Access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services plays an important role in protecting the health, well-being, and resilience of individuals and communities around the world. WASH efforts have the potential to prevent 6.3% of deaths worldwide and 9.1% of the global disease burden, but 844 million people still don’t have clean water close to home, and 2.3 billion don’t have a decent toilet.
Every year, approximately 289,000 children under age 5 die from diarrheal diseases caused by poor-quality WASH. Approximately half of all undernutrition is not due to lack of food, but caused by infections from inadequate WASH.
Half of healthcare facilities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) lack access to piped water, 33% are without improved toilets, and 39% do not have facilities for washing hands with soap. This is a major global health security risk that directly contributes to the spread of diarrhea, pneumonia, and even Ebola — as well as other life-threatening infections. In developing countries, 15% of patients acquire at least one infection during a hospital stay, and sepsis is a leading cause of both maternal and neonatal mortality.
Health and development efforts are more effective and sustainable over the long term if they address WASH, including those related to maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), food security, nutrition, and other global health security issues.