Water and sanitation
Read caption Schoolgirls from Charsadda in Pakistan demonstrate their good hand washing techniques with soap during the Global Hand Washing Day. Photo: NRC/Shahzad Ahmad

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Safeguarding water to preserve good health.

For many displaced families, access to safe water and sanitation is a constant struggle.

Clean water is a basic human right. That's why our goal doesn’t waver: to protect displaced people from the threats posed by lack of water and sanitation, while respecting their individual and cultural needs.

People reached in 2015

Hygine promotion


people participated in training and campaigns.



people reached in 16 countries.

Water points


water points constructed or rehabilitated.

What is WASH?

For people living in displacement, disease prevention hinges upon access to clean water, culturally appropriate sanitation facilities, waste management and hygiene practices.

In a refugee camp, the simple practice of washing hands can prevent the rampant spread of disease. A well can save remote villagers an hour-long journey to find water.

Our WASH projects vary greatly, but they all follow the same principles. They are developed and implemented in consultation with the displacement-affected population. Our staff respects cultural, social and economic considerations, and understands the particular role that women play in their household's health.

Moreover, empowering and educating people living in displacement is critical for positive health and behavioural change, and plays an important role in our work.

We work to ensure that people can access water and sanitation facilities within – or right next to – their households, schools and communal institutions. It is important that our facilities provide the best possible security, and take people with disabilities into consideration. We support local people to build facilities with long-lasting and hygienic materials.

Our WASH work

In our work to protect displaced people from health risks, we use a combined “hardware” and “software” approach.

Hardware components include water supply and sanitation technologies, tailored for local contexts. Software activities, such as consulting the population and supporting their initiatives, promoting hygiene practices and running community campaigns, accompany all our technical work.

Our dedicated WASH teams work in 16 countries. In 2015, we reached more than 1.3 million people in many ways:

  • We provided emergency supplies of safe-to-drink water.
  • We helped families keep their water safe, no matter if it was stored in a bucket or comes from a tap.
  • We constructed communal, school and household latrines or toilets.
  • We distributed essential hygiene and cleaning materials.
  • We carried out waste management and recycling activities.