Our Work

Water, Sanitation & Hygiene

Providing adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services is a key public health challenge in today’s world. Access to safe and sufficient water and improved sanitation as well as maintaining good hygiene is crucial to human health, well-being, dignity and development. International Medical Corps works to provide these most basic human needs no matter how challenging the conditions. With hundreds of thousands of deaths each year caused by unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and insufficient hygiene practices, International Medical Corps prioritizes the prevention of WASH-related diseases as part of our comprehensive approach to health interventions. In doing this we focus on the following key areas:

  • The provision and improvement of reliable, safe and clean water access
  • The provision and improvement of sanitation
  • The promotion of safe hygiene practices

International Medical Corps implements WASH projects across a range of settings including communities, refugee camps, schools and health facilities. We work throughout the disaster cycle, during the initial emergency relief, through the recovery phase and into development, responding to natural disasters, disease outbreaks such as cholera and Ebola, mass population movement as a result of conflict and other complex emergencies. Throughout all of our programs, we actively engage communities and relevant authorities in the development and implementation of sustainable WASH interventions.

783 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion are without even basic sanitation facilities
Around 315,000 children under-five die every year from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. That's almost 900 children per day, or one child every two minutes
Unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation together contribute to about 88% of deaths from diarrheal diseases

Areas of Focus


International Medical Corps works to provide sufficient, safe, physically accessible and sustainable water for personal, domestic, livelihood and institutional uses in emergencies as well as non-emergency situations.

Key Stats

783 million people—roughly 1 in 10 globally—have no access to an improved water source
On average women spend 25 percent of their day collecting water for their families in developing nations.
Improved water supply reduces diarrheal disease from 6 to 25%


Widely recognized as the more cost-effective intervention in the water and sanitation sector, hygiene promotion is integrated into all of our WASH projects so communities can better protect themselves from the threat of infectious diseases. Simple hand-washing with soap and water can reduce the diarrheal disease incidence rate by nearly half and the rate of respiratory disease by about one quarter. We promote hygiene awareness and hand-washing messages within communities, schools and health facilities.

Key Stats

Hand-washing is only practiced by 19% of the global population
Promotion of safe hygiene is the single most cost-effective means of preventing infectious disease at $5 per disability-adjusted life years
Simple hand-washing with soap and water can reduce the diarrheal disease incidence rate by 47% and the rate of respiratory disease by 23%


Despite the UN’s recognition of sanitation as a human right, the Millennium Development Goals, which ended in 2015, missed its target by 700 million people with 1 in 3 people living without adequate sanitation. Of the 2.4 billion people that did not have access to improved sanitation in 2015, more than one billion are forced to defecate in the open (UNICEF and WHO 2016). Without adequate sanitation, communities are highly vulnerable to diarrhea and other diseases and risk contaminating their drinking water. International Medical Corps provides sanitation facilities during emergencies to prevent the outbreak of diseases and works with communities to build sustainable, safe and adequate sanitation.

Key Stats

1 in 3 people lack access to adequate sanitation
Just one gram of fecal material can contain 10 million viruses, a million bacteria, a thousand parasite cysts, and a hundred parasite eggs
The economic cost of poor sanitation and hygiene amounts to more than 5% of the GDP in many developing countries


Water, sanitation and hygiene is critical in health facilities, where the risk of patients contracting hospital-acquired infections remains high and can often be attributed to inadequate WASH. As a public health- focused organization, International Medical Corps’ goal is to ensure quality WASH services in health facilities. Our WASH work focuses on strengthening health care service delivery at the facility level by establishing a safe water supply, sanitation infrastructure and hand-washing facilities as well as training health care staff in infection prevention and control.

Key Stats

42% of health care facilities in Africa do not have access to safe water
Appropriate hand hygiene is the leading measure to reduce cross-infections
WHO estimates that at any given moment some 1.4 million people worldwide are ill because of infections acquired in hospitals


Globally around 50 percent of undernutrition is associated with infections caused by poor WASH. WASH-related diseases like diarrhea inhibit nutrient absorption and lead to undernutrition and stunting, which in turn lowers resistance to infections and increase risks of dying from diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections. To break this vicious cycle of recurring sickness, International Medical Corps integrates WASH with nutrition and health interventions.

Diarrheal disease is closely linked with malnutrition and poor WASH, and is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children under 5 in developing countries, despite the fact it is both preventable and treatable.

Key Stats

The World Health Organization estimates that half of all undernutrition is associated with infections caused by poor WASH
Effective WASH interventions can prevent at least 860,000 child deaths from undernutrition a year
25% of all stunting in 24-month-old children can be linked to having five or more episodes of diarrhea

Building Healthier Futures With Clean Water And Hygiene In Nepali Schools

Dhading is a beautiful region of Nepal—an explosion of greens during the monsoon season, when the rain buckets down in short, drenching showers that saturate the countryside and fill the area’s streams and rivers. But even though the land is saturated, the people of Dhading lack much of what they need for safe drinking water, including water access points, piping and reservoir tanks, and the knowledge of water management necessary to provide reliable, clean water year-round.




Help Save Lives