Water, sanitation and hygiene

Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of children. Without these basic needs, the lives of thousands of children are at risk.


The Challenge

Water and sanitation are human rights.

Universal access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services are priorities in Rwanda. WASH is critically linked to improved nutrition, good health, gender equality, economic growth, and environmental management.


In Rwanda, only 57 per cent of the population access safe drinking water that is within 30 minutes of their home. When children spend time collecting water, it often keeps them out of school. This is an issue especially for girls, who are often expected to take on the majority of household tasks.

Even if water is available near the home, that water is often not safe to drink. When children drink contaminated water, they risk severe illness – and even death – from water-borne diseases.


Basic sanitation means that every household has its own toilet and does not share with another household. These toilets should also keep human waste out of contact with people.  

Only 64 per cent of the population in Rwanda have access to these sanitation services.

There is also a huge disparity depending on the wealth of the family: 94 per cent of the wealthiest households have their own toilet, compared to only 74 per cent of the poorest households.


Just 5 per cent of households in Rwanda have a place for family members to wash their hands with soap. Handwashing with soap at critical moments is essential for good health, especially in children.




The Solution

UNICEF’s WASH programme in Rwanda aims to ensure that more households and communities use safe and sustainable water and sanitation services, and that children and families practice good hygiene.

UNICEF supports the Government of Rwanda to ensure that every household:

Two girls wash their hands with clean water from a tap

Uses safe, clean water near the home

Boy in Rwanda looks out of his latrine in rural area

Uses a hygienic and private latrine

A close-up photo of two hands holding a bar of white soap

Practices handwashing with soap, especially after using the toilet and before handling food

Water Supply 

UNICEF has provided water supply to over 600,000 people in rural areas of Rwanda in the past 10 years.

We continue to expand water supply services to even more people, in close collaboration with local government authorities. We also address challenges which can lead to those same water supply systems breaking down, which stops the flow of clean water. 


UNICEF is currently working in 10 of Rwanda’s 30 districts to ensure that every household has and uses a hygienic and private latrine. 

With the Ministry of Health and partners, UNICEF supports district authorities to mobilise households to build new toilets and improve older, poor quality ones. We also strive to improve monitoring of sanitation coverage and use and increase the availability of toilet-building products in local markets.

Hygiene through Handwashing

Most Rwandans know that handwashing with soap is important before eating, but many people do not actually practice this behaviour.

UNICEF is building evidence to better understand the barriers which prevent people from practicing handwashing with soap. UNICEF will address those barriers by:

  • Promoting handwashing behaviour, including through mass media campaigns
  • Increasing skills and knowledge among UNICEF partners
  • Mobilising communities
  • Increasing the availability of facilities, products and services.

Systems Strengthening

Building WASH infrastructure is the easy part. Expanding water and sanitation services and sustaining those services over time requires capacity, evidence, policies and regulation, and financing.

UNICEF supports key government partners in WASH like the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Infrastructure, Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA), and the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) to strengthen national WASH systems. This will allow UNICEF to continue and expand WASH services in:

  • Monitoring: Availability of critical information will improve the targeting of resources to where they are needed most. 
  • Water quality: Availability of safe, drinkable water is too low. UNICEF is improving data and information on water quality in rural areas.
  • Financing: Water needs to be affordable. UNICEF is supporting a review of rural water tariffs to ensure that everyone can afford drinking water, and that rural water private operators have the resources they need to keep the water flowing.


Link to video on it's hosted site.
From October to December 2017, UNICEF Rwanda and the Ministry of Health conducted a sanitation and hygiene campaign in Nyamagabe District in Rwanda's Southern Province. Over 1,500 new toilets were constructed, increasing coverage of proper sanitation from 62% to 76%. Almost 12,000 additional households now having new or upgraded toilets, impacting more than 51,500 people.