Access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is one of the key challenges of the 21st century. Worldwide more than 900 million people live without access to water, while over 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. The situation is demeaning to the dignity of those affected and progress towards improvements is slow; so slow, in fact, that the relevant Millennium Development Goal ranks amongst the most off-track.
Without having access to WASH, societies cannot break the vicious cycle of disease and poverty; more than half of hospital beds in Sub-Saharan Africa are occupied by patients suffering from sanitation and water related diseases. Lack of WASH causes high rates of infant and child mortality under the age of five; more than 4000 lives are lost per day, killing over five times more than HIV/AIDS and twice as many as malaria. The situation causes 194,000,000 lost school days per year and high rates of school drop-outs amongst girls when they reach puberty. Due to all of the above, a WHO survey shows that each dollar invested in WASH yields a return of between 3 and 34 Euros depending upon the region and country. Furthermore WASH-security helps to curb conflicts over limited resources like water and fertile land. Water, sanitation and hygiene is therefore a foundation for socio-economic development.