Water, Sanitation, Hygiene
Action Against Hunger’s integrated approach to malnutrition involves extending water and sanitation services to communities faced with water scarcity, unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.
Many infections that lead to sickness, diarrhea, and ultimately, malnutrition stem from poor sanitation, reduced access to quality drinking water, and low awareness of hygiene practices or reduced capacity to implement such practices. A community’s health and well-being, therefore, requires a lasting supply of clean water and the knowledge of how to use and care for this properly.
Unfortunately, an estimated 1.5 billion people lack access to clean water while a staggering 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. This results in some 3.6 million deaths each year, mostly among children — deaths that can easily be prevented through proven, cost-effective measures.
Action Against Hunger has developed its water and sanitation expertise over three decades of field work, advancing a number of solutions for populations at risk from water insecurity. We truck water into affected communities during emergencies, decontaminate wells, and install hand-pumps. Employing sophisticated geophysics, we are able to locate water resources and tap aquifers. We protect natural springs and pipe water into villages and health centers. And we rehabilitate damaged infrastructure to ensure access to adequate sources of clean water. Our ability to deliver clean water is central to our comprehensive solutions to hunger and malnutrition.
How we provide access to safe water
A primary concern of Action Against Hunger’s projects is to facilitate the provision of, and access to, safe drinking water. We do this by:
- Trucking water during emergencies until permanent sources can be established
- Cleaning contaminated water sources
- Installing water storage tanks and above-ground reservoirs
- Drilling new wells (that require buckets) and boreholes (that require pumps)
- Tapping and preserving springs
- Improving and installing local sanitation systems, including drainage networks and latrines
- Improving and installing irrigation systems
- Creating hygienic bathing facilities where infrastructure has been damaged by natural disaster or warfare
Prioritising sanitation, health and hygiene
Sanitation, health, and hygiene programmes are of equal importance. Entire communities can become ill if hygiene is neglected. Outbreaks of cholera and dysentery, for example, frequently attack communities that drink and wash with contaminated water and can lead to infectious diseases that cause excessive diarrhea, dehydration, and can complicate malnutrition. In response, Action Against Hunger builds latrines and bathhouses, and introduces basic sanitation infrastructure to keep communities hygienic.
A recent report written by the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Water and Sanitation: Health, Dignity, and Development finds:
“that 2.6 billion people around the world are forced to defecate in plastic bags, buckets, open pits, agricultural fields, and public areas in their communities this should generate a collective outcry for immediate, concerted efforts to expand access to improved sanitation facilities.”
Sustainable programmes: extending lasting solutions
Our programmes’ long-term benefits, however, would be hard to sustain without our commitment to community participation. Developing and extending water and sanitation services involves much more than quick fixes. To sustain water and sanitation improvements, a community-centered approach is central to building local capacity and encouraging a population’s sense of ownership creating new energy and resources. By organising and training community-based water committees, we ensure local commitment to managing and maintaining the systems we rehabilitate and install. In our campaign to eliminate hunger, clean water is as essential as food, but only the cultivation of local know-how can ensure its sustainability.
While the scale of global need is truly daunting, we know how to extend water and sanitation improvements, how to instill better hygiene practices, and how to teach populations to manage these resources themselves. Action Against Hunger’s programmes alone reach nearly 4 million people each year; reinforcing these efforts is one way to improve conditions for vulnerable communities around the world — populations whose lack of water leaves them vulnerable to daily indignities and appalling rates of death and debilitation.