accessibility & help

What is water and sanitation?

Hygiene promotion in Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis© InfoDrinking water is the most basic need of all, but in the wake of a disaster or conflict clean water can be hard to come by. People may have to travel long distances or buy water at great expense. Where this is the case, people often end up drinking contaminated water instead.

Traditional water sources may have been destroyed and poor living conditions can lead to human waste in the water supply. This, coupled with poor hygiene practices, can be a deadly combination. People are already vulnerable and falling ill with a water-borne disease can make them unable to sustain their livelihood and can sometimes result in death.

Our recovery programmes help ensure that people have access to drinking water and are able to live in sanitary conditions. Ensuring that clean water sources are available, installing latrines and promoting hygiene are all ways in which we help to do this.

Improving facilities

As with all our recovery work, we will build upon the facilities which already exist locally. For instance, where rainwater has been traditionally collected and stored in ponds, we will make the ponds usable and safe again.

We help people benefitting from Red Cross shelter projects to build a latrine in their new home. Local artisans will be trained to create the parts and we will provide the resources. Advice on building latrines is shared within the community, encouraging other people to build their own too.

Locally driven

We ask that the community creates a group to drive forward and support our work. This group will provide local knowledge and help identify the people who are most vulnerable or who have skills that may be useful.

We train a male and female member of the group in hygiene promotion, so that they can spread life-saving information throughout the community. We first ask local people about current hygiene practices; when health messages are tailored to the local culture, people are more likely to adopt new practices.

We also work to introduce the community to local government agencies who can provide support once the Red Cross programme has finished.

Read about water and sanitation work in Bangladesh after Cyclone Alia


Recovery stories

Johnny helped to dig drainage canals in Haiti’s Automeca camp.