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2.3 billion people without soap and water

Access to basic hygiene products is lowest in Africa and Oceania

Unicef / un0388486 / panjwani

During the pandemic, much of the global population has been unable to follow one basic health recommendation for reducing the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus: frequent hand washing. The reason? Lack of access to soap and water. Some 2.3 billion people, equivalent to 30% of the world’s population, had no water, soap, or either in 2020, according to the Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, 2000–2020 report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on July 1. The estimate was based on information from 79 countries in all regions of the world—most high-income countries do not record data on this issue. Despite this unimaginable situation, things have improved in recent years. Between 2015 and 2020, the total number of people with access to basic hygiene services increased from 5 billion to 5.5 billion. The countries that have made the least progress are located in Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania. Ensuring soap and water is available to the entire global population by 2030 is one of the UN’s sustainable development goals. The provision of these services will need to be quadrupled in the next nine years if the goal is to be achieved.