Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Clean water changes the world.

Access to safe water saves lives. Yet every day, nearly 650 million people around the world are unable to access it. Without clean water, children and their families are at risk of life-threatening illnesses like Cholera and Typhoid. These health risks are amplified without access to toilets and sanitation facilities. But we’re working to change this.

Effective Sanitation and hygiene are essential to children’s health

Providing a community with access to clean water is the easiest way to prevent a whole host of illness and diseases.

Girls are particularly impacted by inadequate access to water and basic sanitation. They’re often the ones who are responsible for collecting clean water, and if they’re menstruating, poor facilities mean they are exposed to health complications and violence.

In communities without private and safe bathroom facilities, open defecation is often commonplace, which leads to infected water supplies and disease. Adding to this, inadequate hygiene practice like not washing hands with soap can lead to life-threatening illness.

Plan International work to provide clean water, the materials to build toilets and sanitation facilities. But we also work with communities to make sure they are used correctly and maintained, because providing toilets doesn’t guarantee people will use them.

By training community leaders, showing people how to build their own toilets, and teach children and their families about good hygiene practices like handwashing with soap, we’re creating change that lasts.

Currently, Plan International is working in schools and communities … to promote proper access to sanitation, water and soap, and proper hygiene practices.
  • Erick Hale, Senior WASH Officer in the Solomon Islands.

Water and sanitation affect a girl’s health, safety and education

We know that everyone is affected by inadequate access to clean water and safe sanitation. But young women and girls are particularly at risk.

In many countries, girls are responsible for spending large parts of the day finding and fetching water for their families, which keeps them out of school and puts them in danger of violence if they are out alone. The lack of private and decent sanitation facilities to manage their periods at school can also contribute to girls dropping out and permanently ending their education.

COVID-19 and other crises make sanitation and hygiene more important than ever

Practising good hygiene is the easiest way to provide the spread of illness and infection. In the face of COVID-19, access to water, soap and hygiene products has never been so important.

This is also true of extreme weather events such as floods or cyclones, which can cause water contamination and increase the spread of water-borne diseases. By making sure all communities are equipped with improved water and sanitation systems, and providing additional support during crises, we can keep more children safe.

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The nine-year-old protecting her community from COVID-19

A visual impairment didn’t detract nine-year-old Anisa from her mission: to protect her rural community in Solomon Islands from COVID-19.

Anisa and her brother Paul first heard about the coronavirus pandemic on a local radio program. After a village visit from Plan International’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) partner, Live and Learn Environmental Education, Anisa has become something of a public health advocate in her community.

Following Live & Learn’s community awareness and training session, Anisa’s father constructed handwashing facilities in the family home, much to Anisa’s excitement.

I have been washing my hands using a basin – sinking my hands into the basin. I’m really excited knowing that I have to wash my hands with soap under running water – that is something new for me. I will pass the same knowledge to my brother Paul who also has the same disability as myself.
  • Anisa, 9, Solomon Islands.

In fact, Anisa was so enthusiastic about her newfound skills that, with the help of her mother, she translated the handwashing information into the local language, and took to the community, teaching other children in the village about the importance of proper handwashing to prevent COVID-19.

After witnessing his daughter’s enthusiasm, Anisa’s father has been working with local community leaders to expand the hygiene awareness raising sessions to the wider community, with a special focus on how to increase access to handwashing facilities for people with special needs.

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