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Inequalities

Tracking inequalities in access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene is essential for achieving universal access and ensuring progressive realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation.

Jeremie. Hurricane Matthew passed over Haiti
© UNICEF/UN034980/Abassi, UN-MINUSTAH

Monitoring inequalities in access to basic services

The JMP has been drawing attention to inequalities in drinking water, sanitation and hygiene since 1990. The Millennium Development Goals target to halve the proportion of the population without access focused attention on inequalities in service levels, but JMP updates have also highlighted inequalities between rural and urban areas, between rich and poor, and between other groups and the general population.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have a much stronger focus on inequalities, with Goal 10 dedicated to ‘reducing inequalities between and within countries’. The 2030 Agenda further commits Member States to ‘leave no one behind’ and states that SDG indicators should be disaggregated, where relevant, by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographic location. 

The JMP will continue to expand its inequality database to reflect the new SDG ambition and will work with partners to encourage further disaggregation in global, regional and national monitoring.  Data can currently be disaggregated for basic services by the following characteristics: 

In 2017, the JMP convened an expert taskforce on inequalities to consider what more can be done. The taskforce identified several priorities for expanded monitoring of inequalities during the SDGs including:

  • Informal urban settlements 
  • Disadvantaged groups
  • Affordability of WASH services
  • Intra-household inequalities (such as gender, disabilities) 

Monitoring inequalities in access to safely managed services

In many countries data on safely managed services is only available at national level or for certain population groups, for example households connected to formal networks. 

Tracking inequalities in safely managed services is more challenging, as there is currently less information available on service levels, and it is rarely disaggregated by population subgroups. Currently, 28 countries have rural and urban estimates for safely managed sanitation, and only 19 countries have rural and urban estimates for safely managed drinking water. 

Further work is required to understand the relationship between inequalities in different elements of safely managed services, so that these can be more systematically monitored in future reports.