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

Fact Sheets: CDC’s Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Program Overview pdf icon[PDF – 1 page]
CDC’s Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Program Impact pdf icon[PDF – 1 page]

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.

Making Water Safe to Drink and Use
Storage jars from CDC's Safe Water System program at a mosque in Niger
Photo courtesy of D. Lantagne

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. 

Improving Hygiene and Sanitation
Chinese school children washing their hands at an outdoor washing station.
Photo courtesy of A. Bowen

Improving the efficacy, sustainability, and integration of hygiene and sanitation interventions into communities and institutions, such as schools. Visit the healthywater hygiene site to learn more about hygiene programs

Improving Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) in Healthcare Facilities
nurse washing hands in sink

Improving access to safe water, improved sanitation, sufficient hygiene infrastructure (WASH), and adequate waste management in healthcare facilities in order to improve access to quality healthcare.

Responding to Complex International Emergencies and Outbreaks
People in front of their homes in a refugee camp.
Photo CDC Foundation

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


Controlling and Eliminating Disease
Borehole well in Sierra Leone.
Photo courtesy of S. Roy

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.

Identifying and Characterizing Disease
Epidemiologist tests a sample.
Photo CDC Foundation

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

Educating and Training about Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
Microbiologist trains workers.
Photo CDC Foundation

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

CDC Establishes Command Center in Response to Hurricane Matthew

On October 3, 2016, as Haiti braced itself for the onslaught of Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 hurricane, DGHP’s Emergency Response and Recovery Branch (ERRB) swung into action. For the first time the team activated the Incident Management System (IMS) of ERRB’s Operations Room to support the agency’s Hurricane Matthew international response efforts.

The Consequences of Contaminated Water

Since the emergence of cholera, Haiti has reported about 805,000 suspected cases and nearly 9,500 deaths. In 2016 alone, Haiti reported 41,421 suspected cholera cases and 447 cholera deaths.

Everyone Needs Somewhere to Go: World Toilet Day 2016

We use toilets every day – at home, school, and work – yet 40% of the world’s population does not have this luxury.  Clean and safe toilets are more than just a place to use the restroom.  They are essential for health, human dignity, and improved education.