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Last update: May 2013

World Fit For Children Goal Millenium Development Goal
Reduction in the proportion of households without access to hygienic sanitation facilities and affordable and safe drinking water by at least one third. MDG 7 - Target 10: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Explore the new estimates

The new water and sanitation estimates are available for viewers to explore using Google tools. Click here to access them at the base of the "Country and Regional Data" page.


“Sanitation is a sensitive issue. It is an unpopular subject. Perhaps that is why the sanitation crisis has not been met with the kind of response we need – but that must change.” - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.


“Many communities not only have inadequate access to sanitation. They have no access,” he said. “So we can make the greatest global progress by focusing our efforts more on reaching these communities. It’s common sense.” – UNICEF Executive Director, Tony Lake.


The challenge



Progress on Sanitation and Drinking - Water - 2013 Update [Eng]






Sanitation is fundamental to human development and security. Approximately 2,000ii children die per day from diarrhoeal diseases. Of these deaths, 88%i --or around 1,800iii per day--are due to poor drinking water, lack of sanitation and poor hygiene. Every year, the failure to tackle these deficits results in severe welfare losses – wasted time, reduced productivity, ill health, impaired learning, environmental degradation and lost opportunities – for millions more.

Sanitation is not a technical challenge. Engineers all over the world know how to build hygienic toilets and sewer networks; and most basic sanitation technologies are not expensive. The problem is that those facing the problems of inadequate sanitation are rarely aware of either the origin of their ills, or the true costs of their deficit. As a result, those without sanitation are hard to convince of the need to invest scarce resources in sanitation facilities, or of the critical importance of changing long-held habits and unhygienic behaviors. Consequently, the people’s representatives - governments and elected political leaders - in many countries rarely give sanitation or hygiene improvements the priority that is needed.


Role of behaviour

The provision of improved water and sanitation facilities does not guarantee either their effective use, or the generation of the expected benefits. Fundamental behaviour changes are required before the use of improved facilities and services can be integrated into daily life – many hygiene behaviours and habits are formed in childhood and, therefore, school health and hygiene education programs are an important part of water and sanitation improvements.


Worm infections impair children’s development

Worm infections – including roundworm, hookworm and whipworm – afflict a significant proportion of the world’s population. When children in developing countries stop breast feeding, many of them are then continuously infected and re-infected with worms for the rest of their lives. People become infected with worms through contact with infected faecal material in soils and foods – usually due to inadequate sanitation and hygiene. The carriers are rarely aware of these parasites, but suffer chronic impacts and deficiencies in all aspects of their development.


By reducing food consumption and nutrient adsorption, diarrhea and worm infections have secondary effects – they weaken children and make them more susceptible to malnutrition and opportunistic infections like pneumonia, measles and malaria.


Improved sanitation can reduce diarrheal disease by more than a third, and can significantly lessen the adverse health impacts of other disorders responsible for death and disease among millions of children.

Sanitation affects children’s development and our future

Children bear the brunt of sanitation-related impacts – their health, nutrition, growth, education, self-respect and life opportunities suffers as a result of inadequate sanitation – causing an inter-generational effect. Without improved sanitation, many among the current generation of childrenare unlikely to develop to their full potential. Countries that don’t take urgent action to redress sanitation deficiencies will find their future development and prosperity impaired.


For more details on the water environment and its problems and challenges, please visit the UNICEF Water, Environment and Sanitation website at http://www.unicef.org/wes/index.html



iWorld Health Organization. Facts and figures: Water, sanitation and hygiene links to health,  (http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/factsfigures04/en/)


iiDerived from CHERG, 2012 and IGME, 2012.


iiiUsing attributable fraction from Global Burden of Disease, 2001.