Current Status + Progress
In 2015 two out of five people used safely managed sanitation services

Universal access to adequate sanitation is a fundamental need and human right. Securing access for all would go a long way in reducing illness and death, especially among children. Since 2000, 1.4 billion people have gained access to basic sanitation, such as flush toilets or latrine with a slab which are not shared with other households. In 2015, 2.3 billion people still lack a basic sanitation service and among them almost 892 million people still practised open defecation. The data reveal pronounced disparities, with the poorest and those living in rural areas least likely to use a basic service.

“Safely managed” sanitation services represent a higher service level that takes into account the final disposal of excreta. In 2015, 2.9 billion people used a “safely managed” sanitation service, i.e. a basic facility where excreta are disposed in situ or treated off-site. A further 2 billion people used a “basic” service, i.e. an improved facility that is not shared with other households. The 600 million who shared improved sanitation facilities with other households count as a “limited’ service.




Despite encouraging progress on sanitation, much unfinished business remains from the MDG period and large disparities in access still exist. Almost all developed countries have achieved universal access, but sanitation coverage varies widely in developing countries. Since 2000 the number of countries with less than 50 per cent of the population using an basic sanitation facility has declined only slightly, from 56 to 49, and countries with the lowest coverage are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.


Open defecation refers to the practise of defecating in fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water or other open spaces. Defecating in the open is an affront to dignity and risk to children’s nutrition and to community health. The elimination of open defecation is recognized as a top priority for improving health, nutrition and productivity of developing country populations and is explicitly mentioned in SDG target 6.2.

Open defecation rates have been decreasing steadily. From 2000-2015, the number of people practising open defecation declined from 1,229 million to 892 million, an average decrease of 22 million people per year. All SDG regions saw a drop in the number of people practising open defecation, except for sub-Saharan Africa, where high population growth led to an increase in open defecation from 204 to 220 million, and in Oceania), where open defecation increased from 1 to 1.3 million. Nine out of ten people practising open defecation now live in just three regions. Ending open defecation by 2030 will require a substantial acceleration in current rates of progress, particularly in Central and Southern Asia, Eastern and Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.


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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

Download the brochure in English | Download the brochure in French

Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water 2015 Assessment 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.

Explore data dashboard | Download full report (PDF)

Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation – 2014 Report

May 1, 2014

The world has made great strides in increasing access to drinking water and sanitation for billions of people but progress has been uneven.

This joint WHO/UNICEF report documents the gains that have been made since 1990 and highlights substantive disparities such as those between regions, rural and urban areas and for marginalized groups.

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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.