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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.

Sanitation is the safe disposal of human waste, and is vital for health and wellbeing. But 2.3 billion people – one in three of the world's population – do not have access to a decent toilet.

Why is this happening?

Where there is nowhere safe and clean to go to the toilet, people are exposed to disease, lack of privacy and indignity. When communities defecate in the open, disease spreads fast and water sources are polluted. Women and girls often have to wait until dark to go to the bush or a discreet part of town to defecate, where they are at risk of attack and abuse.

Improved sanitation has proven impacts on health, quality of life and poverty reduction. However, progress in increasing sanitation coverage has been slow for a number of reasons:

  • Lack of political will and institutional responsibility.
  • Improving sanitation is difficult and requires people to change their behaviour.
  • The health benefits are not immediately seen or always understood.
  • The poorest and most marginalised people lack a voice and are often unable to invest in improving sanitation.

Find out how we tackle these issues in Our approach >.

A man looks at the camera with a field in the background.

How it affects people

A woman giving her children water to drink

Gertrude Chiimbwe, Zambia

Gertrude Chiimbwe giving her son, Hakalima, 3, a drink of water. Namavwa ward, Zambia.

“We don’t have a toilet here, it subsided, so we go to the bush. I feel bad when I have to go there. I always worry that someone will pass and see you going to the toilet. I’m also worried that you might step on the faeces and bring diseases home.”

A woman holding her child in her arms

Patuma Mbande, Malawi

Patuma Mbande, with her daughter Acklatu, outside her latrine. Mwenyekondo, Lilongwe, Malawi.

"Sometimes in my toilet people have deposited faeces on the floor and not in the hole. This happens especially at night. I feel if I had a better toilet it would make life better, we would be healthier. I would be able to sweep and mop it properly. If it had a roof then the flies wouldn't be able to go in and out and land on our food."

A woman outsite a public latrine

Raju Begum, Bangladesh

Raju Begum, standing by an unhygienic makeshift latrine. Motijharna slum, Chittagong City, Bangladesh.

"Using this latrine is terrible – it’s a bad experience every time. There’s a really bad smell and everyone has caught diseases from it. It’s affected my family. When the new latrines come the old one will be destroyed. It will reduce diseases and hygiene will be good. Security will also be better. I will feel safer because there won’t be men walking past, like there are now. We want the new latrines everywhere.”