Water is Life, Sanitation is Health  

You will also find WASH statistics for Nigeria below as the giant of Afica.


A global crisis

  • 783 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in ten of the world's population.
    (WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Report 2012 update)
  • 2.5 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, almost two fifths of the world's population.
    (WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Report 2012 update)
  • 1.4 million children die every year from preventable diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. This is equal to 160 school classrooms of children every day.
    (WHO 2002)

What has WaterAid done?


  • Diarrhoea kills more children every year than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. 
    (WHO 2008)
  • Every year, around 60 million children are born into homes without access to sanitation.
    (Unicef, 2006 www.unicef.org/publications/files/Progress_for_Children_No._5_-_English.pdf page 3)
  • At any given time, nearly half the people in the developing world are suffering from one or more of the main diseases associated with dirty water and inadequate sanitation such as diarrhoea, guinea worm, trachoma and schistosomiasis. 
    (UNDP: Human Development Report, 2006  http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR06-complete.pdf page 45)
  • Half the hospital beds in developing countries are filled with people suffering from diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene.
    (UNDP Human Development Report, 2006 http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR06-complete.pdf page 45)
  • There are more people in the world without sanitation today than there were in 1990.

  • Hygiene
  • Providing soap and hygiene promotion can reduce cases of diarrhoea by 53%
    (Luby, et al. 2005)
  • Hand-washing could reduce the risk of diarrhoea by nearly 50%
    (Curtis and Cairncross, 2003)
  • Hygiene promotion is the most cost effective health intervention according to the World Bank
    (Saving lives, WaterAid, 2012)
  • Find out about hygiene issues


  • Women in Africa and Asia often carry water on their heads weighing 20kg, the same as the average UK airport luggage allowance 
    (UNDP: Human Development Report, 2006: page 34-35)
  • 1.1 billion people live more than a kilometre from their water source and use just five litres of unsafe water a day 
    (UNDP: Human Development Report, 2006: page 34-35)
  • The average person in the UK uses 150 litres of water a day. In Australia it’s around 500 litres and in the USA, over 570 litres. 
    (UNDP: Human Development Report, 2006: page 34)
  • Water in Accra, Ghana, costs three times as much as in New York. 
    (UNDP, 2006)
  • Find out more about water issues

Education and livelihoods

  • For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of $8 is returned in increased productivity. 
    (UNDP: Human Development Report, 2006: page 6)
  • Lack of water, sanitation and hygiene costs Sub-Saharan African countries more in lost GDP than the entire continent gets in development aid. 
    (Using % estimate from UNDP: Human Development Report, 2006)

Millennium Development Goals

  • The 2015 goal to halve the proportion of people living without sanitation is running 150 years behind schedule.
    (WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation 2010)
  • Nearly half the people who gained access to water between 1990 and 2008 live in India and China.
    (WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation 2010)
  • Achieving universal access to safe water and sanitation would save 2.5 million lives every year.
    (WHO, Global Burden of Disease 2004 Update, Geneva: WHO, 2008)
  • Find out more about the Millennium Development Goals

Financing the sector

  • Funding for water and sanitation infrastructure is lacking by US$115 million a year in Sub-Saharan countries. 
  • Developing countries need to spend up to US$58 billion more each year to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets on water and sanitation.
    (WHO 2008, Gleick P H et al, 2009)

Water and sanitation in history 

  • In the UK the expansion of water and sanitation infrastructure in the 1880s contributed to a 15 year increase in life expectancy in the following four decades.
    (UNDP: Human Development Report, 2006: page 5)

Abbreviations used
AICD- Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic
DFID – UK Department for International Development
HDR - UN Human Development Report
OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
UNDP – United Nations Development Programme
UNEP – United National Environment Programme
UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund
WEDC – Water Engineering Department, University of Loughborough
WHO – World Health Organization
WSSCC – Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council




Area: 923,768km²

Capital: Abuja

Other main cities:
Lagos, Ibadan,
Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Kano

  • Population
    Population icon158.4m
  • Infant mortality
    Infant mortality icon143/1000
  • Child deaths (under five) from diarrhoea per annum
    Under five icon130,000
  • Life expectancy
    Life expectancy icon50 years
  • Water supply coverage
    Water supply coverage icon58%
  • Sanitation coverage
    Sanitation coverage icon32%
  • Below poverty line
    Below poverty line icon55%
  • Development index
    Development index icon156
  • Adult literacy
    Adult literacy icon60%

World Bank (2010) World Development Indicators database - databank.worldbank.org, UNICEF (2010) State of the World's Children 2009 and WHO (2010) World Health Statistics 2010, WHO / UNICEF (2010) Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report 2010, UNDP (2009) Human Development Report 2010
NB. Official statistics tend to understate the extent of water and sanitation problems, sometimes by a large factor. There are not sufficient resources available for accurate monitoring of either population or coverage. Varying definitions of water and sanitation coverage are used and national figures mask large regional differences in coverage.