Sr. Statistics and Monitoring Specialist
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene/JMP
Division of Policy and Practice
United Nations Children’s Fund
Postal Address:Three United Nations Plaza,New York, NY 10017
Telephone: 1 212-326-7975
Fax: 1 212-735-4422
www.wssinfo.org and www.childinfo.org
Water, Sanitation and Health
World Health Organization
Postal Address:20, Avenue Appia, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 22 791 1624
Fax: +41 22 791 4159
The proportion of the population using an improved sanitation facility, total, urban, rural, is the percentage of the population with access to facilities that hygienically separate human excreta from human contact. Improved facilities include flush/pour flush toilets or latrines connected to a sewer, -septic tank, or -pit, ventilated improved pit latrines, pit latrines with a slab or platform of any material which covers the pit entirely, except for the drop hole and composting toilets/latrines. Unimproved facilities include public or shared facilities of an otherwise acceptable type, flush/pour-flush toilets or latrines which discharge directly into an open sewer or ditch, pit latrines without a slab, bucket latrines, hanging toilets or latrines which directly discharge in water bodies or in the open and the practice of open defecation in the bush, field or bodies or water. Definitions and a detailed description of these facilities can be found at the website of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation at
The indicator is computed as the ratio of the number of people using improved sanitation facilities, to the total population, expressed as a percentage. The same method applies to the rural and urban estimates.
Coverage estimates are based on data from nationally representative household surveys and national censuses, which in some cases are adjusted to improve comparability among data over time. Survey and census data for urban and rural areas are then plotted on a time scale from 1980 to present. A linear trend line, based on the least-squares method, is drawn through these data points to estimate urban and rural coverage for the baseline year 1990 and for the year of most recent estimate.
A linear regression line is drawn only if at least two survey data points are available, and they are spaced five or more years apart. The linear regression line maybe extrapolated up to two years after, or before, the latest or earliest survey data point. Outside of these time limits, the extrapolated regression line is flat for up to four years, as necessary. If the extrapolated regression line would reach 100% coverage or beyond, or 0%, a flat line is drawn from the year prior to the year where coverage would reach 100% (or 0%).
Total coverage estimates are computed from the urban and rural coverage estimates using the latest population estimates and distribution of urban and rural population provided by the United Nations Population Division
More information on this methodology is available at
The indicator records the proportion of the population using an improved sanitation facility. The collection of data on the proportion of the population using shared or public sanitation facilities, unimproved sanitation facilities and those practising open defecation, however is also important to track behavioral changes in sanitation practices.
Though there is a demand for information on the use of improved sanitation facilities disaggregated by sex and age – this information is currently not routinely collected by the globally used monitoring instruments.
The origins of the most common discrepancies between global and national figures are:
Often discrepancies are found between survey and census findings and routinely reported data. Surveys and censuses provide a net estimate of facilities that are in use, including those constructed by different actors and those facilities that have fallen in disrepair and which are no longer in use.
Routinely reported data from line Ministries, also known as administratively reported data often only record cumulative totals of facilities constructed based on records from government-supported programs. Administrative data often do not take into account facilities constructed under NGO supported programs or facilities constructed by individual households without outside support. For these reasons administrative data are not used at international level for tracking progress towards the MDG drinking water and sanitation target.
Primary data sources used for international monitoring include nationally representative household surveys, including Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic Health Surveys (DHS), World Health Surveys (WHS), Living Standards and Measurement Surveys (LSMS), Core Welfare Indicator Questionnaires (CWIQ), (Pan Arab Project for Family Health Surveys (PAPFAM), and population censuses. Most of the survey data can be downloaded from the organizations that supported these surveys through the Internet. Census data are often obtained directly from National Statistics Offices.
The use of drinking water sources and sanitation facilities is part of the wealth-index used by household surveys to divide the population into wealth quintiles. As a result, most nationally representative household surveys include information about water and sanitation.
To seek out these national data sources that might otherwise be overlooked, UNICEF conducts an annual exercise called the Country Reports on Indicators for the Goals (CRING). CRING gathers recent information for all indicators regularly reported on by UNICEF, including the water supply and sanitation indicators. Surveys found through CRING include Household Budget Surveys, Reproductive Health Surveys, Labour Force Surveys, and Welfare Monitoring Surveys, etc.
The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) is charged with international monitoring of the MDG drinking water and sanitation target. When the JMP receives new survey or census data, its staff assesses the validity of the data by review, using a set of objective criteria. New survey data are entered into the JMP database only when the accompanying survey documentation is available to JMP. Provider-based (reported) data are only used when there are no survey or census data available for a country for the period going back to 1980.
The survey questions and response categories pertaining to access to drinking water are fully harmonized between MICS and DHS – which make up over 70 percent of all survey data in the JMP database. The same standard questions are being promoted for inclusion into other survey instruments and can be found at
Countries with missing data are assigned regional averages when generating regional and global estimates.
Data are available for approximately 160 countries.
National-level household surveys are generally conducted every 3-5 years in most developing countries, while censuses are generally conducted every 10 years. The latest data on which the estimates are based generally stem from surveys and censuses conducted up to two years ago. This is a common lead-time required to conduct the surveys, analyze them and report on the findings.
The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme updates global, regional and country estimates for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), every 2 years, as global estimates of water and sanitation coverage do not change significantly on an annual basis. JMP publishes coverage estimates on a biennial basis.
Regional and global estimates are based on population-weighted averages weighted by the total population. These estimates are presented only if available data cover at least 50% of the total population in the regional or global groupings.
Biennial coverage updates are typically released in the first half of every even second year. Reports, tables, graphs, and data files are available at
www.wssinfo.org (the JMP website) or at www.childinfo.org (UNICEF’s statistics website).