Improved sanitation

Last updated on 19 September 2017

They have not improved the cleanliness or levels of sanitation. The term was coined by the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation of UNICEF and WHO in 2002 to help monitor the progress towards Goal Number 7 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The opposite of "improved sanitation" has been termed "unimproved sanitation" in the JMP definitions.

The Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation has been publishing updates on the global sanitation situation on an annual basis. For example, in 2014, only 40 percent of the world's population had access to improved sanitation, as per the definition given below.[1]

In 2017, JMP defined a new term: "basic sanitation service". This is defined as the use of improved sanitation facilities that are not shared with other households. A lower level of service is now called "limited sanitation service" which refers to use of improved sanitation facilities that are shared between two or more households. A higher level of service is called "safely managed sanitation". This is basic sanitation service where excreta are safely disposed of in situ or transported and treated offsite.[2]


Improved sanitation

Improved version of a traditional toilet (showroom) (6908550969).jpg
Improved sanitation example: pit latrine with a slab covering the drop hole and handwashing station in Burundi

An improved sanitation facility is defined as one that hygienically separates human excreta from human contact.[3] It is not necessarily identical with sustainable sanitation.

To allow for international comparability of estimates for monitoring the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation defines "improved" sanitation as the following kind of toilets:[3]

Unimproved sanitation

Pit latrines in Zambia (3233256285).jpg
Unimproved sanitation example: pit latrine without slab in Lusaka, Zambia

Sanitation facilities that are not considered as "improved" (also called "unimproved") are:

  • Public or shared latrine (meaning a toilet that is used by more than one household)
  • Flush/pour flush to elsewhere (not into a pit, septic tank, or sewer)
  • Pit latrine without slab
  • Bucket latrines
  • Hanging toilet / latrine
  • No facilities / bush / field (open defecation)

Whilst "shared" toilets are not counted as improved sanitation, data about usage of shared toilets is nevertheless report in the annual progress reports of the JMP.[4]


  1. ^ Progress on drinking water and sanitation, 2014 Update. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP). 2014. ISBN 9789241507240.
  2. ^ WHO and UNICEF (2017) Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and SDG Baselines. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2017
  3. ^ a b WHO and UNICEF (2012) Improved and unimproved water and sanitation facilities, WHO, Geneva and UNICEF, New York, accessed on 15 June 2015
  4. ^ WHO and UNICEF Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-water: 2015 Update, WHO, Geneva and UNICEF, New York

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