Lack of funding for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is threating children in South Sudan

UNICEF is calling for larger investments in WASH in schools

19 March 2021
A girl is getting water from a pumping station using a cup
Mary Bibalo (17) is getting water from the borehole at Dumak Primary school in Torit

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN 19 March 2021 – The funding for critical water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes in South Sudan has been cut in half the last six years, putting children’s health and lives at risk, UNICEF said today. Dirty water, poor sanitation and hygiene are the main contributors to acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) which is one of the lead causes of child mortality in South Sudan.

In 2014, UNICEF South Sudan was able to raise USD 28.7 million for its WASH programmes, leaving a 30 per cent funding gap. In 2020, the funding gap was 58 per cent with USD 16.3 million received. UNICEF has for years used other resources to provide a minimum level of WASH services to the most vulnerable populations in South Sudan and responded to the most immediate humanitarian needs, including the floods affecting over one million people in 2020. Unless new funding is made available, UNICEF will have to reduce its WASH activities, which will be felt by the population in general but in particular the most vulnerable including children.

“When you deny someone their right to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, you are also denying them the right to health, a life, protection and dignity,” said Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF South Sudan Representative. “The foundation for a healthy and productive life as an adult is laid at young age. Every time a child gets very sick from lack of WASH services, the foundation withers and some will not be fortunate enough to see adulthood. This is not acceptable, as it can be avoided.”

Only 36 per cent of households report having access to an improved water source with a round trip under 30 minutes, without facing any protection concerns; only 17 per cent of households report owning a latrine in their compound. This means a lot remains to be done to fulfil the fundamental right to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

An important strategy for UNICEF to increase coverage while targeting children, is to provide WASH services in schools. This also enables the surrounding communities to have access to the boreholes, therefore making children and their families healthier. In addition, this contributes to greater education outcomes; as it is easier to concentrate when hydrated and healthy, more time is spent in class rather than fetching water and girls remain in school as they can manage their menstruation through access to latrines and water.

"When children in South Sudan survive and do well in school, South Sudan as a country does better,” said Lasseko. “We get healthier, smarter and more confident children and this is important as South Sudan needs a bright generation of children who can continue to develop the country and sustain peace. With all this considered, we all have a stake in WASH in Schools becoming a priority.”

Over the last five years, UNICEF has established 402 boreholes and constructed and rehabilitated 321 latrines in schools across South Sudan. Still, only one third of schools in South Sudan have access to water and most of the existing latrines are not in a usable condition. More investments must be made to increase the coverage for a better common future.

UNICEF has appealed for USD 45.5 million for the WASH sector in 2021, and USD 3.85 million for WASH in school interventions.

Media contacts

Yves Willemot
Chief of Communication
UNICEF South Sudan
Tel: +211 91 216 2888


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work in South Sudan visit:

Follow UNICEF South Sudan on TwitterFacebookInstagram and YouTube