844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.

2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.

289,000 children under 5 die each year due to diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s 800 a day, or 1 child every 2 minutes.

Without good hygiene, such as handwashing, people can’t stay clean and deadly diseases spread fast.

Why is this happening?

Many people are unaware that good hygiene is a lifesaver.

Something as simple as handwashing with soap could halve the number of cases of diarrhoea. But many people are not aware of the link between hygiene and health, and this allows the spread of deadly diseases.

Good hygiene maximises the benefits of safe water and proper toilets, keeping people healthy so they can go to school or earn a living.

Yet, hygiene promotion schemes, where they exist, often fail to change entrenched practices such as going to the toilet in open areas around the community. They also often don’t address key concerns such as menstrual health training for young women.

Even when people have the knowledge to make positive changes, they often lack soap or access to washing facilities.

The hygiene crisis

How it affects people

A woman looking away from the camera, holding a small child

Eliza Ngaiyaye, Malawi

Eliza Ngaiyaye, at home with her daughter Evelyn.

"I think we have diarrhoea because there is a lack of hygiene. Also around the households there are puddles. In the puddles there are lots of flies, and the flies all come in the house. Also children don’t know how to use the toilet and they get faeces all around it."

Nurse taking the pulse of a woman

Kaeweken Health Clinic, Liberia

A nurse attends to a woman at Kaeweken Health Clinic.

"We tell patients that hand-washing is very good. Don't put hands straight into your mouth before food. A lot of the problems come from not washing hands and from mosquitoes. Most people drink water from the creek. If we had more handpumps, sickness would go down."

Family washing hands

Patricia Umariya, Rwanda

Patricia Umariya with her children.

"My children usually miss school because their clothes are dirty, as I have no time to wash their clothes. I have to spend my time on the farm and they don’t know how to wash the clothes themselves. They get sent home if they go to school with dirty clothes on."