steps to improve WASH in health-care facilities
Emergency WASH response
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WASH supplies and services were delivered to vulnerable populations in 120 countries, ultimately reaching 106 million people. The scale and scope of this support varied widely. In some countries UNICEF pitched in by delivering a few thousand bars of soap to a small number of targeted schools and health centres, in other countries UNICEF mounted a comprehensive response reaching millions of people.
UNICEF continued to provide WASH support to children and their families in ongoing protracted crises on a large scale in 2020, notably in Yemen, Syria and Somalia. Urgent support also continued for refugees and internally displaced people including in Bangladesh, Iraq and Jordan; in several Sub-Saharan Africa countries; and for migrants on the move in Europe and the Americas. In all cases the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the plight of children in crisis, while complicating response campaigns.
39.1 million people
provided with emergency water supplies with UNICEF support
15.3 million children
reached with emergency WASH services in schools and temporary learning spaces
1.2 million girls and women
provided with emergency menstrual hygiene supplies and services
UNICEF helped 13.4 million people gain access to basic sanitation through regular programming in 2020, lower than targeted due to the difficulty of field work during the pandemic and shifting priorities. Almost three-quarters of these beneficiaries were in sub-Saharan Africa, where UNICEF focuses its direct support because it has the lowest sanitation coverage rates and the highest economic costs attributed to inadequate sanitation. An additional 5.6 million people were provided with sanitation services through emergency response programmes.
The state of the world’s sanitation
UNICEF and WHO published the landmark State of the World’s Sanitation report, which shows that the SDG goal of universal access to safe sanitation is far off track, especially for those living in poor and isolated communities.
WASH and gender
Through all its WASH programming, UNICEF works to promote the rights of women and girls in different ways. One is through WASH in schools programming, where UNICEF works to ensure that sanitation and hygiene facilities are girl-friendly: private, lockable, clean and with menstrual hygiene facilities and supplies.
UNICEF ensured that COVID-19 response programmes incorporated gender-responsive approaches, for example, by making special efforts to reach women and girls isolated at home with emergency menstrual hygiene supplies, and by ensuring that maternity wards and antenatal and postnatal care facilities received hygiene supplies.
WASH and disability
Children with disabilities have the same rights to water and sanitation as other children, but they may not be able to fully realize these rights due to lack of access to disability-inclusive and accessible facilities and services.
Inaccessible sanitation can be particularly problematic for children (and adults) with disabilities, who can be forced to crawl on the floor to use a toilet or engage in open defecation because there is no other option. UNICEF’s new disability-accessible emergency toilet add-on was launched in 2020 after three-year pilot programmes in two countries helps to address this issue.
UNICEF works to ensure that disability and inclusion are taken into account both in its own WASH policies and strategies, and within the sector as a whole.
Rohingya refugees with disabilities overcoming barriers to sanitation
Children and adults with disabilities living in a refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, experience great difficulties in accessing basic sanitation services. UNICEF and partner CARE conducted a field trial of a new UNICEF disability-accessible emergency toilet add-on, along with more accessible hand-washing facilities. Over the 6-month trial period, the usage of the toilet add-on was monitored and was found to have had a dramatic impact on persons with disabilities, who reported being able to access sanitation much more easily.
The shift towards a greater focus on urban programming continued in 2020 with the launch of the UNICEF global framework for urban WASH, the release of a new analysis of WASH coverage in urban areas with a focus on access disparities, and a significant increase in results for children in urban contexts through both development programming and humanitarian response.
Direct support through UNICEF WASH programmes in development or emergency contexts in urban areas reached 70 countries in 2020, the most ever. This included WASH interventions in communities, schools and temporary learning centres, health-care facilities, as well as emergency COVID-19 response programmes.
Beneficiaries from UNICEF urban WASH programming, 2020
Disaster risk reduction, resilience strengthening and peacebuilding
had child-sensitive national or local risk management plans which address risks related to disasters, climate change, conflict, public health emergencies or other crises
Child-centred disaster risk reduction and recovery
Momentum continued on promoting child-centred disaster risk reduction and disaster recovery efforts both internally within UNICEF and together with partners. UNICEF efforts in this area are cross-sectoral and mainstreamed through all sectoral programming. UNICEF also ensured that COVID-19 responses were conflict-sensitive and supported social cohesion. With the support of UNICEF, 56 countries now have child-sensitive national and local risk management plans that address risks related to disasters, climate change, conflict, public health emergencies and other crises.
Scaling up child-centred disaster risk assessment, analysis, reduction and management
Kyrgyzstan has made great strides in disaster risk reduction through local and school-based planning and capacity-building. These efforts accelerated during the COVID-19 response programming, partly through the use of evidence and lessons from child-centred risk assessment and trainings supported by UNICEF.
Strengthening the humanitarian-development-peace nexus
UNICEF advanced its commitments and actions on the humanitarian-development-peace nexus to reduce vulnerabilities and risk, and prevent crises and conflicts before they materialize. A significant step in 2020 was the revision of the UNICEF Core Commitments for Children, which now include key commitments and considerations on linking humanitarian and development programming, conflict sensitivity and contributions to peacebuilding and social cohesion.
Peacebuilding and sustaining peace
UNICEF implemented peacebuilding programmes in 70 countries in 2020 - more than ever before - with the goals of bridging community and inter-generational divides, reducing social tensions and addressing the root causes of conflicts. These efforts leveraged UNICEF sectoral engagement in the areas of education, WASH, early child development, child protection services and youth support programming.
UNICEF also significantly expanded its collaboration with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund in 2020, jointly implementing 51 joint projects in 32 countries. UNICEF work on fostering social cohesion and peace is critical to ensuring the rights of children who often bear the brunt in crisis settings.
