165 million

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Although there’s plenty of water, with around 24,000km of rivers crisscrossing the landscape, most of it isn’t safe to drink.

In the north, arsenic from the mountains seeps into groundwater, poisoning anyone who drinks it. In the south, seawater from the coast does the same, making water undrinkable and ruining crops. Rivers and lakes are polluted by chemicals, industrial waste and sewage.

Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change and natural hazards, including devastating cyclones, earthquakes, droughts and floods. Along the coast, fresh water is becoming harder to find; in hilly areas, springs are drying up. And rising sea levels are already starting to affect the millions of people living in coastal regions.

people don't have clean water.

people don't have a decent toilet.

That's 45% of the population.

children under 5 die a year from diarrhoea.

Caused by dirty water and poor toilets.

Our work in Bangladesh

We're working with the government as it rolls out ambitious national plans to improve hygiene behaviours and increase access to clean water.

We’re committed to supporting those who are the hardest to reach, and the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. We will put water and toilet facilities in schools and public places, improving hygiene nationwide. And we will work with communities at risk of natural disasters to build services that last, whatever happens.

Keeping girls in school

We built toilets, handwashing basins, and two water filter stations at Sumaiya’s school. There’s also a new chute and incinerator for disposing of sanitary pads, and regular hygiene sessions. Now, girls are comfortable coming to school every day – even on their period.

Sumaiya, 13, in class 9, drinking filtered water at Dr Muhammed Shahidullah School and College, Mirapur-12, Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 2017.
Image: WaterAid/ Rasel Chowdhury
Now the facilities are really good, we can dispose of our pads and change them when we need to.
Sumaiya, 13

Changing lives with toilets

Decent toilets bring dignity and good health – especially for women and girls.

Image: WaterAid/ DRIK/ Habibul Haque

A lack of decent toilets affects whole communities – but it’s women and girls who bear the brunt.

For women like Anita and Shabana in the lakeside village of Trimohoni, needing the toilet used to mean waiting until it got dark to go in a field, or using a makeshift latrine, which often overflowed into the lake. There was no way of managing their periods hygienically or privately.

There is always an extra burden on women when it comes to using the toilet. Men do not have to worry about using a toilet which is partially exposed. Unfortunately it is not the case for women.
Shabana Das, 25, Trimohoni village

We’ve built secure, private toilets in the village, and run hygiene education activities so people understand the importance of handwashing and keeping the toilets clean. With platforms raised high off the ground, the new toilets are resilient to changing tidewater levels, so residents no longer have to worry about them overflowing.

Now, Anita and Shabana can use the toilet whenever they need. The stomach diseases that used to be so common for their families have all but disappeared. And they can manage their periods safely, with dignity.

My life has changed significantly after the toilet was built... It is clean, hygienic and has enough room for cleaning my menstrual products.
Anita Das, 40, Trimohoni village

"Now, I have my own identity"

Gita leads a group of 60 women who run a water filtration plant in the coastal region of Assasuni. The plant is not only providing clean water to local villages, but empowering women like Gita to become financially and socially independent for the first time.

Gita Roy (38) monitors the Reverse Osmosis plant. She is the leader of Golap Dol, Tengrakhali village, Kadakati, Assasuni, Satkhira District,  Khulna Division, Bangladesh, 2021
Image: WaterAid/ Drik/ Farzana Hossen

Safe enough to drink

Across Bangladesh, we’re working to make water drinkable. We’re tackling pollution from dangerous chemicals, and saltwater problems in coastal areas. And we’re making areas at risk of climate change a priority, helping families cope with an uncertain future.

Reaching those who are often overlooked

We're supporting tea picking communities to access essential water and toilet facilities.

Image: WaterAid/Abir Abdullah

Tea pickers are among the lowest paid people in Bangladesh, working for about 70p a day. Plantation owners are legally responsible for their workers’ health and education, but facilities are often poor. People rely on hand-dug wells and streams for water, and have no choice but to go to the toilet in the open.

We're helping tea estate owners understand how improved water, toilets and hygiene keep workers healthier, as we collaborate with our partner organisation to bring decent facilities to tea-picking communities.

I used to miss days at work because of illness, so I wasn't paid. Our children were often sick, and sometimes I had to look after them rather than work. These pumps and latrines have made such a difference for us.
Bina Patrou, Gulni Tea Estate

Responding to COVID-19

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve focused our support on densely populated low-income communities, who are especially vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Alongside handwashing devices tailored to each community’s needs, we’re providing people with the information and materials they need to keep themselves safe.

Community volunteers are at the heart of our response. Equipped with personal safety equipment, they are disinfecting their neighbourhoods, encouraging people to practise good hygiene, ensuring soap is available, and sharing essential safety messages with their neighbours.

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Delve deeper into our work

Explore the latest publications, research and policy papers from our work in Bangladesh.

WaterAid Bangladesh

Discover more on the WaterAid Bangladesh website.