Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Our WASH approach

Extreme weather caused by climate change is increasingly affecting people’s access to clean and safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. When access to clean water and sanitation falters, people are more likely to fall ill or experience poverty.

Self Help Africa’s merger with United Purpose expanded how and where we work to improve access to WASH facilities. We are implementing WASH projects and activities with communities across Africa, as well as in Bangladesh and Brazil.

Self Help Africa supports governments and authorities as they strengthen their countries’ WASH systems. We support community-based and private service providers alike, and believe this is the best way to ensure communities have the WASH services they need in the long-term. Self Help Africa is also supporting the development of markets for WASH products and services, making it easier for people to access the tools they need to maintain good hygiene and water practices in the future.

Our WASH work in action

We take a ‘community-led total sanitation’ approach, supporting communities to identify and solve their own sanitation problems. We use sports, music and communication technologies to share important health messages.

To maximise impact, we integrate our WASH approach into our broader work with communities.  For example, nutrition messages are often included in our WASH behaviour change activities, while our WASH in schools programme can have a nutrition component, such as with our school nutrition gardens in Bangladesh.

Strengthening WASH systems

Working with local governments, we identify and overcome barriers to sustainable, inclusive, area-wide WASH services. 

In Nigeria and Malawi, we have worked with local authorities to develop strategic, district-wide WASH plans. In Mozambique, we have given technical support and quality assurance to donors and the Government. In Nigeria, our long-term support to the Government’s open defecation free (ODF) strategy has benefited more than 1.7 million people and led to the first Local Government Area in the country becoming ODF.

Market-based approaches are increasingly key to our WASH work, too. The aim is to help increase access to WASH products and services, and create WASH-related jobs.

Increasing WASH inclusion and social accountability

In many countries, there are still gaping disparities in access to adequate WASH services. To help address that, we build processes that hold governments and WASH service providers to account. We also work with communities seeking to advocate better access to WASH services. In Brazil, for example, we’re supporting communities in low-income urban areas through rights-based approaches – sharing our knowledge and expertise so they then feel better able to advocate access to the services they need. 

Gender equality is at the heart of all our WASH work. Access to water and sanitation is essential to women and girls’ social and economic development. We’ve improved gender-friendly WASH facilities in schools. Our work on tackling taboos and practices in menstrual hygiene management, through local sanitary pad manufacture, behaviour change work and community dialogue, has benefitted thousands of women and girls, including in Malawi and Nigeria. 

We are a proud member of key WASH networks such as the Rural Water Supply Network and the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance. We also serve on the steering committee of the UK WASH Network.

Read our WASH capacity statement

WASH capacity statement front cover