Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions and health outcomes in humanitarian crises

Added April 10, 2020

Citation: Ramesh A, Blanchet K, Ensink JH, Roberts B. Evidence on the effectiveness of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions on health outcomes in humanitarian crises: a systematic review. PloS ONE 2015; 10(9): e0124688

What is this? The COVID-19 pandemic, like other humanitarian crises, may leave people without proper access to clean water and soap. It is important to have reliable evidence on the effects of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions on health outcomes to inform decisions in such situations.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for quantitative studies on the effects of WASH interventions on health outcomes during humanitarian crises occurring from 1980 to 2014. They restricted their search to articles published in English or French between 1980 and 2013. They included 6 studies, all of which assessed the effects of point-of-use water quality interventions on diarrheal disease. Five studies were done in Sub-Saharan Africa and 1 was done in Latin America.

What was found: Point-of-use interventions focused on handwashing and provision of soap directly to households may be effective and cost-effective for controlling diarrhea.

Behaviour change and educational interventions should be considered in hygiene interventions.

Soap provision directly to households may improve health outcomes.

What’s uncertain: There is a lack of epidemiological evidence on the impact of WASH interventions in humanitarian crises, so their effects on health outcomes are uncertain.


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