Overview of the benefits of sanitation, hygiene and water supply. Final Report, January 2010.


This response to a DEWPoint helpdesk enquiry presents an overview of the economic and health benefits of sanitation, hygiene and water supply. The following key statements are provided: (1) Progress towards achieving the water and sanitation MDGs is poor, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, diarrhoea remains the second leading cause of death among children under five globally; killing more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined; (2) Investments in improved sanitation, water supply facilities and promotion of improved hygiene behaviours are both cost-beneficial and cost-effective, comparing favourably with other primary health interventions; (3) Interventions reduce the heavy burden on poor families’ finances, the health system and the economy as a whole, through lost productivity, and time spent fetching water or seeking a private place of defecation or caring for the sick; (4) The reduced health burden related to diarrhoeal diseases is of particular benefit to women and children; (5) Improved facilities in schools result in increased attendance and the linked improvement to nutritional status contributes towards cognitive development and livelihood opportunities; and (6) The combination of the benefits contribute towards the national economy of developing nations that equates to 5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This report was produced by DEW Point, a Resource Centre for Environment, Water and Sanitation, that was funded by DFID and managed by a consortium of companies led by Harewelle International Limited. The Resource Centre closed in 2012.


Parkinson, J. Overview of the benefits of sanitation, hygiene and water supply. Final Report, January 2010. DEW Point, Blisworth, UK (2010) 10 pp.

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