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 anything of it.

But millions of children around the world are forced to drink unclean water  and face illness, exhaustion – even death. 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’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 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

Access to a toilet is a privilege we take granted, but for young girls across rural Zimbabwe, the lack of a school bathroom has the potential to end their studies. 

UNICEF programs to bring clean, running water and improved sanitation into schools is having a positive impact on the number of girls who complete primary school and go on to secondary school. Education also supports their opportunities into adulthood and reduces their chances of marrying and bearing children early, being exposed to labour, or worse.

Without segregated toilets, girls in many regions across Zimbabwe stop going to school during their menstrual cycle and quickly fall behind or fail their studies.
“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. 

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