Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

WASH for healthy lives, livelihoods and resilience

Since 2009, we have reached more than five million people with safe water access, and more than one million households have built toilets following our interventions. WASH is key to our work and reinforces our mission by improving the health, livelihoods and resilience of the communities we serve.

Our merger with United Purpose

In 2021, Self Help Africa merged with United Purpose, an NGO with a similar mission and vision. The milestone moment expanded our reach to new countries in Africa as well as Bangladesh and Brazil, and brought new expertise to our joint organisation – making us stronger and more effective as we face the many challenges confronting disadvantaged communities worldwide.

Our union has created exciting opportunities to expand our WASH portfolio, specialising in integrated approaches relevant to the contexts we work within, such as WASH-agriculture, to achieve our organisational vision.

Our WASH vision and objectives

We believe everyone should be able to access resilient water, sanitation and hygiene services that help support sustainable livelihoods and healthy lives in a changing climate.

With this in mind, our three interconnecting objectives for WASH are:

  • Contributing to universal, sustainable WASH services and practices in communities and public institutions, leading to health lives and contributing to the targets of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 (ensuring access to water and sanitation for all)
  • Reinforcing and creating sustainable livelihoods from WASH value chains and using WASH ‘outputs’ as inputs for sustainable agriculture
  • Strengthening communities’ resilience to a changing climate and other shocks and disasters, and responding to those disasters where appropriate and needed

Our WASH objectives and themes

During the next five years, we'll help at least two million people improve their sustainable access to safe drinking water and at least basic sanitation services.

To achieve our WASH vision and objectives, we'll focus on six interconnected themes.

Wash themes

We work in diverse contexts. In each country, we have specific WASH-sectoral (and wider organisational) niches, comparative advantages and focus areas. This means the themes we focus on will vary by country and we do not seek to work across all themes in all countries.

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 inclusion and social accountability in WASH service delivery

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. 

Through United Purpose, 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.