WASH + Emergencies
Why does WASH matter in Emergencies?
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are critical for survival in the first phase of an emergency. People affected by humanitarian crises, such as natural disasters or displaced by conflict, are generally at a much higher risk of illness and death from disease. Inadequate access to WASH infrastructure and poor and crowded living conditions will exacerbate this risk. The most important diseases are those diarrhoeal and infectious diseases transmitted by the faecal oral route, but also includes those transmitted by vectors associated with poor sanitation, waste management and drainage.
The normal WASH response in emergencies is to ensure good hygiene practices, provide safe drinking water and toilet facilities and to improve the living conditions of the affected population to allow them to live in good health, with dignity and security. Simply providing sufficient water and sanitation facilities will not guarantee that they will be used effectively or have a positive impact on public health. It is critical that communities have the necessary knowledge and understanding to prevent WASH related diseases and are included in the process of designing and maintaining those facilities.
The Environmental Health Group works with governments, international agencies and private partners to research and evaluate how WASH interventions and projects can strengthen the evidence base, inform international WASH policy and practice and to ultimately reduce the burden of disease in emergencies.
Key research and contributions to this area:
Water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions can interrupt diarrhoeal disease transmission and reduce the burden of morbidity and mortality associated with faecal-oral infections. We know that rapid response of effective WASH infrastructure and services can prevent or lessen the impact of diarrhoeal outbreaks that can exacerbate the human suffering accompanying humanitarian crises. We know that providing safe water, safe excreta disposal, and basic hygiene measures such as hand washing with soap are effective interventions both within emergency settings as well as in longer-term development, but innovation and further research are needed to make WASH response more effective.
Current research in this area:
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Publications related to WASH and Emergencies:
- Morgan, O; Ahern, M; Cairncross, S; Revisiting the tsunami: health consequences of flooding. PLoS medicine, 2005; 2 (6). e184.
- Clasen, T; Smith, L; Albert, J; Bastable, A; Fesselet, J; The drinking water response to the Indian Ocean tsunami, including the role of household water treatment. Disaster Prevention & Management, 2006; 15 (1). pp. 190-201.
- Clasen T, Boisson S. Household-based ceramic water filters for the treatment of drinking water in disaster response: An assessment of a pilot programme in the Dominican Republic. Water Practice & Technology. 2006; 1 (2).
- Brown J, Cavill S, Cumming O, Jeandron A. Water, sanitation, and hygiene in emergencies: summary review and recommendations for further research. Waterlines. 2012;31(1-2):11-29