Water and hygiene
No clean water or sanitary facilities. That is the bitter reality for billions of people worldwide. As a result, they suffer from illnesses that are life-threatening, especially for children. The SRC works to provide clean drinking water and promote hygiene, as prerequisites for a healthy life.
When drinking water makes you ill
Over two billion people have no clean water to drink. More than half the world’s population have no access to sanitary facilities, such as toilets or latrines, and two billion have no access to clean water. This is dangerous and causes diarrhoea, dermatitis, eye diseases and parasites. Millions of people, especially children, die every year from these diseases.
Access to water is often non-existent
In rural regions of poorer countries, people either get their drinking water from dirty ponds or rivers, or they have to carry it from distant wells or other sources. Sometimes the wells are even contaminated with natural toxins, such as arsenic in Bangladesh. There is often a lack of toilets, which also leads to a contaminated water supply in many places.
Human development in danger
Clean water and sanitary facilities are vital not only to health, but to human life in general. Clean water has an impact on economic growth, educational opportunities, the environment and human development as a whole.
Water is essential not only to health, but also to poverty reduction, food security, peace and human rights, ecosystems and education.
The SRC is committed to giving as many people as possible access to clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. Our projects aim to improve people’s health. We work in partnership with other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to reduce poverty and vulnerability.
In doing so, we also support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals ‘No poverty’, ‘Good health and well-being’ and ‘Clean water and sanitation’.
UN global goals
What we do
The SRC runs long-term water and hygiene projects in 14 countries. We help the local population build wells and water collection tanks. We provide simple outhouse latrines to improve local hygiene. We improve irrigation of vegetable gardens and support the introduction of filter and decontamination systems for clean water.
We adopt a holistic approach: as we expand the water supply and waste water facilities, we promote better hygiene.
Our projects distinguish between drinking water and waste water. We want to make more, better water available, because this has a major impact on health. We work hard to reduce pollution, waste and the discharge of hazardous chemicals and other materials.
We build sanitation facilities so that people no longer have to relieve themselves outside. This is important for privacy and dignity, especially for women and girls. A proper toilet also protects health, as diseases such as cholera or diarrhoea are less likely to spread.
By promoting good hygiene, the SRC prevents the spread of disease. One of the most effective examples is good hand hygiene. Washing hands with soap stops the spread of viruses and bacteria. And that helps contain diseases such as cholera, COVID-19 and diarrhoea.
Hygiene for women and girls
Our projects always focus on women’s needs. In many societies, the women are responsible for water-related tasks. They fetch and store water, cook, clean and look after the sanitary facilities.
The lack of sanitary and hygiene facilities particularly affects the dignity and social development of women and girls, who have specific hygiene needs such as during menstruation.
For stronger girls: insight into our work in Laos
Facts and figures
provided with access to safe drinking water by the SRC
worldwide now have better access to clean water and hygiene
provided with access to a latrine thanks to our support
THE EXAMPLE OF COVID-19
The example of COVID-19
The pandemic has shown us how important it is to regularly wash our hands to protect human health. But unfortunately, not everyone has access to soap and water. To prevent infection and the spread of COVID‑19, access to clean water, sanitary facilities and hygiene services must be improved worldwide.
Water and hygiene: 3 stages
Our work is divided into three stages: disaster relief, reconstruction and development cooperation. Water and hygiene play a major role in human health at every stage.
Insights into our projects
I have seen just how much of a burden it is on women to have to fetch a bucket of water. It’s really impressive and made me aware of just how important it is to have access to clean water.
Sarah van Berkel, SRC ambassador
Where we help
The SRC is running long-term water and hygiene projects in 17 countries.
Our project countries
World map.The Swiss Red Cross project countries are highlighted in red. Here is the full list: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malawi, Nepal, North Macedonia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Togo.
Your support is important
Help us respond to emergencies
Your donation can help us provide emergency aid after a disaster and support projects for vulnerable people.