Nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean water, which causes hardship, disease and death.
The impact on children is particularly tragic. Each year 1.4 million die as a result of diarrhea, according to the World Health Organization. Most cases of diarrhea are attributable to polluted water and poor sanitation.
In 2009, ChildFund Zambia pilot tested the “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Improvement Training Package for the Prevention of Diarrheal Disease” developed by USAID. The goal was to get more field staff up to speed on
- Making water safe to drink: discussing different methods of turning dirty water into safe, drinkable water for different communities.
- Hand washing: explaining how hands carry germs and encouraging correct hand-washing procedures. (Today, by the way, is Global Handwashing Day.)
- Handling human waste: explaining how improper disposal leads to contamination and offering suggestions for improving specific community conditions.
- Facilitating interpersonal communication: identifying the need for better communication between families and community members on water, health and sanitation issues.
“The WASH program is classic evidence-based best practice that we want our projects to adopt and use worldwide,” says David Shanklin, senior health specialist for ChildFund.
When applied in school settings, WASH interventions—including gender-specific sanitation facilities, hygiene education and safe drinking water—support child health, which furthers educational access and attainment.
The way up and out of poverty can begin with a reliable source of clean water, good hygiene and sanitation. It’s a powerful concept and worthy of our ongoing support so that children can thrive.