Poor water, sanitation and hygiene conditions cause nearly 90% of all deaths from diarrhoea, mainly in children.

Residents in crowded urban communities are exposed to serious health risks from inadequate facilities. In fact, child mortality in slums is higher than in other urban, or rural areas.

In overcrowded urban schools, diseases can spread fast.

Contamination from poorly managed sanitation rapidly spreads into the water system, moving the problem from one particular community and into the wider urban environment.

Even richer residents are not immune. In addition, Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of good handwashing and continuous water supply in defending against disease transmission.

Increasing access to safe water, improving management of sanitation waste and ensuring that people practice better hygiene can improve the health and well-being of the poorest urban residents.

People have realised that sanitation is more than just washing your hands, and having your waste deposited in the well, that there are criteria on how to wash your hands; and the results are encouraging.

Moises Chenene
Moisés Chenene, DirectorServiço Autónomo de Saneamento da Beira (SASB)

Protecting the most vulnerable against Covid-19

Continuous water supply and good hygiene are crucial lines of defence against the virus. We’re working with communities, service providers and governments to help tackle the crisis.

July 2021: Building urban resilience in the face of Covid-19: new video shows our hygiene work in Ghana and Kenya

Learn more about our Covid-19 response

Reducing health risks from poorly managed sanitation

In urban areas, large quantities of faecal waste are dumped illegally by informal providers, contaminating the environment and posing a public health risk. Affordable services for collecting and treating faecal waste results in cleaner and healthier communities and urban ecosystems.

February 2021: What does ‘quality’ sanitation mean in low-income urban areas?

February 2021: How can we ensure sanitation achieves health and quality of life outcomes in low-income areas?

Decreasing dependence on unsafe water

Untreated water can pose a serious threat to health and can be linked to diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. Increased access to safe water delivered as part of a regulated citywide service can help low-income residents to life healthier lives.

May 2020: Delegated Management Models: ensuring service delivery at a local level

Promoting behaviour change to improve health

Poor hygiene practices, such as not washing hands with soap, are major contributors to ill health and the spread of disease, particularly amongst children. Hygiene education and the promotion of handwashing with soap are highly cost-effective ways to prevent diseases.

October 2021: Strengthening hygiene and increasing access to water and sanitation services in Madagascar

January 2021: Education and Covid-19: Ensuring schools are safe through WASH facilities