Toilets & Latrines

The Need for Toilets and Latrines

Unhealthy toilets made of tin and wood in the village. Village toilet under the open sky outside.

Proper sanitation facilities (for example, toilets and latrines) promote health because they allow people to dispose of their waste appropriately, preventing contamination of their environment and reducing risk to themselves and their neighbors. Throughout the world, many people do not have access to sanitation facilities, resulting in improper waste disposal that safely contain waste away from human contact and ensure that waste is properly treated prior to environmental discharge and other risks.

Absence of basic sanitation facilities can:

  • Result in an unhealthy environment contaminated by human waste. Without proper sanitation facilities, waste from infected individuals can contaminate a community’s land and water, increasing the risk of infection for other individuals. Proper waste disposal can slow the infection cycle of many disease-causing agents.
  • Contribute to the spread of many diseases/conditions that can cause widespread illness and death. Without proper sanitation facilities, people often have no choice but to live in and drink water from an environment contaminated with waste from infected individuals, thereby putting themselves at risk for future infection. Inadequate waste disposal drives the infection cycle of many bacteria and other germs that can be spread through contaminated soil, food, water, and insects such as flies.

Top of Page

Sanitation Facilities and Children’s Education

African girls carrying water from the well, Ethiopia, Africa

According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, nearly one third of schools around the world still lack basic water, sanitation, and hygiene services. For girls, appropriate WASH facilities are especially important in ensuring their safe and healthy participation in school and has been associated with improved girls’ attendance 1. In at least 15 of 36 countries surveyed, at least 10% of women and girls did not have a private place to wash and change at home 2. Women and girls are also more likely to be responsible for collecting water for their family. For example, in 2017 they were responsible for collection in 8 of 10 households without an onsite water supply. These responsibilities make it difficult for girls to attend school during school hours. The installation of toilets and latrines may enable school children, especially menstruating girls, to further their education by remaining in the school system.

For more information on school-based sanitation programs, read the report Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools from UNICEF/International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC)/World Health Organization at UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene site.

Top of Page

  1. World Health Organization and UNICEF. Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG baselines. [PDF – 66 pages] United States: UNICEF and WHO, Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, 2017.
  2. World Health Organization and UNICEF. Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2020: five years into the SDGs [PDF – 164 pages]. 2021.
More Information