Current Status + Progress
70 countries had comparable data available on handwashing in 2015

Hygiene has long-established links with public health, but was not included in any MDG targets or indicators. The explicit reference to hygiene in the text of SDG target 6.2 represents increasing recognition of the importance of hygiene and its close links with sanitation.

Of the range of hygiene behaviours considered important for health, hand washing with soap is a top priority in all settings. Access to basic facilities for menstrual hygiene management is critically important for women’s health, safety and dignity and can be monitored in institutional settings including schools and health facilities.

Monitoring handwashing behaviour is difficult but the presence of soap and water at a designated place has been shown to be a robust proxy indicator. In collaboration with the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) team, a handwashing module was developed and has been included in major household surveys since 2009. In 2015, just 70 countries had comparable data available on the availability of basic handwashing facilities (facility with soap and water available on premises).

In 2015, most countries in Africa had less than 50% coverage with basic handwashing facilities
Proportion of population with a basic handwashing facility at home in 2015

Source: WHO/UNICEF JMP Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and SDG baseline

Data from the 70 countries reveal that current levels of hand washing with soap are generally low.  Coverage varies widely across regions but insufficient data are available to produce a global estimate. Disparities in access are found between different groups and by setting, including between urban and rural areas. As the number of countries with more than one survey increases, it will become possible to assess and compare trends over time and to evaluate progress towards the SDG targets.

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Recent Resources

WHO/UNICEF JMP interactive website

Jul 13, 2017

The new WHO/UNICEF JMP interactive website allows you to explore the latest country, regional and global statistics (including new data for sub-national regions and wealth quintiles), create and share customised charts, and to download the data for further analysis.

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WASH in the 2030 Agenda

Jul 12, 2017

This briefing note summarizes the new global indicators for monitoring the drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) elements of the SDG targets and reflects extensive technical consultation with over 100 experts from over 60 organisations

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Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water 2015 Assessement and MDG update

Jun 30, 2015

Looking back on 25 years of water, sanitation and hygiene monitoring, the report  provides a comprehensive assessment of progress since 1990.  The MDG target for drinking water was achieved in 2010 but the world has missed the sanitation target by almost 700 million people. In 2015, 663 million people still lack improved drinking water sources, 2.4 billion lack improved sanitation facilities and 946 million still practice open defecation.

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Notes on the Data


Since 1990, WHO and UNICEF have tracked progress on global water and sanitation goals through the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP). The JMP monitors trends in coverage; helps build national monitoring capacity in developing countries; develops and harmonises questionnaires, indicators and definitions to ensure comparability of data over time and among countries; and informs policymakers of the status of the water supply and sanitation sector through annual publications. The JMP draws guidance from a technical advisory group of leading experts in water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and from institutions involved in data collection and sector monitoring. Further information about the JMP and its methodology can be found at the JMP website.


The JMP estimates for handwashing are based on information collected in household surveys such as Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Household surveys are usually conducted by national institutes of statistics, carried out by trained national staff who collect information on a wide range of health and living conditions through face-to-face interviews. Nationally owned and independently verifiable, these data sources provide national governments with a periodic update of the status and progress with respect to handwashing. Increasingly household survey data allow for assessing disparities in access by marginalized populations and geographic areas.


The presence of soap and water at a designated place is used a proxy for handwashing behaviours. Households are considered to have access if enumerators observe a place for handwashing and both water and soap are available.