Overview | Aperçu

Children in West and Central Africa

UNICEF in the region

Polio immunization | Vaccination contre la polio

Maternal and Newborn Health


HIV/AIDS in the region


Water and Sanitation

Child Protection



Sanitation and Hygiene

West and Central Africa has the lowest coverage of improved sanitation in the world. Only 27 per cent of the population of West Africa - that is 105 million people - has access to improved sanitation. This means that 291 million people have access to no sanitation at all.

The water and sanitation position in West and Central Africa is of particular urgency, as the region has the highest under-five mortality rate of all developing regions: 169 child deaths per 1,000 live births.

Evidence shows that poor hygiene, lack of access to sanitation and unsafe drinking water together contribute to about 88% of diarrhoea deaths, the second leading cause of under five deaths. Recurrent outbreaks of cholera in both urban and rural areas underline the poor state of this region’s basic living conditions.

Achieving Millennium Development Goal 7, and its 2015 targets of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, is of vital relevance for children and for improving nutrition, education and women's status.

The target for 2015 will be reached if 62 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation in 2015.

Yet, no country in the region is on track to meet the target by 2015.

Progress towards the MDG sanitation target
Source: JMP 2010, UNICEF/WHO, March 2010

Among the people without access to improved sanitation (73%), more than one people in four (26%) have no sanitation facility at all, forcing them to engage in open defecation – the riskiest sanitation practice. However, the use of unimproved and shared sanitation, respectively 24% and 23%, shows that people are choosing to move up the ‘sanitation ladder’.

From 1990 to 2008, 45 million people gained access to improved sanitation.

Resources on sanitation

Why improved sanitation is important for children [PDF - 150 Kb]



Last update: March 2010
Source: UNICEF/WHO JMP 2010

Progress towards MDG 7 (Sanitation)
Africa is not on track to meet the MDG sanitation target

The sanitation ladder
Trends in the proportion of population using improved, shared or unimproved sanitation facility or practising open defecation

Access to water and sanitation: a few definitions
Understanding the different level of access to sanitation



 Email this article

unite for children