663 million people - 1 in 10 - lack access to safe water, including 159 million dependent on surface water. [5]

Globally, at least 1.8 billion people use a drinking-water source contaminated with faeces. [5]

Contaminated water can transmit diseases such diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Contaminated drinking-water is estimated to cause 502 000 diarrheal deaths each year. [5]



2.4 billion people still do not have access to basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines. [4]

Of these, 946 million still defecate in the open, for example in street gutters, behind bushes or into open bodies of water. [4]

Poor sanitation is linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. [4]




Hand-washing with soap at critical times – including before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet – can reduce diarrhea rates by more than 40 per cent. [1]

Hand-washing with soap has been cited as one of the most cost-effective interventions to prevent diarrhea related deaths and disease. [2]

Rates of hand-washing around the world are low. Observed rates of hand-washing with soap at critical moments – i.e, before handling food and after using the toilet – range from zero per cent to 34 per cent. [3]


  1. Curtis, V., and S. Cairncross. 2003. “Effect of Washing Hands with Soap on Diarrhea Risk in the Community: A Systematic Review.” Lancet Infectious Diseases 3: 275–81.
  2. Cairncross, S. Valdmanis V. 2006. Water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion. Chapter 41. In. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. Second Edition. Edt. Jameson et al 2006. The World Bank. Washington DC: National Institutes of Health.
  3. Scott B, Curtis V & Rabie, T. 2003. Protecting children from diarrhea and acute respiratory infections: the role of hand-washing promotion in water and sanitation programmes. WHO Regional Health Forum 7, 42–47
  4. WHO Sanitation fact sheet. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs392/en/
  5. WHO Drinking-Water Fact Sheet. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs391/en/