Our Priorities

Basic sanitation is necessary for children's health, safety and development. Without access to sanitation facilities, including clean water and toilets, and without hygiene practices like hand-washing with soap, children may get sick. Lack of sanitation may even impact their development potential.  

Although China has improved its sanitation facilities in many geographic areas, most children still attend schools that lack adequate clean water and sanitation facilities. Many schools do not have modern toilets and a place to wash hands. Around half of rural families do not use sanitary latrines. As a result, about one-third of Chinese school children have intestinal parasites.

Intestinal parasites can cause severe pain and discomfort to children. They are also a major contributor to malnutrition and anemia. These conditions can impair children's overall health and physical development, as well as limit their ability to learn in school.  

Ensuring access to basic sanitation and improving hygiene practices

UNICEF cooperates with many Chinese government agencies to provide access to basic sanitation, to promote good hygiene practices, and to develop relevant policies, guidelines and standards.

We contribute to a pilot program called WASH-in-Schools that supports the construction of drinking water fountains, hand washing facilities and toilets at participating schools. The program also introduces hygiene practices into the school curriculum.

Another of our pilot projects implements a program called Community Approach to Total Sanitation, which is the global best practice for educating rural residents about basic sanitation. In addition, the program encourages investment in family latrines and participation in community sanitation improvement.

We also coordinated a week-long awareness-raising campaign in connection with Global Hand-washing Day . The campaign motivated our partners and, most importantly, children themselves to spread the message that people should wash their hands with soap.

UNICEF's work has also informed government policies, guidelines and standards, including:

  • the Rural Environmental Sanitation Improvement Action,
  • the Guidelines on Improvement of Living and Sanitation Facilities for Rural Boarding Schools,
  • the Rural Household Sanitary Latrine Standards, and
  • the Rural Public Sanitary Latrine Standards.

Making a difference

UNICEF's work to ensure access to basic sanitation and to improve hygiene practices is yielding results. With our support, more government programs and funds have been allocated to these issues.

The majority of schools participating in the WASH-in-Schools programs now offer water that meets national standards and safeguards the health of the children attending those schools. The success of the WASH-in-Schools pilot has led to its expansion into other provinces.

Inclusion in the school curriculum of hygiene practices like hand-washing with soap, and involving children in the Global Hand-washing Day campaign, has contributed to better hygiene practices among children and, ultimately, to better health.

You can help improve hygiene and sanitation for children. Take action by learning more about the importance of basic sanitation or by organizing a Global Hand-washing Day event. Or find out how you can support UNICEF's work today.

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