Water, sanitation and hygiene
Clean, safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene education are all essential in stemming the spread of diarrheal diseases and other infections.
WaterAid strives to ensure the communities it works with gain the maximum health benefits, so stresses an integrated approach whereby all three services are made available.
WaterAid and its local partners help rural villagers dig or drill wells that tap groundwater, build gravity-flow systems that convey water from upland streams and springs, and collect and store rainwater. In crowded cities, we also help connect slum communities to municipal water sources.
By bringing safe water closer to their homes, WaterAid brings people closer to realizing their full social and economic potential.
Solutions vary from country to country, from rural to urban settings, and depend on local customs, which its partners help WaterAid understand and respect.
A family's pour-flush latrine in Nepal.
Credit: WaterAid / Marco Betti
In rural villages, the most common sanitation facility is usually a dry pit latrine, which individual households or small communities can build for themselves with a little advice and technical guidance.
In cities, where solutions are more complex and larger in scale, we help community groups build latrines connected to municipal drainage systems or find innovative solutions to emptying communal latrines.
Because taps and toilets are only as safe as the ways people use them, hygiene education is an integral part of WaterAid projects.
Children in Bangladesh study a card about good hygiene practices.
Credit: WaterAid / Juthika Howlader
If communities do not understand how water becomes polluted, their practices can easily contaminate it. People who do not wash their hands after using a latrine, for example, can spread disease. Simply washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrheal diseases by over 40 percent.
The messages are straightforward, but changing longstanding practices is a challenge, and WaterAid is continually innovating approaches to altering unsafe behavior.
WaterAid and its partner organizations promote hygiene education with public awareness campaigns, household discussions, demonstrations, radio programs, plays and puppet shows, picture books, games, posters, and videos that encourage people to:
- wash their hands, faces, bodies, and clothes
- safely dispose of feces, refuse, and wastewater
- prepare and store food properly
- protect their water supply and store water safely
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Photo: WaterAid/Suzanne Porter
Forty year old mother of six Suzanna Tuwan lives in Takkas, in Nigeria’s mountainous Plateau state. WaterAid and local partner organization COWAN have helped her community to dig a well fitted with a handpump, construct latrines and learn about good hygiene.
Previously, Suzanna and the other women of Takkas had to collect water from a river nearly an hour’s walk away. In the dry season, they would have to dig into the riverbed to find water. Between water collection and caring for children frequently sick with diarrhea, life was tough.
Suzanna appreciates WaterAid's approach of providing water, sanitation and hygiene, as she described:
“Before we had the well it used to take at least two hours just to collect water from the river. Now it takes less than 30 minutes to fetch water.”
“Since we received hygiene education I make sure that we always wash our hands before and after we eat and after we defecate. I make sure the children clean themselves properly and that the house and grounds are swept. Before this diarrhea was common with the children, now we almost never see it.”
“With the extra time I have and the money we save now that we are not always having to buy medicine for the children, I felt able to take advantage of a small business loan from COWAN. I used the money to buy cement to start building latrine slabs for people in the village. I built the slab for our own latrine."
“I would like to see everyone in the village get a latrine, because it is so much better to use a latrine than to go to the bush. That is the main reason I decided to learn to build slabs and get our own latrine – to stop my children using the bush. It is not healthy.”