What is WASH? Why WASH?
Along with puzzled faces, these are the questions I get when introducing myself at networking events and happy hours. WASH is a collective term for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. It is used almost exclusively in the international development, engineering, and global health world.
Water: concerns the 663 million people who don't have access to safe, clean water resources.
Sanitation: concerns the lack of toilets for 1.1 billion people who are forced to poop in the open.
Hygiene: concerns the healthy habit of handwashing with soap.
I first stumbled upon WASH through learning about a parasitic disease called Schistosomiasis, which is found in most of Sub-Saharan Africa. As a UCLA undergraduate studying abroad in Senegal, I participated in a 2.5 weeks research study trip to the small village of Guédé Chantier, up in the northern part of the country bordering Mauritania. At the start, I couldn't correctly pronounce the name of the disease but eventually learned of its toll on the local residents who don't have access to piped or well water. Adding to this situation was the unfortunate reality that not everyone had access to toilets and that was the perfect recipe for constant re-infection as the parasite spreads via feces and urine in water.
Armed with this experience and knowledge, I decided that WASH needed another champion. And I hope to bring you interesting thoughts about the world of WASH and global health.