Children use clean water from water storage built by World Vision in their school

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Emergencies

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Emergencies

No country is immune to disaster, both man-made and natural. In practically every emergency, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services are one of the most critical and immediate needs for the affected population. Interruptions in WASH systems and services can lead to outbreaks of diseases like diarrhoea and cholera that disproportionately impact children. Children younger than five in countries with protracted conflict are 20 times more likely to die from causes linked to unsafe water and sanitation than from direct violence.1  

In the early days of an emergency, World Vision focuses on providing immediate, life-saving WASH services in order to ensure survival of the most affected and most vulnerable children, families and communities. In the months following an emergency, we add programme activities that help communities recover and build back stronger than they were before. 

World Vision’s priority is to serve the most vulnerable by implementing programs to meaningfully impact their well-being. Through our programming, we actively strive to examine, question, and change harmful norms and power imbalances with the goal of better development outcomes. In 2021, $120.6 Million WASH funding was directed towards fragile and extremely fragile contexts. Key areas of progress included: expanding work in fragile contexts, deepening focus on the most vulnerable children, and promoting empowerment of women and people with disabilities.  

World Vision's Response 

Patrick washing his hands
Patrick washing his hands. Access to water, hygiene and sanitation improving education standards.


Approaches to WASH in emergencies vary widely according to need, culture, context and the nature of the disaster. However, during emergency situations World Vision staff always do the same thing first: listen to the WASH needs of affected people. Staff then respond by providing WASH services such as water sources, toilets, handwashing stations, bathing and laundry facilities, menstrual materials and more -  all designed in a culturally and contextually appropriate way. Staff also design and implement hygiene promotion activities to ensure children and their communities practice behaviours that prevent disease and keep them healthy. In all settings, we strive to provide services that are located and designed to meet the needs and safety concerns of vulnerable groups, including women and children and people with disabilities. 

World Vision doesn't do this alone but partners with governments, local organizations and corporations to ensure people get the safe water and proper sanitation and hygiene they need. Our staff also take part in technical working groups along with agencies like UNICEF and UNHCR to ensure our work is coordinated with other agencies on the ground. 

World Vision's 2021-2025 Global WASH Business Plan  defines our commitments, investments, and programmatic intentions for our work in water, sanitation and hygiene programming over the next five years. We are committed to increasing our work in fragile contexts.