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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Impact of WASH

© UNICEF/UN010162/Ayene
Children say that the water pump is everything to them, it’s like their “soul”. Before children were travelling three hours to get water, over terrain so rocky that even donkeys struggled to climb the hills. The children spent all their time travelling to find water, and therefore were unable to go to school. Many of the children were sick too, often having bouts of diarrhoea as the river they travelled to was dirty.

All children have the right to clean water and basic sanitation, as stated in the Convention on the Rights of a Child. The ultimate aim of UNICEF’s work in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is to ensure that all children fulfill this right, and that no child is left behind.

Over the last 15 years, UNICEF has led a global effort to improve water, sanitation and hygiene conditions for millions of people worldwide. In 2010, a full five years ahead of schedule, the target for water within Millennium Development Goals was met. Today, 91% of the world’s population has access to clean drinking water and 68% use improved sanitation (a facility that separates human waste from human contact).

However, development efforts made during the Millennium Development Goal era failed to reach millions of children in poor and rural communities. As a result, massive inequalities exist between those with access to clean water and basic toilets, and those without.

Today, 663 million people don’t have access to clean water; 2.4 billion people don’t have access to improved sanitation and 946 million people defecate in the open. 7 out of 10 people without access to improved sanitation and 9 out of 10 people who have to go in the open live in rural areas.

The Sustainable Development Goals, a set of goals to guide global development to 2030, include a specific goal to “ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. In the pursuit of this goal and fulfilling the rights of children, UNICEF works to reach the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.


Explore UNICEF’s work in water sanitation and hygiene

Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water 2015 Update

Annual Report




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