Nationwide commitment to child-sensitive disaster risk management plans
India achieved a milestone for child rights with 100 per cent of its disaster risk management plans in states and districts now inclusive of child-sensitive, risk-informed strategies, policies and programming. The mainstreaming of child-centred disaster risk reduction accelerated the national efforts in addressing children’s needs during multiple disasters in 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic and severe flooding events, and in prioritizing the targeting of local to national levels.
Urban programming and local governance
had data on intra-urban disparities, including girls and boys in informal settings
With more than 90 per cent of COVID-19 cases reported in urban areas, UNICEF developed global urban-specific guidance material to strengthen and adapt social services to respond to the health, social and economic crisis. Through regular programming, UNICEF supported urban and rural governments in 55 countries to make their development plans child-responsive. UNICEF also took steps to strengthen and expand its urban programme for children based on the results of a comprehensive evaluation completed in 2020, including by updating the urban strategy and issuing an organization procedure for context-specific urban programming.
As the level of governance closest to people, subnational and local governments play an important role in ensuring the fulfilment of child rights while reducing disparities and inequality. In 2020 UNICEF supported local governance systems strengthening and capacity building by engaging with multiple stakeholders at national, subnational and local levels. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF developed guidance materials, advised local government partners, and provided technical and material support to strengthen local responses and address the multiple challenges faced by local governments in fulfilling their responsibilities to children and their caregivers.
Social innovation skills development
In Senegal, UNICEF supported the development of budgets in 52 Child Friendly Municipalities. The programme included a parallel empowerment campaign promoting youth leadership, personal development, good governance, entrepreneurship and human rights, and capacity building of girls’ clubs in the areas of digitalization and social innovation. UNICEF also supported civic engagement activities, including youth-led COVID-19 initiatives, such as the distribution of masks and the promotion of hand washing with soap.
Climate, energy and environment
implemented child-inclusive programmes that foster climate resilience, environmental sustainability and low carbon development
Advocacy and evidence generation
Although not widely recognized, climate change is a child rights crisis because children bear the brunt of its impacts. UNICEF continues to make this a central theme of its global advocacy. For example, the briefing document Reimagining our Future: Building Back Better from COVID-19 presents a set of solutions to reduce the impact of COVID-19 while at the same time create a foundation for a greener, more sustainable future for children.
A total of 65 countries now have child-sensitive national sectoral or cross-sectoral climate change adaptation and mitigation plans developed through UNICEF support, more than double the number in 2019.
Engagement and empowerment of children and young people on climate, energy and the environment
Action on climate and the environment is driven by the energy of young people, and UNICEF programmes promote their engagement and empower them through education. In 2020, UNICEF worked in 106 countries to engage children and young people on advocacy, communication and campaigning around climate change and the environment. Through this support, youth were involved in a wide range of activities, including environmental activism using U-Report, participation in national climate policy formulation processes, and involvement in air quality monitoring and advocacy, recycling initiatives and environmental education programmes.
Supporting young people as agents of change
The #PlasticFreeKazakhstan initiative trains youth volunteers to act as teachers and mentors for younger children with the goal of educating children on plastic pollution and broader climate and environment issues, while encouraging life-long eco-friendly behaviours at home and in their communities.
Reducing emissions and pollution
Approximately 93 per cent of children under 15 – a total of 1.8 billion young people – breathe air that is so polluted it risks their health and development. UNICEF air pollution response programmes were being implemented in nine countries in 2020, including in Myanmar, where data was gathered on the sources of air pollution, youth networks were supported as clean air advocates, and UNICEF facilitated public-private partnerships and young entrepreneurs to explore responses.
The Toxic Truth
Around one in three children – up to 800 million globally – has blood lead levels at dangerously high levels. It is clear from evidence compiled that lead poisoning is a much greater threat to the health of children than previously understood. A joint report by UNICEF and Pure Earth notes that lead is a potent neurotoxin that causes irreparable harm to children’s brains.
Internal sustainability/greening UNICEF
UNICEF has aligned its 2030 carbon reduction target to the 45 per cent reduction target (from 2016) set by the United Nations Secretary-General in September 2019, and will once again be recognized as carbon neutral after offsetting unavoidable emissions. In 2020 UNICEF conducted 23 internal eco-efficiency projects (including solar energy projects in 11 offices and 10 behavioural change campaigns) and implemented energy-efficiency standards for new construction.
In 2020 UNICEF made good progress on its plans to help ensure a that every child lives in a safe and clean environment, despite the formidable challenges of programming during a global pandemic. In 2021, COVID-19 will continue to drive programming priorities as UNICEF works to protect vulnerable children and their families from its impacts. But UNICEF will also focus on meeting the goals of the four-year Strategic Plan that ends in 2021, and finalising plans for the next Strategic Plan period from 2022 to 2025.
This report highlights the achievements made possible by the generous contributions of softly earmarked thematic funding received from various partners. UNICEF would like to express it's sincere appreciation for these contributions.
UNICEF made good progress towards Strategic Plan 2018-2021 Goal Area 4 targets in 2020. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services were maintained and expanded for millions of children and their families. Support was provided for child-centred disaster risk reduction and disaster recovery efforts, and UNICEF worked with partners to foster social cohesion and build peace. The urban programme for children was expanded and local government services supported. Climate-resilience programmes were broadened across all regions in recognition of the need to contribute to a more sustainable future for children, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
This report summarizes how UNICEF and its partners contributed to Goal Area 4 in 2020 and reviews the impact of these accomplishments on children and the communities in which they live.