Water and sanitation


Having fresh water and proper sanitation is at the very heart of escaping poverty in so many ways. Change someone’s access to these and you transform their whole life.

It makes so many other things possible: 

  • It means that a woman can make a ‘bathroom visit’ in the middle of the night without having to leave her village and risk being attacked. 
  • It means a child is able to concentrate at school.
  • It means that Rosemary doesn’t have to walk almost four miles every day to collect disease-ridden water from a crocodile-infested stretch of river after nearly 50 years. 
  • It means that, with proper hygiene training and safe toilet facilities too, someone is 43% less likely to contract a serious disease.

For any water and sanitation scheme to succeed long term, it needs to be ‘owned’ by the community itself


Since 1990, 2.6 billion people have gained access to an improved source of drinking water. Today, 663 million people – 1 in 10 – still drink water from unprotected sources. Tearfund supports the UN-led Sustainable Development Goals, which speak of everyone having access to safe water by 2030. 


For any water and sanitation scheme to succeed long term, it needs to be ‘owned’ by the community itself and not just produced for them with no involvement or consultation. If a community is actively involved in a project it will be actively involved in its proper use and upkeep. ‘Imposed’ building projects, without the buy-in of a community rapidly fall into disrepair, as looking after it is seen as ‘someone else’s job’.


Tearfund talks about what it calls WASH; four priorities that – taken together – make freedom from disease and poverty so much easier.

W is for Water: Ensuring people have a safe and reliable source. If possible we look for a clean source nearby, like a spring. Failing this, the other option is purifying an impure source.

A is for Advocacy: Encouraging communities to lobby for adequate provision from their governments and representatives.

S is for Sanitation: Ensuring the safe disposal of human waste. Crucially making sure that it is completely separate from the clean water source.

H is for Hygiene: Helping to promote good hygiene practices personally and in the home.

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Water and sanitation

Tearfund’s way of working in water and sanitation is to bring people together: churches, other charities, governments and businesses. Please give what you can to ensure this basic right is available to as many people as possible.

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About Tearfund

Tearfund's call is to follow Jesus where the need is greatest. We do whatever it takes to end poverty and rebuild poor communities.

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