The lack of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services considerably increases the risk of diseases and death caused by insufficient and contaminated water and by unhygienic environments and/or practices. Between 1.8 and 2.2 million die every year of diarrheal diseases (90% of which are children under 5). Each year more than 30 million people flee their home as a result of conflict and naturals disasters, while more than 200 million people are affected by natural hazards. A significant proportion of these two groups are in dire need of humanitarian WASH assistance.
ECHO routinely contributes between 12 - 15% of its budget to humanitarian WASH assistance. This percentage is much higher in certain types of emergency where the provision of safe water and sanitation (such as floods and droughts) is one of the most urgent and critical responses. The size of ECHO's contribution to these activities makes WASH the humanitarian sector receiving the third highest budget allocation, after food assistance and health. According to the UN Financial Tracking Service, ECHO contributes between 32% and 46% of global humanitarian WASH assistance. Maintaining coherence with its position as one of the most important humanitarian donors to this sector, ECHO actively supports the Global WASH Cluster.
ECHO's WASH interventions are subject to the Guidelines of the 2005 Water and Sanitation Issues Review. Specifically these guidelines emphasise that:
These Guidelines are presently being up-dated into an ECHO WASH Policy, due out in spring 2012. To ensure quality and consistency of WASH interventions, ECHO has a network of specialist WASH field experts.