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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Handwashing is the single most cost-effective intervention to prevent pneumonia and diarrhea in children, and reduces infections in mothers and children during pregnancy and childbirth. Both A Promise Renewed and the Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) list handwashing and other hygiene behaviors as core interventions for protecting children from these leading causes of death.

MCSP supports countries to increase coverage and utilization of evidence-based, high-quality reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health interventions within households, communities and facilities. At all levels of care, our aim is to prepare for a clean and healthy birthing and newborn experience, reduce infections to mothers and newborns during the peri- and postnatal periods, and reduce stunting and diarrheal disease in children.

The WASH program works to support three broader MCSP teams—Maternal, Newborn and Child Health:

  • Our maternal health work seeks opportunities to support mothers, influencers, community workers, and clinic-level health care providers to ensure clean and safe conditions are provided for birth and a healthy, hygienic newborn period.
  • In the area of newborn care, we focus primarily on reducing infection on the day of birth and during the first month of life through improved handwashing by those coming in close contact with newborns.
  • And in relation to child health, we work to reduce stunting in children under two years of age and prevent diarrheal disease in children under five by integrating with other technical sectors, most notably nutrition.

MCSP develops and utilizes nontraditional messaging models that reflect country-specific behaviors and social norms, and employ counseling, demonstration and practice at all stages of the maternal, newborn and child health continuum of care. Examples of this include: instructions on the construction of handwashing stations, such as tippy taps; development of handwashing corners; and household-level demonstrations of water treatment, safe water storage, and treatment methods.

In addition, MCSP is working to change behaviors and integrate WASH into facility-based care, addressing gender-related barriers and giving specific attention to the role of men in maternal, newborn and child health.

To download MCSP's WASH fact sheet, click here.

Key Facts

  • Every year, there are nearly 1.7 billion cases of diarrheal disease, causing about 760,000 child deaths.
  • An estimated 10-15% of maternal deaths are due to infections linked to unhygienic conditions during labor and poor hygiene practices during the six-week postpartum period.
  • Use of clean cord care kits during umbilical cord cutting can results in a twofold reduction in the odds of cord site infections.