WASH
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The Meaning of the Global WASH Movement

The World Health Organization estimates that 2.5 billion people in the world do not have basic access to sanitation facilities. They represent almost a third of the world’s population. In the context of the upcoming World Water Day on March 22, it’s important to continue the conversation on this health issue. Recently, we discussed how essential Water Purification in Remote Locations is. We have also written about this subject before from a development perspective. Today, we take it a step further and talk about WASH – Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene and the importance of WASH.

What is WASH?

This abbreviation stands for “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene.” It is a unique way of looking at a set of three intricately connected and interdependent issues. While each can be treated separately, the global development and humanitarian movement today actively promotes access to all three. Safe water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene education is critical for everyone in the world. In fact, WASH is part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agenda. Target 6 of this agenda aims to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

Why is WASH Important?

For many, having a toilet at home may seem like the most basic commodity. However, it is not for nearly 40% of the world’s population according to WHO. Meanwhile, the Civil Society WASH Fund reports that poor water, sanitation, and hygiene practices cause more than 840,000 deaths in low and middle-income countries every year. WASH means direct impact on community health where children are particularly vulnerable when access to these services is limited. But that’s not all.

Providing communities with proper WASH access can improve gender equality since women often become vulnerable to rape, abuse, and lack of productivity when proper sanitation is not available. Many girls drop out of school during adolescence since there are no safe and clean toilets for them to use. Additionally, correct waste management can have a positive impact on the environment. Even though the world has made extensive strides to bridge the gap in WASH access in the past, there is still a long way to go before the basic human right is truly fulfilled.

Key Players in the WASH Movement

An extensive network of NGOs, international organizations, and grassroots programs are putting a strong effort forward to improve WASH around the globe. They take aid to where it is most needed. They often work in partnership with local communities to provide dignified, safe, and healthy access to water, sanitation, and hygiene.

UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) runs a flagship WASH program in over 100 countries worldwide. In only the past year, UNICEF’s programs provided almost 14 million people with clean water and more than 11 million with access to basic toilets. The organization is currently implementing their Strategy for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 2016-2030 with a special focus on climate-resilient WASH and urban sanitation. UNICEF also emphasizes WASH in Emergencies – one of the primary health threats after a natural disaster

WaterAid

Headquartered in the UK, WaterAid works in 28 countries across the world. In 2016 and 2017 alone, WaterAid reported an impressive performance by providing:

  • 956,000 people with access to clean water
  • 1.1 million with decent toilets
  • 1.6 million education on good hygiene

For example, the WaterAid project in Tombohuaun in Eastern Sierra Leone is working to bring clean water to the village by building a well with a hand pump.

WASH Alliance International

WASH Alliance International is a global partnership network that includes local NGOs, governments, and businesses who are working together to provide communities with access to WASH. The organization works in 8 countries in Africa and Asia and puts a particular focus on sustainability. For example, Emcekaqu is a program implemented in Indonesia which empowers communities to take the lead, learn, and teach about sanitation to raise awareness, particularly among school children.

WASH United  

With an approach that is heavily focused on play-based education, WASH United and its partners have trained more than 200,000 children in sub-Saharan African and South Asia about WASH. Their flagship program, however, is the Menstrual Hygiene Day Partnership, which unites over 350 organizations in advocating for policy change and safer and better menstrual hygiene management.

IRC

The IRC is a think tank that works closely with partners to implement the WASH Agenda for Change. The Agenda’s aim is that everyone, everywhere, may have access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services. Working all across Africa and in Latin America and Asia, the organization runs a variety of innovative projects. One of the flagship projects at IRC is the Triple-S program that uses a systematic approach to scale-up WASH access.

SNV

SNV works on access in both rural and urban contexts with a particular focus on making projects sustainable in the long-term. For example, through its Urban Sanitation & Hygiene Health and Development initiatives, SNV works with both the public and private sectors, while involving the communities, to ensure long-lasting sanitation infrastructure.

Norwegian Refugee Council

The Norwegian Refugee Council works with people displaced by conflict or natural disasters. In 2016, the NRC reached more than 2.1 million people through their WASH programs. The organization focuses on 5 specific areas:

  1. providing safe drinking water
  2. providing safe latrines or toilets
  3. disease surveillance
  4. solid waste management
  5. hygiene promotion through community mobilization

We understand this list is not exhaustive and readily admit it is incomplete. We want to publicly recognize the important work done by any other organization not mentioned here. Do you know any other organization that should be added to this list? If you do, please let us know via Twitter.

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