“WASH” does not sound very cool.
It’s true. The industry-standard acronym for water access, sanitation, and hygiene, WASH, is not an easy concept to work with for designers, marketers, or anyone from a region where it’s pronounced “woursh.” “Water” by itself is so much simpler to illustrate and understand (even in Boston, where it’s “watah”).
But water is only part of the story.
It’s true that the use of safe water makes a huge difference in reducing preventable, water-borne disease – about a 21% reduction – which means it saves hundreds of children’s lives every day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), when water is used alongside appropriate sanitation (usually pit latrines) and hygiene practices (like washing hands), disease can be reduced by 65%. In Lifewater’s experience, the reduction is even higher. In some communities, preventable water-borne disease is practically eradicated!
It makes sense. Clean water that’s put in dirty containers is not clean water anymore. Preparing meals with safe water but dirty hands doesn’t stop the spread of disease. Open defecation leads to contaminated water and dirty hands, feet, and households. If we really care about the whole health of people and stopping water-borne disease, water, sanitation, and hygiene must be addressed together. When communities hear this, they respond, often using their own resources, and helping neighbors, to do things that will help them and their children stay healthy.
Not only is Lifewater providing wells to communities, but we’re also investing in the structure that will make the the water from those wells the most effective in actually making more people healthier. We’re investing in training the community why and how to build their own latrines from locally available materials. We’re investing in teaching leaders, teachers, and children how practices like hand-washing, keeping water containers clean, and drying dishes properly can prevent disease transmission. We’re investing in training a committee (selected by the community) to maintain and, when necessary, repair the well.
By doing this, we are maximizing the awesomeness of water.
WASHomeness. Dang, that’s pretty cool.