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650 million people live without safe water.

2.3 billion people don't have access to adequate sanitation, one in three of the world's population.

Over 315,000 children die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. That's 900 children a day.

Improving hygiene behaviour is vital if the full benefits of access to water and sanitation are to be realised.


Where poor hygiene is practised, water-related diseases spread fast. And no amount of taps or toilets alone can prevent it.

Simply by washing hands with soap and water after going to the toilet and before preparing food or eating, people can avoid life threatening water-related diseases. Hand-washing alone could cut the risk of diarrhoea almost in half, saving hundreds of children's lives every day.

However, improving hygiene behaviour can often be overlooked. This is because tackling the issue is difficult and time consuming. It requires talking to people about potentially sensitive issues and getting them to change long-term, ingrained habits.

Watch the short film below for more about the importance of hygiene:

How it affects people

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

Eliza Ngaiyaye, at home with her daughter Evelyn. Mwenyekondo, Lilongwe, Malawi.

"I think we have diarrhoea because there is a lack of hygiene. In the toilet 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

A nurse attends to a woman at Kaeweken Health Clinic, River Gee county, Liberia.

"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 with her children. Gatora village, Bugesera district, Rwanda.

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."