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.


Water and sanitation coverage

  • Drinking water, sanitation and hygiene database

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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.