Good health, clean water and nutritious food are a child’s right.

- Article 19, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

Clean water is something many of us take for granted. If we’re thirsty we turn a tap or open a bottle. We wash and flush and bathe and clean without thinking much of it.

But millions of children around the world face illness, exhaustion, and even death simply because they do not have access to clean water. Tragically, children die from easily preventable waterborne diseases every day.

Children – particularly girls – are often denied their right to education because many schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities. Many women around the world are forced to spend a significant portion of their day fetching clean, safe water.

UNICEF WASH programs

UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programs offer simple solutions on a large scale to reach children with improved drinking water and sanitation facilities, improve their health, and lower the risk of preventable disease. UNICEF works to restore access to vital supplies of clean water and sanitation facilities in emergencies.

UNICEF Australia currently directly supports the following WASH programs:

  • Thant Shin Star – Improving WASH in Schools in Myanmar (supported by the Australian Government)
  • Reach for the Stars – Improving WASH in Schools in Fiji (supported by the Australian Government)
  • Sustainable WASH in Laos

Program snapshot: Keeping girls in school in Zimbabwe

For many young girls across rural Zimbabwe, the lack of a school bathroom has the potential to end their studies. 

UNICEF programs bring clean, running water and improved sanitation into schools; directly impacting the number of girls able to complete primary school and go on to secondary school.
“Without good toilets, many
young girls faced the indignity
of having to manage hygiene
during menstruation without
water, in dark corners, with
a fear of being watched,”

UNICEF and its partners have constructed segregated toilets in 270 rural schools across Zimbabawe. The impact has been immediate, with teachers testifying attendance among girls has improved tremendously.

These girls now have access to more opportunities in adulthood and therefore a reduced chance of marrying and bearing children early, being exposed to labour, or worse. 

Child washing hands
Above: In Zimbabwe, girls like Tambudzai*, 12, have a difficult choice to make when they start menstruating. Without proper bathrooms at school, Tambudzai and her peers have no privacy so choose to stay at home. With every lesson they miss they fall behind in their studies. “Before the toilets were built at our school there was no water for the toilets and it was so difficult to go through with my periods,” Tambudzai said. “Sometimes I had to miss school.” With the new toilets in place, Tambudzai is attending all her classes and keeping up with her studies.

*Name changed to protect personal dignity