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UNICEF and WHO said today that despite the steady decline in the proportion of schools lacking basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, deep inequalities persist between and within countries. Schoolchildren in least developed countries (LDCs) and fragile environments are hardest hit, and new data show that few schools have WASH services accessible to people with disabilities.

“Too many children go to school without safe drinking water, clean toilets and soap to wash their hands, making learning difficult,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF Director for Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Climate, Environment, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction . . “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of providing a healthy and inclusive learning environment. To protect children’s education, the road to recovery must include equipping schools with the most basic services to fight infectious diseases today and in the future.”

“Access to water, sanitation and hygiene is essential not only for effective infection prevention and control, but also for the health, development and well-being of children,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the WHO Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. . “Schools should be places where children thrive and are not exposed to hardship or infection due to lack or poor maintenance of basic infrastructure.”

Schools play a critical role in promoting healthy habits and behaviors, but in 2021 many still lacked basic WASH services. According to the latest data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP):

  • Globally, 29 per cent of schools still lack access to basic drinking water services, affecting 546 million schoolchildren; 28 percent of schools still lack basic sanitation, affecting 539 million schoolchildren; and 42 percent of schools still lack basic hygiene services, affecting 802 million schoolchildren.
  • One third of children without basic school services live in LDCs, and more than half live in precarious conditions.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania are the only two regions where basic school sanitation coverage remains below 50 percent; Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where basic drinking water service coverage in schools remains below 50 percent.
  • Achieving universal school coverage worldwide by 2030 requires a 14-fold increase in the current rate of progress in providing drinking water, a three-fold increase in the rate of progress in basic sanitation, and a five-fold increase in basic hygiene services.
  • In LDCs and fragile environments, achieving universal basic sanitation coverage in schools by 2030 will require more than 100-fold and 50-fold increases in the respective current rates of progress.

Improving pandemic preparedness and response will require more frequent monitoring of WASH and other elements of infection prevention and control (IPC) in schools, including cleaning, disinfection and solid waste disposal.

Making WASH services accessible to people with disabilities in schools is key to ensuring inclusive education for all children. However, only a limited number of countries report this indicator and national definitions vary, and far fewer countries provide WASH services that are accessible to people with disabilities.

  • Emerging national data show that access to WASH for people with disabilities is low and varies greatly between school levels, urban and rural areas, with schools more likely to have accessible drinking water than affordable sanitation or hygiene.
  • In half of the countries for which data are available, accessible toilets are available in less than a quarter of schools. For example, in Yemen, 8 out of 10 schools had toilets, but only 1 out of 50 schools had toilets for people with disabilities.
  • In most countries for which data are available, schools were more likely to have adapted infrastructure and materials such as ramps, assistive technology, learning materials, rather than accessible toilets. For example, in El Salvador, 2 out of 5 schools have adapted infrastructure and materials, but only 1 out of 20 have toilets accessible to people with disabilities.


Notes to editors:

View the 2022 WHO/UNICEF JMP update at WASH in schools and download the data here.

Learn more about the WHO/UNICEF JMP here.

Download multimedia content here.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is working in some of the world’s most difficult places to help children from the most disadvantaged families. In over 190 countries and territories, we work for every child everywhere to build a better world for all.

For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit: www.unicef.org

Follow UNICEF on Twitter, facebook, Instagram as well as YouTube

About whom

Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization leads and supports global efforts to give everyone, everywhere, an equal chance to live a safe and healthy life. We are a UN health agency that connects countries, partners and people on the front lines in over 150 locations to lead the global response to health emergencies, disease prevention, addressing the root causes of health problems and expanding access to medicines and health care . Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.

For more information about WHO and its work, visit the website www.who.int

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For more information, please contact:

Sarah Alkhattab, UNICEF, New York, tel: +1 917 957 6536, [email protected]

WHO press service: Email address: [email protected]

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