With over 160 million people, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Despite widely acknowledged progress in many areas of social and economic development, the country still faces a number of barriers to universal WASH coverage.

Water and sanitation access remains a challenge in hard to reach (HtR) areas such as hilly regions, riverine islands (chars), swamp (beels and haors) and tea gardens; and for excluded or marginalised groups such as urban slum and pavement dwellers. Climate change and natural disasters continue to challenge existing WASH technology. The country’s low-lying topography makes the nation highly susceptible to seasonal flooding that contaminates water sources and leave millions of people with appalling sanitary conditions. Pockets of arsenic contamination across the country puts over 20 million people at risk each year.

4 million people do not have clean water: that's 1 in every 7 people.

Over 50% of the population do not have access to basic sanitation: that's over 85 million people

2,000 children under 5 die from diarrhoea:
Caused by dirty water and poor toilets.



According to the Joint Monitoring Programme Report (JMP) of 2017, the proportion of population with access to safely managed water is at 56%. Despite progress on overall improved water coverage and achieving the MDG water target, access to safe water for all remains a challenge, particularly due to arsenic contamination and salinity intrusion.

Alongside, water quality and safety still remain persistent issues of concern. Discharge of domestic wastewater and seepage of onsite sanitation facilities continue being real threats, with unimproved sanitation, unfavourable soil conditions and small distances between pit latrines and tubewells in many rural areas compromising water quality. Alongside, over-extraction of groundwater has been leading to a sharply declining water table – around 3m/year for Dhaka city, and 50-100 cm/year in Bangladesh on average.


56% population has access to safely managed water.


Bangladesh has seen remarkable reduction in open defecation from 34% from 1990 to 0% in 2017, largely due to a combination of enabling factors including political will, the efforts of development partners, and active engagement of local government institutions and communities. However, we failed to reach the MDG sanitation target, and JMP 2017 puts progress at 47% basic sanitation coverage, indicating major challenges on the way to universal access to safely managed sanitation.

Moreover, while the reduction in open defecation is undoubtedly a major achievement, it has come with the associated risk of construction of thousands of pit latrines that do not ensure proper hygienic separation of excreta from human contact. Faecal sludge management (FSM) has thus emerged as a second generation sanitation problem for Bangladesh, where only 2% of urban faecal sludge is managed through sewerage systems and treated appropriately.

Only 2% of urban faecal sludge is managed through sewerage systems and treated appropriately


Hygiene remains the most lagging area of WASH, and there is a real risk that the accomplishments of increased access to improved water sources and latrines will not necessarily lead to proportionate health and nutritional gains given the concerning state of hygiene practice. The Bangladesh National Hygiene Baseline Survey of 2014 reveals that only 40% households have water and soap available for handwashing, and an even lower 16% when households in the poorest quintile are considered separately. Most schools do not have handwashing facilities with both water and soap available, and observations showed appallingly low practice levels amongst students, restaurants and food vendors, healthcare facility staff and traditional birth attendants.

Menstrual hygiene management remains another challenging area, especially in schools. Nearly a third of adolescent respondents said menstruation affected their school performance, and 40% of surveyed girls reported that they miss school during menstruation for a median of 3 days a month.

40% of girls miss school during menstruation:

that’s losing over a month of schooling every year