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. Without significant improvements in water and sanitation access and hygiene practices the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to child mortality, primary education, disease reduction, environmental sustainability 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. 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.



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    Water is a right

    "Water is a limited natural resource and a public good fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights." — United Nations Economic and Social Council, November 2002.