Water and Sanitation

Saru Saud, 7, drinks water from her cupped hands, at a community water point in impoverished Biraltoli Village in Achham District in Far-Western Region in Nepal.

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Safe water saves lives.

Water is life. But when water is unsafe and sanitation nonexistent, water can kill. Children under age 5 are, on average, 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal diseases associated with poor water, sanitation and hygiene than from violence in conflict. Water and sanitation–related diseases are one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 years old.

In 2019 UNICEF helped provide access to safe drinking water for 18.3 million more people and basic sanitation services for 15.5 million more people. Now, COVID-19 has made safe water and hygiene even more critical. Yet, in the 60 highest-risk countries, 2 out of 3 people – 1 billion people in total – lack basic handwashing facilities with soap and water at home. Around half are children.

UNICEF works in more than 100 countries to provide safe water and sanitation to the world's most vulnerable communities. Whether by delivering safe water after a disaster or promoting safe hygiene practices in schools and communities, UNICEF is on the ground helping children in need.

Lucilda, 6, can access safe water from a tap outside her home in the mountains of Bolivia, thanks to the success of community water projects supported by UNICEF with help from local partners. © UNICEF/UNI189335/Gilbertson

Since 2000, with the help of UNICEF and its partners, 1.4 billion people have gained access to basic drinking water services such as piped water into the home or a protected well. Yet climate change threatens to undo much of this progress. By 2040, 1 in 4 children — 600 million children — will live in areas of extremely high water stress and thousands will be made sick by polluted water. The poorest, most disadvantaged children will suffer the most.