Across the globe, more than two billion people lack access to clean drinking water, safe sanitation, or proper sanitation. The results can be deadly.
W.A.S.H. (an acronym for WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene) provides essential services to help prevent infectious disease, improve the quality of life, and prolong life expectancy. WASH provides expertise and resources through government agencies, nonprofit organizations, such as Thirst Relief International, international agencies, and the private sector to empower communities, schools, healthcare providers, and organizations.
Why Is WASH Important?
Every day, over 700 children under age five die from diarrhoeal diseases due to the lack of WASH services. In addition, an estimated 20 million people worldwide suffer from typhoid fever each year—a highly contagious disease spread through contaminated food, unsafe water, and poor sanitation. And those are just two of the deadly consequences.
The impact of not having WASH services is detrimental to a large number of people. But they’re not just statistics. They’re people with loved ones, hopes, and dreams.
Most of these deaths occur in underdeveloped, impoverished countries, where funding to improve these conditions is unavailable through governmental agencies for various reasons.
Lack of access to WASH also prevents many adults from earning a living or fulfilling their potential in the professional arena. Conversely, access to WASH can potentially free adults, particularly women, to do more productive activities.
Access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene are public health issues. The WASH program has long-range implications for improving health, reducing poverty, and improving socio-economic development. To accomplish those goals, WASH focuses on three primary areas.
Clean water is something that many of us take for granted. Yet, no living thing can exist without clean water. Humans need clean water to drink, grow food, and care for livestock.
In addition to the threat of disease, not having access to clean water also results in other hardships. Often women and children must sacrifice attending school or work to travel to get water for the family, posing safety risks.
Thirst Relief International provides various sustainable and cost-effective solutions to ensure that clean water is available to people worldwide, including BioSand filters, Bore Wells, Stand Taps, well repair, and rainwater harvesting tanks.
A lack of hygienic sanitation is a major cause of life-threatening diseases, including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, diarrhea, worm infestation, and malnutrition. In addition, open defecation in fields, forests, open bodies of water, or traditional pit latrines contaminates underground water tables.
Ecosan toilets, built with interlocking stabilized soil blocks (ISSB), are another Thirst Relief International project that delivers sanitation solutions. Ecosan latrines contain waste in an above-ground collection tank, keeping people free from contact with unsanitary water.
Another advantage of ISSB is that it provides jobs for local populations. With the purchase of additional tools, laborers can start building square or round homes, small buildings, ecosan toilet buildings, and other small structures.
One in three people around the world lacks basic hand washing facilities at home.
For many people living in rural, underdeveloped areas, the importance of handwashing is not understood or embraced. Moreover, handwashing is not a priority in areas where water is not readily available, adding to the spread of diarrhea and other diseases, which is why it’s essential to provide education on handwashing.
WASH in Schools
The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (JMP) expanded its global databases to include WASH in schools, including tracking ‘basic’ drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools. As a result, substantial progress ensures that schools meet clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene standards.
WASH in Healthcare Facilities
The WASH program is critical for infection prevention and control, patient safety, and child and maternal health, particularly child delivery. It’s essential for quality healthcare services and a crucial factor for reducing maternal mortality and under-five and neonatal mortality.
How You Can Help
While most of the people in need of the WASH program are in other parts of the world, there are ways that everyone can help. Make a personal donation or hold a fundraiser in your business or community group. As little as $100 can place a BioSand filter in the home of someone struggling to get clean water.