Global WASH Fast Facts

bucket being filled with water at borehole
Access to Clean Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
Man rinsing a plastic water bottle to fill at a borehole

Find information on how safe water, sanitation, and hygiene service levels are defined.

The latest data from WHO and UNICEF on access to clean water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene:

  • Drinking Water
    • 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water at home. Of those, 1.2 billion people have basic drinking water service.1
    • Between 2015 and 2020, 107 million people gained access to safely managed drinking water at home, and 115 million people gained access to safe toilets at home.1
    • 8 out 10 people who continue to lack basic drinking water services live in rural areas.1
  • Sanitation
    • 3.6 billion people, nearly half the world’s population, do not have access to safely managed sanitation in their home. Of those, 1.9 billion people live with basic sanitation services, and 494 million people practice open defecation.1
  • Hygiene
    • 2.3 billion people lack basic hygiene services, including soap and water at home. This includes 670 million people with no handwashing facilities at all.1
    • In 28 countries, at least 1 in 4 people have no handwashing facility at home.1
    • In rural settings, only 1 in 3 people have access to basic hygiene services (such as soap and water at home).1

The latest information from WHO and UNICEF on how lack of access to adequate sanitation and clean water results in gender inequality:

  • Menstrual Health
    • Lack of adequate sanitation facilities for girls reaching puberty makes them more likely to miss school than boys.2
    • In 2018 and 2019, between 15% and 25% of girls in West Africa missed school due to menstruation.3
  • Gender Impacts
    • Women and girls are more likely to be responsible for collecting water for their family. In 2017, women and girls were responsible for water collection in 8 out of 10 households without onsite water supply. These responsibilities make it difficult for girls to attend school during school hours.3
Disease and Death
  • Every year:
    • There are 1.7 billion cases of diarrhea among children younger than 5 years.4
    • An estimated 446,000 children younger than 5 years die from diarrhea, mostly in low and middle income countries. This amounts to 9% of the 5.8 million deaths of children younger than 5.4
    • There are 3 million cases of cholera and an estimated 95,000 cholera deaths.5
    • There are 11 million cases of typhoid fever and an estimated 129,000 typhoid fever deaths.6
  • Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people are infected by parasitic worms found in contaminated soil, such as Ascaris lumbricoides(estimated 807 million – 1.2 billion), whipworm (estimated 604–795 million), and hookworm (estimated 576–740 million). Many of these infections are associated with inadequate or nonexistent sanitation facilities.7
  • Worldwide, millions of people suffer from neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), many of which are water- or hygiene-related, such as Guinea worm disease, Buruli ulcer, trachoma, and schistosomiasis. These diseases are most often found in places with unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, and insufficient hygiene practices.8,9
    • Guinea worm disease (GWD) is an extremely painful parasitic infection spread through contaminated drinking water. Because of the GWD Global Eradication Program, there were only 28 cases of GWD reported worldwide in 2018.
    • Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness and results from poor hygiene and sanitation. An estimated 41 million people suffer from active trachoma and nearly 10 million people are visually impaired or irreversibly blind as a result of trachoma.10
  • Universal access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene has the potential to reduce the global disease burden by 10%.11
  • Increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation services can prevent many diarrheal deaths. In 2016, unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation contributed to 829,000 deaths, equivalent to 60% of total diarrheal deaths.12
    • Between 2000 and 2016, improved sanitation contributed to a 15% decrease in diarrheal deaths in Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania, and more than a 10% decrease in diarrheal deaths globally.4
  • Every cholera case and death from cholera are preventable with the tools we have today. Ending Cholera: A Global Roadmap to 2030 [PDF – 32 pages] is a unified approach to cholera prevention and control that integrates evidence-based best practices and identifies priorities to reduce cholera deaths by 90% by 2030.
  • Investing in water and sanitation interventions results in many benefits, including economic, environmental, quality of life, and health. Every dollar invested in WASH interventions gives a $4.3 return in the form of reduced health care costs, reduced pollution of water and land resources, and gains in quality of life (such as improved school attendance, fewer sick days, greater privacy, safety, and sense of dignity).13
  1. World Health Organization and UNICEF. Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2020: Five years into the SDGs [PDF – 164 pages]. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2021.
  2. World Health Organization and UNICEF. Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in schools [PDF – 88 pages]. United States: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, 2020.
  3. World Health Organization and UNICEF. Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG baselines. United States: UNICEF and WHO, Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, 2017.
  4. GBD 2016 Diarrhoeal Disease Collaborators (2018). Estimates of the global, regional, and national morbidity, mortality, and aetiologies of diarrhoea in 195 countries: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet. Infectious diseases, 18(11), 1211–1228.
  5. Charles, R. C., Kelly, M., Tam, J. M., Akter, A., Hossain, M., Islam, K., et al. (2020). Humans surviving cholera develop antibodies against Vibrio cholerae o-specific polysaccharide that inhibit pathogen motility. mBio, 11(6), e02847-20.
  6. Obaro, S. K., Iroh Tam, P. Y., & Mintz, E. D. (2017). The unrecognized burden of typhoid fever. Expert review of vaccines, 16(3), 249–260.
  7. Ziegelbauer, K., Speich, B., Mäusezahl, D., Bos, R., Keiser, J., & Utzinger, J. (2012). Effect of sanitation on soil-transmitted helminth infection: systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS medicine, 9(1), e1001162.
  8. World Health Organization. Neglected Tropical Diseases, Hidden Successes, Emerging Opportunities. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO), 2009.
  9. Hotez P.J., Molyneux D.H., Fenwick A., Ottesen E., Sachs S.E., et al. (2007) Correction: Incorporating a rapid-impact package for Neglected Tropical Diseases with programs for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. PLOS Medicine 4(9): e277.
  10. Stocks, M. E., Ogden, S., Haddad, D., Addiss, D. G., McGuire, C., & Freeman, M. C. (2014). Effect of water, sanitation, and hygiene on the prevention of trachoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS medicine, 11(2), e1001605.
  11. World Health Organization. Global costs and benefits of drinking water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO), 2012.
  12. Prüss-Ustün, A., Wolf, J., Bartram, J., Clasen, T., Cumming, O., Freeman, M. C., et al. (2019). Burden of disease from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene for selected adverse health outcomes: An updated analysis with a focus on low- and middle-income countries. International journal of hygiene and environmental health, 222(5), 765–777.
  13. World Health Organization and United Nations Water. Investing in water and sanitation: Increasing access, reducing inequalities. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO), 2014.