Water, Sanitation and Hygiene


The world is not on track to meet the MDG sanitation target.

Water and sanitation coverage

The latest coverage statistics give a mixed message: the world is now on track to meet the MDG water target, but has fallen dangerously behind in sanitation. Two and half billion people are still without access to improved sanitation – including 1.2 billion who have no facilities at all and are forced to engage in the hazardous and demeaning practise of open defecation. The news is better for water: the number of people without an improved source has dropped below one billion for the first time in history.

For both water and sanitation there continue to be major disparities amongst regions. Sanitation coverage is lowest in South Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of people do not have access to improved sanitation. For water, coverage remains below 60 per cent of the population in both Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania whereas all other regions have coverage rates of 80 per cent or higher. Other disparities also continue: poor people and people living in rural areas are far less likely to have access to improved water and sanitation facilities than their richer and their urban compatriots.

WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation

These coverage figures are from a comprehensive analysis of 2006 data (the latest available) by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water and Sanitation. The JMP database draws on more than 600 surveys and censuses from countries around the world.

  • see the JMP website (external site) for in-depth information and statistics
  • see also the JMP reports (right box on this page)

UNICEF Statistics

Economic and social statistics on the countries and territories of the world, with particular reference to children’s well-being, are published annually in the organization’s flagship publication, The State of the World’s Children.

On http://www.childinfo.org/ you will find UNICEF's key statistical databases with detailed country-specific information that was used in the end-decade assessment of progress and setbacks in implementing the 1990 World Summit for Children Declaration and Plan of Action. The site contains global and regional summary analyses and graphics of key results, in addition to new and revised data.

See also the water and sanitation country profiles page for key sector-related statistics in some of the countries in which UNICEF supports water and sanitation programmes.



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