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CDC at Work: Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions exist in a range of settings, from temporary refugee camps to permanent homes in large cities.

CDC’s global WASH program provides expertise and interventions aimed at saving lives and reducing illness by improving global access to healthy and safe water, adequate sanitation, and improved hygiene. The WASH program works on long-term prevention and control measures for improving health, reducing poverty, and improving socio-economic development as well as responding to global emergencies and outbreaks of life-threatening illnesses. These improvements reduce the lethal impact of WASH-related diseases ranging from cholera to typhoid fever to hepatitis.

CDC’s global WASH work is focused in six areas and involves partnerships with other US government agencies, Ministries of Health, non-governmental agencies, and various international agencies.

Storage jars from CDC's Safe Water System program at a mosque in Niger

Photo courtesy of D. Lantagne

Making Water Safe to Drink and Use

Promoting safe water through CDC’s Safe Water System (SWS), which allows individuals, health workers, and schoolteachers to treat and safely store water in homes, health facilities, and schools, and Water Safety Plans (WSPs), which identify water quality threats in community water systems and water utilities, while implementing solutions to those threats.

Chinese school children washing their hands at an outdoor washing station.

Photo courtesy of A. Bowen

Improving Hygiene and Sanitation

Improving the efficacy, sustainability, and integration of hygiene and sanitation interventions into communities and institutions, such as schools.

People in front of their homes in a refugee camp.

Photo courtesy of CDC Foundation

Responding to Complex International Emergencies and Outbreaks

Deploying emergency response and outbreak investigation teams at the request of foreign governments and U.N. agencies.

Borehole well in Sierra Leone.

Photo courtesy of S. Roy

Controlling and Eliminating Disease

Identifying WASH-related factors needed to control or eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) like Guinea worm disease, trachoma, and intestinal worm infections, which impact hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Epidemiologist tests a sample.

Photo courtesy of CDC Foundation

Identifying and Characterizing Disease

Investigating the causes of illness, such as diarrhea, to provide critical health data for decision making.

Microbiologist trains workers.

Photo courtesy of CDC Foundation

Educating and Training about Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

Developing model programs and materials for public health staff training and community health promotion.

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  1. Luby SP, et al. Effect of intensive handwashing promotion on childhood diarrhea in high-risk communities in Pakistan: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2005;291(21):2547-54.
  2. Luby SP, et al . Effect of handwashing on child health: A randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2005;366(9481):225-33.
  3. Bowen A, et al. A cluster-randomized controlled trial evaluating the effect of a handwashing-promotion program in Chinese primary schools. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2007;76(6):1166-73.
  4. WHO Collaborative Center for Research, Training, and Eradication of Dracunculiasis. Guinea worm wrap-up #194. Updated January 2012.

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