The state of hygiene in West Africa

Kadiatou, 6, diagnosed with malaria, washes her hands as she and her mother Aissata leave Niala Health Centre, Cercle de Bla, Segou Region, Mali. April 2018.
Image: WaterAid/ Guilhem Alandry

Our study highlights why hygiene is a major foundation of quality health outcomes, together with water and basic sanitation.

Good hygiene practices, like handwashing with soap and water, are among the most effective ways to prevent the spread of common diseases, protecting lives and livelihoods and saving billions of dollars in associated costs along the way. Yet, only 35% of people in West Africa have access to basic handwashing facilities at home. 

With Ebola, recurring cholera outbreaks and, now, the COVID-19 pandemic having devastating effects on lives and livelihoods, the importance of good hygiene is clearer than ever. Handwashing with soap remains the first line of defence against COVID-19 and is at the core of public health advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside other public health measures. The current health crisis must be the turning point for hygiene prioritisation and investment.

Our report draws attention to:

  • Key statistics for access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities
  • Policy and implementation bottlenecks
  • Sector coordination mechanisms for hygiene across the region
  • Gaps between investment needed and current financing available
  • What governments must do to increase hygiene prioritisation and investment in the region