Written by Hannah Bain
CFK established its water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) initiatives in 2014, targeting households with expecting mothers and children under five and seeking to reduce the cases of diarrheal diseases in the community. The wide-reaching project spans our complementary programs, improving health, increasing access to quality education, and empowering girls and young women with accurate information.
In honor of Giving Tuesday 2020, we’re raising money for our WASH program, which has brought clean water and soap to approximately 1,000 households in Kibera this year. Continue reading to see why we believe in investing in WASH.
1.) It saves lives
Investing in WASH is one of the most effective ways to reduce preventable deaths. Every day, 2,195 children die from diarrheal diseases, which are the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five. Approximately 88% of these deaths are attributed to unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene. While WASH initiatives alone cannot completely address this tragedy, estimates indicate that diarrhea-related deaths could be cut in half if everyone washed their hands with soap and water.
Investments in WASH also help prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses, communicable diseases such as cholera, and respiratory infections such as COVID-19.
2.) It is a human right
In 2010, the United Nations recognized access to water and sanitation as human rights and classified them as “essential to the realization of all human rights.” Despite the decade-old declaration, about 2.2 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water, and more than half of the global population lacks access to safe sanitation services.
3.) It addresses various inequities
While many primarily view WASH as a health concern, access to water, sanitation, and hygiene also impacts social dynamics and economic opportunities.
For example, limited access to WASH disproportionately impacts women and girls. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls are often tasked with procuring water, cooking, and cleaning for their households, leaving them less time to attend school, hold a steady job, or develop relevant skills for work outside the home. Even when girls do attend school or have a job, lack of access to appropriate hygiene can force them to miss class or work during menstruation.
Though increasing access to WASH is not a simple solution to gender inequality, investments in WASH can help address part of the socio-economic issue by allowing women and girls to pursue greater opportunities.
4.) It has a high return on investment
WASH initiatives are typically cost-effective and feasible to implement in diverse environments around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every dollar invested in WASH services generates returns ranging from $5 to $46 USD due to decreased healthcare costs and increased productivity.
Worldwide, women and girls spend 200 million hours every day collecting water. Reducing the water burden allows these individuals to invest time into other activities such as school, work, and family care, which can improve long-term health outcomes and lead to greater economic opportunities.