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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

The big picture

© UNICEF/HQ05-2242/Giacomo Pirozzi
A girl in Morocco carries water to her family’s nomadic compound in the Sahara Desert.

Children's rights to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standard of health are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The fulfilment of these rights is the ultimate goal of UNICEF's water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes.

WASH is a central component of the millennium development agenda. The 2015 update report of the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) contained both good and bad news: the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) drinking water target has been achieved globally, but the sanitation target has been missed by almost 700 million people. Without significant improvements in sanitation access and hygiene practices, goals related to child mortality, primary education, disease reduction, and poverty eradication will not be achieved.

“Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development, and crucial for achieving any and every one of the Millennium Development Goals” – UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

The MDGs include the specific water and sanitation target of halving, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. According to the latest estimates, the water component of this target was met in 2010. However, 663 million people still lack access to improved drinking water, and the world has not met the sanitation component. UNICEF is also working to meet a second target of ensuring that all schools have adequate child-friendly water and sanitation facilities and hygiene education programmes. To meet these targets, UNICEF is guided by a new set of strategies that defines the shape of UNICEF WASH programmes to 2015.

UNICEF is part of a growing global effort to meet this challenge. Together with governments, NGOs and other external support agencies, UNICEF is expanding its efforts to meet the WASH challenge.



Water is a right

In a 2010 resolution, the UN General Assembly recognized safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right. This means the UN believes every person should have access to safe water and basic sanitation. If we are ever to fulfill the promise implicit in the General Assembly resolution, we need to target the most difficult to reach, the poorest and the most disadvantaged people across the world.

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