oxfam logo
Access to clean water is a basic human right. Madina is part of the water project in Isiolo County and draws water from the river.

Madina Mohamed is a program participant in Oxfam and MID-P's water project in Isiolo County, here collecting water from the river. Photo: Eyeris Communications/Oxfam

Water and sanitation

2.2 billion people do not have access to clean water. Oxfam works for an equitable distribution of the world's water resources.

Clean water saves lives and reduces poverty

Access to clean water is essential for human survival and a basic human right. But despite this, billions of people around the world still live without clean and safe water. Water scarcity, poor water quality, lack of toilets, latrines and inadequate or non-existent hygiene conditions increase the risk of disease. This has consequences for agriculture, cultivation, food quality and the ability of poor families to earn a living and get an education. Women and girls, who are often forced to walk long distances and queue for hours to fetch water, are particularly vulnerable.

The consequences of climate change are many, but one of the most tangible and already occurring is water scarcity or abundance. If the world's emissions remain at current levels, the global temperature will rise 2.7 degrees by the end of the century. As the climate crisis worsens, people are estimated to have even less access to safe water. The lack of clean water is closely linked to poverty, with the poor, who are less responsible for climate change, being hit harder than the rich. Diseases from contaminated water, as well as lack of basic sanitation, kill more people every year than all forms of violence and war.

To achieve a more equal world, we need a more equitable distribution of our water resources.


What is the cost of the lack of water and sanitation?

  • 2.2 billion people do not have access to clean water in their homes.


  • 2.3 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services such as latrines or toilets.



  • Over 80% of wastewater is not treated before being returned to the environment.


  • 800 children under 5 die daily due to diarrhea caused by unclean water.


  • 700 million people could be displaced by acute water shortages by 2040.

How we work

People's access to water is central to almost all of Oxfam's work, whether it is emergency response or long-term work against injustice and oppression. Below, you can read more about how we work to ensure a safe water supply.

The right to clean water and safe water supply

We support long-term and sustainable projects that enable communities to build safe water supplies and infrastructure, provide essential sanitation solutions and install irrigation systems to boost agriculture and livelihoods.

We influence and support governments to prioritize long-term investments in water and sanitation systems. Projects we run ourselves include desalination using renewable energy, recycling human waste to create fuel briquettes, and solar-powered water pumps.

Read more about Oxfam's WASH program

Water tap in Isiolo County. Photo: Eyeris Communications/Oxfam

Disaster relief and local cooperation

In crisis situations, water and sanitation systems often fail and when people are traumatized, hungry, dehydrated and exhausted, they become more vulnerable to serious diseases such as diarrhea and cholera. That's why we are focusing a large part of our emergency response on establishing a safe water supply, as well as setting up hand-washing stations and toilets for basic hygiene, for example.

Through partnerships with local communities and information campaigns, we are spreading knowledge about how clean water, handwashing and other hygiene practices help prevent the spread of disease, as well as how to protect yourself and your family in the event of a disease outbreak.

Read more about our disaster response work

Oxfam staff member Pascaline Namegabe shows a hand washing station in a displacement camp in Mwaka. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Oxfam

World-leading technology

We are known for providing large-scale water supply systems and essential sanitation facilities quickly and efficiently, even in the most difficult circumstances. Historically, we have developed and set the standard for many of the approaches and technologies commonly used today, such as easy-to-assemble water storage tanks, water buckets, water treatment units and latrine tiles.

Solar panels to power water pumps in Yemen.

Oxfam engineer Monther Alattar stands in front of solar panels installed to power water pumps in Yemen. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam Intermón

Latest news on water and sanitation

Contribute to an equal future.

Become a monthly donor