Hygiene promotion

Hygiene promotion is a fundamental part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) water and sanitation activities. It increases public health awareness and prevents diseases related to poor hygiene practices.

  • World Health Organization data shows that 1.7 million deaths a year are attributable to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene

  • 54.2 million disability adjusted life years (DALY) are caused by unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene – each DALY represents the loss of one year of equivalent full health

  • Interventions to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene practices have been shown to reduce sickness from diarrhoea by between one-quarter and one-third (Esrey et al, 1991; Fewtrell et al, 2005)

  • Girls who are unable to access clean safe water, separate toilets and handwashing facilities at school are much more likely to drop out

The IFRC follows the Hygiene Improvement Framework developed by the Environmental Health Project.


The IFRC works through its National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to empower communities, ensuring that:

  • structures exist or are provided to enable communities to access water and sanitation

  • hygiene promotion is a part of all water and sanitation activities

The IFRC also works with National Societies to put hygiene promotion on national political agenda and to assist with related programmes.

In response to disasters, the IFRC deploys Emergency Response Units and tools.

At the same time the IFRC provides longer-term sustainable solutions to those without access to safe water and sanitation. The Global Water and Sanitation Initiative (GWSI) 2005-2015 seeks to contribute further to the UN Millenium Development Goals.

GWSI key elements:

  • target vulnerable communities with low water and sanitation coverage

  • find appropriate and affordable technology options

  • provide long-term funding packages

  • install community management and behavioural change software systems for sustainability

  • increase gender awareness

  • work alongside national water and sanitation planning

  • ensure that technical options are environmentally sound

Long-term solution

Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) methodology supports our projects by increasing hygiene awareness within communities. Communities can examine existing hygiene behaviour and understand how transmission of disease takes place and how it can be prevented at a household level.

In the last 15 years the IFRC has provided water and sanitation to 6.5 million people during emergencies and to 2.5 million people through development programmes. An additional 14 million people will benefit from these activities by 2015.