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).


Water and sanitation coverage

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Notes on the data

WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation

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.

Data sources

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.

Definition of handwashing facilities with soap and water

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.