Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

© UNICEF/Zambia

Key Statistics

 • 4.8 million people (36 percent) are without access to clean water.
 • 6.6 million people (50 percent) are without access to sanitation facilities.
 • More than 25 percent of basic schools do not have access to safe water supply and sanitation.
 • Primary education completion rate is only 72 percent (78 percent for boys and  65 percent for girls)


In Zambia, more than one third of the population does not have access to clean water and more than half lacks access to proper sanitation facilities. Water and sanitation facilities in basic schools are generally poor. The Government’s Educational Statistical Bulletin 2004 indicates that more than 25 percent of basic schools do not have access to a safe water supply (borehole-piped, borehole-pump, piped water, or protected well) and improved sanitation facilities. Not having access to clean and safe water leads to diseases like diarrhoea and cholera, among others. UNICEF supports the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) to achieve MDGs 7 and 10 to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. UNICEF Zambia also contributes to the health, gender, education, and poverty alleviation MDGs, as well as the water and sanitation components of Zambia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and Sixth National Development Plan. The development of a sector-wide approach is underway and UNICEF is one of the major cooperating partners involved in this effort.


While Zambia is on track to meet MDG 2, universal primary education enrolment is only 72 percent. Further, the dropout rate is highest for girls with a completion rate of only 65 percent. Inadequate water and sanitation facilities contribute to this unsatisfactory situation. Though there are almost an equal number of sanitary facilities in schools for boys and for girls, the ratio of pupils per toilet is generally higher, reaching as much as 124 pupils per toilet. Government targets for sanitation provision in schools are 25 girls per latrine and 40 boys per latrine. There are only a few hand washing facilities, even in schools that have been recently built. The high number of pupils per toilet often leads to poor upkeep and unsanitary use. Furthermore, the lack of adequate number of toilets and lack of washing facilities force many girls to miss school on a regular basis. This has adverse effects on educational progress and can result in some girls dropping out of school.

For all children, unsafe water at school can lead to outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, and dysentery. This also affects families as caregivers will have to stay at home to take care of sick children, which means time away from their jobs, thereby forfeiting precious income. It is essential that water and sanitation provision in schools be integrated with the provision of water and sanitation facilities in surrounding communities to ensure that the need for child labour (e.g. for water collection) does not prevent children, especially girls, from attending school. Open defecation still remains a problem in many parts of the country.


UNICEF’s School Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education programme focuses on basic and community schools which lack safe water and sanitation facilities. Safe water supply and gender-segregated child-friendly sanitation facilities, including adequate urinals for both boys and girls, are provided along with hand-washing facilities. These are the programme’s key interventions to encourage school enrolment and completion.

Life Skills and Hygiene Education: UNICEF supports GRZ to enhance child participation and life skills. Training is provided on life skills to engage them in community mobilisation activities, with a particular focus on hygiene education, nutrition, and prevention of HIV and AIDS. A goal of this activity is for children to effectively communicate key messages related to these topics to their peers and family members. Students are also encouraged to develop vegetable gardens for improved nutrition.

Community Support: UNICEF’s Water Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASHE) programme in Zambia uses schools as entry points and extends services and activities from each school to surrounding communities. School-based WASHE aims to ensure that schools have safe water supplies, gender-sensitive sanitation facilities, and hygiene education. Community and household-based WASHE also targets surrounding villages and households, supporting communal and household water points at optimal distances, household-level latrines, and sanitation and safe hygiene practices. The UNICEF-supported WASHE strategy also ensures that school and community based programmes are integrated, and that all relevant line ministries are involved in the planning and implementation of these at district level.

Addressing Gender Issues in Water and Sanitation: In order for children and families to benefit from clean water and sanitation, water points and sanitation facilities must be accessible. Distance is critical because the shorter the distance to clean water, the more consistently it will be utilised. Furthermore, as fetching water is a task most commonly assigned to girls and women, shortening the distance between households and water supply is essential to reduce the time girls spend in fetching water, which in turn will provide them with more time to attend school.

Partnership with Government: UNICEF is working in close partnership with the Government through the Ministry of Education’s National School Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) and School Health and Nutrition (SHN) Forum to develop better coordination among partners and promote best practice in school-based WASHE initiatives through-out the country.


UNICEF support has been harmonized within the framework of the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (NRWSSP). Access to basic services as outlined in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework has increased through access to improved sanitation and hygiene for approximately 160,000 people. Access to an improved water source has also increased, reaching approximately 30,000 people in rural areas. In addition, crucial water, sanitation, and hygiene services are provided to approximately 159,000 people affected by cholera and flooding in peri-urban and urban Lusaka. The community-led approach is a successful and sustainable programme and should be used in other programmes as well.

UNICEF’s Country Programme 2011-15

Through school water sanitation and hygiene, UNICEF’s country programme 2011-2015 will continue to support the GRZ on child survival, which will include prevention of diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera and promotion of sanitation and hygiene. It will also promote child participation and adolescent development. School water sanitation will contribute to the Millennium Development Goal on reducing child mortality. In the Sixth National Development Plan, it will contribute to achieve results in the area of Health, Water & Sanitation, and HIV/AIDS. In the UNDAF, School Water Sanitation and Hygiene Education programme will contribute to achieve Outcome 3 which is –“Vulnerable people living in Zambia have improved quality of life and well being by 2015.”

Sensitisation on sanitation and hygiene will be promoted in schools which will be linked to the community awareness. Capacity building such as teacher training and orientations to community leaders will also be undertaken. Children will play a central role in school sanitation and hygiene programme.

Expected Results in 2011-15 UNICEF Zambia Country Programme – Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education:
 • Halve the proportion of population without access to sustainable and safe drinking water in target districts by 2015;
 • Halve the proportion of the population without access to an improved sanitation facility in target districts by 2015;
 • 60 percent households in target districts adopt improved hygiene practices including hand washing with soap by 2015;
 • Government and partners at national and sub-national level has capacity to meet SPHERE standards for safe water, sanitation and hygiene by 2013;
 • MoLGH rolls out a comprehensive monitoring and information system in all provinces by 2013;
 • 500 schools meet child friendly schools standards for provision of water and sanitation infrastructure and hygiene education in selected districts by 2015




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