Why has the number of children dying from diarrhoeal disease due to poor WASH significantly dropped?

Last year, we estimated that over 500,000 children were dying every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. This year, we are estimating that in 2013, 314,824 under 5 died under these circumstances. If significant progresses have been made in one year, the drop in number is mainly due to a change in methodology. This blog explains in details the methodology that was used to reach this more robust number.

Approximately 5.9 million children under age five will have died in 2015.
This figures is from the 2015 Progress Report “A Promise Renewed” published yearly by the UNICEF, and in conjunction with the child mortality estimates of the United Nations Inter-agency Expert Group, on child survival to track progress, promote accountability for global commitments made to children, and help sustain political commitment. These new estimates are for mid-2014 to mid-2015.

Diarrhoeal disease alone amounts to an estimated 9.2% of the Global distribution of deaths among children under age 5 in 2013.
This estimates comes from the Global Health Observatory Data Repository using model developed by experts for UNICEF and WHO. This estimate is for 2013.

58% of Diarrhoeal death are caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation
This data is from the recent study “Burden of disease from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene in low- and middle-income settings: a retrospective analysis of data from 145 countries“. Until this year, Wateraid was using the estimation given by the latest global burden of disease (GBD) study, dating from 2000, according to which 88% of diarrhoeal mortality was attributable to inadequate WASH globally. However, this estimates used a very low baseline of “no disease transmission through water and sanitation” a situation that is a lower level of risk than is commonly encountered even in high-income countries. The Prüss-Ustün study from 2014 offers a revision of methods and estimates of the burden of diarrhoeal disease associated with inadequate WASH. The study estimates that, globally, 842 000 diarrhoea deaths are estimated to be caused by inadequate WASH, which amounts to 58% of diarrhoeal diseases.

→ 9.2% of 5.9 million = 542,800 ; 58% of 542,800 = 314,824


Using WASHwatch embeds

One handy use of the embed function on WASHSwatch is the ability to store the key data for countries of particular interest to you or your organisation, and present it where you like on your site. For example, below are the countries where WaterAid works, by region…

East Africa

Southern Africa

West Africa


Asia and Pacific



WASHwatch in Action at AfricaSAN

Africsan 4 is now well underway. With monitoring of progress and commitments a key topic of discussion in numerous sessions, as the sanitation sector recognises that progress on eThekwini commitments has been patchy at best, and monitoring has been an area of particular weakness.

What better moment to formally launch washwatch.org, and contribute to an improved monitoring programme for the next fifteen years.

The final eThekwini monitoring scores are available to compare on washwatch.org, alongside information about every country’s investments, and progress, for sanitation and water. For the first time, not just the top level ‘traffic lights’ but the indicators upon which it is based and the evidence related to those scores, is available for anyone to analyse or comment on.

Civil society colleagues in Ghana have used this tool to produce their own set of scores, to compare with the official record. They argue that many of the scores are currently too high, highlighting 3c – the systematic assessment of sector progress, is missing in the urban context, that the separate budget lines need to disaggregate hygiene, and that while allocations are reported, spending is not, so real impact is missing.

Other scores are reported to be correct, but with important additional analysis about the difference between rural and urban indicators and the nature of progress, aiding sector professionals and civil society to interpret the scores and improve progress in the future.

End Water Poverty members have used the information provided by WASHwatch to produce a briefing paper, describing the sanitation situation and highlighting important considerations for decision makers at Africsan.

As the conference continues, we will be encouraging delegates to consider how to strengthen monitoring and mutual accountability for the SDG period, to ensure that the step change we need can be achieved. This must include publicly available, and usable, information on the status of the sector, and honest and open discussion about the necessary reforms. We look forward to using washwatch.org to inform and facilitate these discussions.

Written by Tim Brewer


A sprinkling of new features!

By Otis Long

washwatch.org has been updated with a sprinkling of new features to improve your experience of exploring the website. More statistics, more colour, easier to navigate AND interactive graphics! The new site contains all the same great information on WASH commitments and progress, but with some great new features and additional information to support your advocacy work.

New features include: brand new country summary pages with country related statistics relevant to the WASH sector, an ability to customise pages showing comparisons between multiple countries WASH commitments and progress, and embeddable links across the website that allow you to share information from the WASHwatch website across diverse platforms.

Let’s take a look at these great new features in action!

Embeddable links – We now have embeddable links across the website. This means that it is easy for you to share information from WASHwatch on your website, social media, or in reporting. Here is an example of embedding content from WASHwatch. This is a section of the country summary page that presents the most recent comments made by WASHwatch user’s on progress towards meeting the country’s commitments.

New country summary page.

Our new country summary page now includes an array of statistics related to WASH, such as health, education, and poverty levels.

As an example, I have embedded the statistics on health from Uganda’s summary page.

The summary page also has interactive graphics that show you progress, or lack thereof, of access to water and sanitation in any given country since 1990.

Below is the graphic from Kenya’s summary page that shows access to water. You can see what percentage of the population had access to water from 1990 all the way up to 2014.It also shows the predicted access to water up to 2030 on current trends, and how many more people need to be reached to reach targets.

The same graphic, but for sanitation, presents on every country’s summary page.

Summary comparison page.

All of the new information you can find on a country summary page is now also available on the summary comparison page. Here you can compare progress across as many countries as you like. You can also use the embedded link to display this data on your website.

For example, we have embedded the summary comparison page of countries signed up to SACOSAN here.

By clicking on the relevant commitment, in this case SACOSAN 2011, you can then see the commitment comparison page.This page can also be shown on your website using the embedded link as I have done below.

Then by clicking on a specific commitment you can see the indicator comparison page which shows you the indicators that produce the score for the commitment. From this page you can click on the evidence box, which shows you all the evidence (contributed by you) for the indicator.

Now that you have seen some of the new features of WASHwatch in action, have a look around washwatch.org to see the new features for yourself!

Changes to the website have been designed to allow you to use it more easily whilst getting more from it. Whether you’re a new user of WASHwatch or someone who has used our website before, we’re sure you’ll like the new features, statistics and layout.

For more information or support in using washwatch.org do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

Follow us on Twitter @WASHwatch