Oxfam aims to address the disparity in water and sanitation coverage that exists - nearly 800 million people lack access to water and 2.5 billion to sanitation. In 35 countries we are working on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects that integrate sustainable and local innovation to meet the needs of the poorest. Oxfam believes everyone including the most marginalised have a right to safe water and sanitation as a basic essential service, and advocates for development of pro-poor policies that eliminate inequality that underlie the water management policies that
exacerbate water scarcity.
In Oxfam terms, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Promotion (WASH) incorporates:
- Water: water supply for human consumption and household needs, as well as for crops and livestock needs where appropriate.
- Sanitation: excreta disposal; solid waste management; drainage; vector control.
- Hygiene Promotion: community mobilisation; health data monitoring; information, education and communication (IEC); and hygiene kit distribution.
In addition to its disaster response mandate, Oxfam prioritises a preventative approach to public health, improving WASH conditions and consequentially addressing poverty reduction and quality of life.
Oxfam has WASH programmes in over 35 countries worldwide, and works in rural and urban areas, in camps for refugees and internally-displaced persons, and amongst host communities.
Our work covers the diversity of contexts in which people are vulnerable to WASH-related disease and under-development:
- Acute and cyclical natural disasters (earthquakes, flooding, tropical cyclones and hurricanes)
- Slow onset emergencies (e.g. drought)
- Conflict and political unrest
- Complex situations encompassing a mixture of these factors, such as urban slums
Read more about Oxfam's approach to WASH in our Technical Briefing Notes.
While much of Oxfam's profile in WASH is within its humanitarian programmes, significant amounts of longer-term work take place in many countries focusing on a range of issues including:
- Water resource management
- Agricultural irrigation
- New water supply consortia models
- Advocacy and campaigning
We also recognise the links between WASH and other areas of work, for example education.
This reflects the growing recognition of the central role that schools can play as catalysts for change within their wider community, as well as how poor hygiene and WASH facilities can negatively impact on a child's ability to go to school and their educational performance.