The issue explained

One of the most obvious benefits of improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is better human health.

The other side of the coin is that poor WASH provision is strongly linked to the spread of diseases, such as diarrhoea, and acute respiratory infections. Children are especially vulnerable. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that poor WASH is the main cause of around 28% of child deaths worldwide, and diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old worldwide. (Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) 2012)

Furthermore, people who are already sick, particularly those suffering from long-term debilitating illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, have greater water and sanitation needs than healthy people.

And, in recent years, we have learnt more about the links between good WASH and maternal health – pregnant women need to have access to clean water and safe sanitation to have the best chances of a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery.

Our approach

We aim to have an integrated approach: improved health and improved WASH have to go hand in hand – there is no point giving a child protection against malaria if they are still drinking dirty water.

While we do not work directly in the health sector, for example by funding wards or doctors, we do work increasingly closely with health professionals and hygiene educators, because the links between health and hygiene are so strong.

In our influencing work, we are working hard to show that greater effort and funding within the health sector must be targeted at WASH improvements if infant mortality is to be reduced.

In the future, we plan to do even more work in this area, recognising that water and sanitation improvements can't be made in isolation – they must be part of an integrated approach that also deals with health, education, employment, and so on.

Read WaterAid's latest research and reports on health >

Find out more about the issues involved in our work:

Children | Financing | Governance | Hygiene | Social exclusion | Sustainability | Urban | Women