When the acronym WASH is used in discussing international development it means increasing access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. It might be confusing why Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene are grouped together. What does water have to do with toilets and hand washing? How does the lack of these basics affect the world population?
The cause tying the three topics together is preventable illness. In developing countries 80% of diseases are caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation . One of these diseases in particular, diarrhoeal disease, causes 2.5 million deaths each year of which 760,000 are children . As a result, water and WASH programmes are more about preventing illness than they are about combating thirst.
WASH programmes have evolved over the years. In the past more emphasis was put on clean drinking water than on sanitation and hygiene. This emphasis on clean water led the world to meet the 2015 UN development goal of giving 88% of the world access to clean water. However, the world missed the goal of giving 75% of the world access to basic sanitation. As of 2011 only 63% of the world population had access to improved sanitation and 2.4 billion people worldwide still do not have access to basic sanitation .
WASH programmes are especially needed in Asia. According to the UN Water Facts and Trends, 670 million people in Asia are without access to improved drinking water sources and 1.9 billion people in Asia are without improved sanitation. In Southeast Asia 8.5% of deaths each year are caused by diarrhoeal disease.
A good place to learn more about WASH programmes and water development is the UN Water Facts and Trends. Lien AID develops and implements community-based sustainable clean water programmes in Asia, which you can learn more about here.