Over 23 million people in Bangladesh lack access to an improved water source.

43% don't have access to improved sanitation in Bangladesh, over 66 million people.

Over 7,000 children under five years old die annually from poor water and sanitation in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. 150 million people are crowded onto low-lying land where annual monsoon floods contaminate water sources and leave millions with appalling sanitary conditions.

The crisis

Bangladesh's geography provides many challenges. Natural arsenic contaminates water, putting 30 million people at risk. The lowland areas are also susceptible to flooding from seasonal monsoons and cyclones, further damaging the land.

In increasingly populated urban areas, slums are home to millions of people who are denied legal water and sanitation supplies, forcing them to live in appalling conditions.

Our approach

WaterAid's urban programs help desperately poor communities living in the slums of major cities to gain access to communal water points and sanitation blocks. The water points are run on a cost-recovery basis where users pay a small fee to the community management committee to use the facilities. The money collected covers the initial set-up cost, water bills, attendants' wages and maintenance.

In areas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the one hilly area of predominantly low-lying Bangladesh, WaterAid and local partners have helped villagers to construct gravity flow water schemes. These tap water at sources in the hills and pipe it to villages below. This has drastically reduced time spent collecting water and cut the rate of water-related diseases in the districts covered.

In low-lying areas of the country prone to monsoon flooding, WaterAid is helping communities to construct water and sanitation facilities that are more resilient to disasters and the impacts of climate change.

WaterAid and local partners initiated the Community-led Total Sanitation approach in Bangladesh, which focusses on developing understanding in communities of the links between unsafe sanitation and disease and motivating the whole community to take action. Communities build their own latrines using low-cost, local materials and agree to completely eliminate the practice of open defecation. This approach is now being used by many other WaterAid country programmes.

We also helped the government to develop the National Sanitation Strategy, which aims to bring universal sanitation facilities to Bangladesh by 2015.

Together with our partners, we made an agreement with the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority to recognise people living in slums as legitimate users of public water facilities.

In Bangladesh last year we reached:

  • 331,000 people with safe water
  • 620,000 people with improved sanitation.

Watch this short film to find out more:

A mother and her son and daughter wash their hands from a bucket.