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Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

Better WASH interventions and increased access to safe WASH resources improve health outcomes for mothers, newborns, and children at home and in healthcare settings.

Thomas Cristofoletti/USAID

Despite long-standing investments in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions, the latest global estimates show that 785 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, and 2 billion do not have access to basic sanitation services.1  

  • Lack of access to or unsafe WASH services can lead to poor health outcomes for mothers, newborns, and children at home and when seeking care at health facilities.2
  • Worldwide, more than 1 million deaths each year are associated with births lacking clean practices such as clean hands, clean delivery surfaces, and clean cord care.
  • Infections account for 26 percent of newborn deaths and 11 percent of maternal deaths that occur while a woman is pregnant or during or shortly after childbirth.
  • About 88 percent of diarrhea-associated deaths are attributed to unsafe WASH resources.
  • In children under the age of five, diarrheal diseases remain one of the leading causes of death.

Better WASH interventions and increased access to safe WASH resources improve health outcomes for mothers, newborns, and children at home and in healthcare settings. In health care facilities, for example, improved handwashing and clean surfaces reduced the risk of infections for infants and mothers during and after childbirth by up to 25 percent.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, access to safe WASH resources has become more critical than ever. Without appropriate WASH infrastructure and services, women, children, health care workers, and communities are at higher risk of contracting infectious diseases, like the COVID-19 virus.

Promoting proper handwashing with soap and improved cleaning practices support health care workers to perform appropriate infection prevention and control (IPC) practices, helping prevent the development and spread of infections.

MOMENTUM’s Approach

MOMENTUM aims to increase access to safe water and sanitation resources and encourage proper hygiene behaviors by working with a variety of partners, including water and sanitation service providers, public, private, and faith-based health systems, local and regional government authorities, donors, and local NGOs. Multisector approaches linking the health and private sectors in addressing WASH are essential to improving conditions and ensuring WASH infrastructure remains operational for the long-term. We also work with other global partners to develop global guidance on essential hygiene behaviors to prevent the spread of infections.

Improve health care facility readiness

MOMENTUM is working with ministries of health, health institutions, and health providers to:

  • Improve the quality of infection prevention and control practices, including reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases;
  • Enhance facility readiness by assessing WASH in health care facilities, establishing quality improvement protocols, and strengthening training and on-the-job mentorship for health workers; and
  • Provide district-level monitoring, infrastructure, and supply chain support to health facilities to improve WASH interventions.
Mubeen Siddiqui/MCSP

Facilitate a gender-transformative approach

Because women and girls are often the most likely to experience the negative effects of poor WASH conditions, they must be a part of community-based solutions for better health and hygiene. MOMENTUM employs a gender-transformative approach to equip women through water security, sanitation, and hygiene programs.

This approach includes:

  • Helping women become part of community water committees;
  • Ensuring gender is integrated in WASH policies and programs, such as training that acknowledges both men’s and women’s role in managing animal and human waste, cleaning toilets, and collecting water; and
  • Integrating menstrual health and hygiene into WASH programs through sensitization and capacity building of health facility- and community-based health workers so that girls and young women manage menstruation in a positive manner.
Morgana Wingard/USAID

References

  1. Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017. Special focus on inequalities. New York: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization, 2019. https://www.unicef.org/media/55276/file/Progress%20on%20drinking%20water,%20sanitation%20and%20hygiene%202019%20.pdf
  2. Benova L, Oliver Cumming, Oona R.R. Campbell. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Association between water and Sanitation Environment and Maternal Mortality. 2014. Tropical Medicine and Internal Health, pp368-386. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/tmi.12275
  3. Water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities: practical steps to achieve universal access. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/311618/9789241515511-eng.pdf
  4. Water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities: practical steps to achieve universal access. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/311618/9789241515511-eng.pdf
  5. Global Diarrhea Burden. Diarrhea: Common Illness, Global Killer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/diarrhea-burden.html#five
  6. Diarrhoea. UNICEF. October 2020. https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-health/diarrhoeal-disease/
  7. Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Knowledge Summary #30. Water, sanitation and hygiene – the impact on RMNCH*. 2014. https://www.who.int/pmnch/knowledge/publications/summaries/ks30.pdf?ua=1

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