When a community gets clean water for the first time, it creates a powerful ripple effect, saving lives and improving people’s health, education and livelihoods. Water is just the beginning.
Solving the global water crisis with advocacy, data and community action
Making sure the human right to water and sanitation is recognized and acted on around the world is a core part of WaterAid’s global mission. I’m thankful that this year, we’ve had some big wins. In June, I was honored to attend the launch of the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security, which WaterAid played a key role in developing. For the first time, the U.S. government has called out global access to water and sanitation as a key priority of U.S. foreign policy and has directly linked access to water and sanitation around the world to national security, global stability and future prosperity. The plan coordinates the resources of the government to advance global water security and safe sanitation, which are critical for gender equity, food security and economic growth.
Building on this momentum, WaterAid launched our Boosting Business report at World Water Week in Stockholm. The report is the result of four years of research with private sector partners and captures the returns of investing in clean water, decent toilets and handwashing in supply chains and in worker communities, i.e. improving productivity by 27%. While in Stockholm we also hosted a lively session—led by Isolina Silva, a Wayúu leader— about the integration of sacred art into sanitation and hygiene behavior change programs in indigenous communities.
Our work is about so much more than drilling wells or constructing toilets. Water is political, economic and deeply personal. Our work and the people we serve reflect this—people like Seema, a volunteer hygiene educator and Mariam, who won’t stop working until everyone in her community has a toilet at home . This work is how we ensure that no one is left behind.
Kelly Parsons, CEO
A historic step for global water security
Vice President Kamala Harris launched the Action Plan on Global Water Security at the White House in June and WaterAid America CEO Kelly Parsons was one of a handful of guests at the event.
This new plan makes access to water, sanitation, and hygiene a clear priority of U.S. foreign policy for the first time. It also establishes the United States’ leadership role in global water security issues and harnesses the resources of the U.S. government to advance global water security, gender equity, food security and economic growth.
Advocacy is how we’re able to make change happen on a massive scale, leveraging resources well beyond those of WaterAid. We convince governments and utilities to invest in clean water and toilets for their citizens. As part of our “build, teach, scale” approach, we empower local people to monitor and repair infrastructure so services work for the long term.
In 2022, after years of working closely with U.S. policymakers on the urgent needs of billions of people currently without clean water, we have succeeded in elevating water and sanitation as a priority, bringing the resources and political will of the U.S. government to help address the global water crisis.
Honoring indigenous culture with sacred art
We believe it is essential to respect local traditions when working with communities. In La Guajira, Colombia, the Wayuu live in one of the harshest geographies in the country and struggle to access clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
To solve this problem, WaterAid worked with the Wayuu community and their leaders to integrate ancestral symbols as art featured on the walls of bathrooms and handwashing facilities. We created visual associations with water, like drought or rain depending on the position of the moon and stars, keeping ancestral and cultural traditions alive while transforming the community's perception of these spaces and increasing good hygiene practices.
Isolina, a local Wayuu leader, was invited to participate in World Water Week 2022 in Stockholm, Sweden, because of this groundbreaking work. She led participants through an interactive and hands-on session revealing how art can turn a toilet into a sacred space that reminds the Wayuu of the value of water and their connection with nature.
See below a short video to learn more
Around the world, community heroes are leading the way to create a fairer world – thanks to clean water – and you.
Helping Hands in India
Seema believes everyone should have the opportunity to learn about good hygiene, so they can lead healthy, fulfilling lives. In her community in New Delhi, she’s seen how a lack of knowledge about periods is holding women and girls back, as they can’t go about their daily lives as they would like. That’s why Seema is talking with women and girls about menstrual hygiene, including how to use sanitary pads and how to wash their hands properly. As a result, they are experiencing fewer infections and overcoming taboos such as the expectation to stay indoors during menstruation.
Wheels of Fortune in Burkina Faso
Mariam Diallo takes to her motorbike to help her community in Boucle du Mouhoun, stop the spread of disease. For too long, a lack of decent toilets has meant many people went to the toilet in the open, leading to a serious risk of illness. Now, thanks to your support, community volunteers like Mariam are hitting the road for hygiene, to share information about good sanitation, identify households that need a decent toilet, and oversee the construction of new facilities. With Mariam leading the way, her community can look to a future where no one is forced to relieve themselves outside.
Building hope in Nepal
In Dolakha, Nepal, Karna is chipping in to bring clean water from the mountains to people’s homes. Families trek for hours searching for water, leaving no time for farming or school, and also risk getting sick from dirty water. Thanks to support from WaterAiders like you, Karna and his community are working together to fight this injustice, laying foundations and digging trenches for their new water supply.
Soon, they’ll be able to focus on what matters – family, education and a better future. “Water is precious,” says Karna. “When the water is clean, we will be healthier.”
Your impact in action - some highlights from our work around the world
At home, thanks to you we reached:
+388,000 people with clean water, +232,000 people with toilets, +1,700,000 people with hygiene and handwashing
In schools, thanks to you we have reached:
+155,000 people with clean water, +100,000 people with toilets, +416,000 people with hygiene and handwashing
In hospitals, thanks to you, we have reached:
+1,600,000 people with clean water, +1,200,000 people with toilets, +6,900,000 people with handwashing and hygiene
So far we have reached:
We count people people who can now access hygiene through better facilities and when they have attended behavior change activities, such as hygiene education, three times