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Submitted by on Sep 7, 2020

WASH (or Watsan, WaSH) is an abbreviation for water, sanitation and hygiene. Universal, affordable and sustainable access to WASH is a key public health issue in international development and is at the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6). SDG 6 aims to ensure equitable and affordable water and sanitation for all, while Target 6.2 specifically mentions women and girls.

Some international development agencies say that focusing on WASH can also improve health, life expectancy, student learning, gender equality, and other important international development issues. Access to WASH includes safe water, adequate hygiene and sanitation education. This can reduce morbidity and mortality, as well as reduce poverty and improve social and economic development.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that “one in three people, or 2.4 billion, still lacks sanitation,” while 663 million people still lack access to safe, clean drinking water. In 2017, that estimate changed: 2.3 billion people lack sanitation and 844 million people lack access to safe and clean drinking water.

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Around 700,000 children die of diarrhea every year due to lack of sanitation, mostly in developing countries. Chronic diarrhea can have long-term negative consequences for children in terms of both physical and cognitive development. In addition, the lack of WASH facilities can prevent students from attending school, impose an unusual burden on women, and reduce work productivity.

The WASH groups concept integrating with water supply, sanitation and hygiene, as the impact of deficiencies in each area overlaps strongly. Addressing these deficiencies together can have a powerful positive impact on public health.

The 2008 International Year of Sanitation has helped to increase the focus on financing for sanitation in many WASH donor programs. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been increasing funding for sanitation projects since 2009 with a focus on excreta reuse. Since 1990, the WHO / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene has regularly assessed estimates of global progress in WASH. The JMP was responsible for monitoring Millennium Development Goal Target 7.C (MDG), which aims to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”. This has been superseded by the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, where Goal 6 aims to “ensure accessibility and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

The JMP is currently responsible for tracking progress towards SDG 6 Targets focused to improve WASH service standards, including target 6.1) “by 2030, ensure universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”; and Target 6.2) “by 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable hygiene and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations”.

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