WASH- Water Sanitation Hygiene

The DPIHD survey on the conditions of access to water and sanitation in Catholic Church Health Facilities

The study involved 151 facilities in 23 countries and took place between September 2020 and March 2021 thanks to the cooperation of numerous organisations



How the WASH project was born and developed


The issue of WASH conditions in health centres had already been raised during the conference on "Governing a common good: access to drinkable drinking water for all", organised by the Dicastery together with some Embassies, on 8 November 2018 at the Pontifical Urbanian University.

Later, on the occasion of World Water Day 2019 , the Dicastery defined it as a priority and presenting the document Aqua fons vitae spoke of a "battle to save lives".

In March 2020, the Dicastery clearly announced its commitment to this issue, encouraging the study of WASH conditions in health centres.

One year later, the initiative had already borne significant fruit (press release of 21 March 2021).

Last March, Cardinal Peter Turkson - Prefect of this Dicastery - gave a detailed interview available in French, Italian, and a summary in English.

In March and May 2021, the Dicastery convened several online events. At a panel discussion on 25 March, comments were recorded by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Sister Carol Keehan who chairs the Health Task Force of the Vatican Commission COVID 19, and the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John. These short commentaries (totalling just over 3 minutes) are available in english, and in a subtitled version in French and Spanish; they have already been re-adopted (and can be re-adopted again, as long as the film is used in its entirety, without modification) by those who wish to organise an event on the WASH theme by illustrating the point of view of some representatives of the Church.


There were also 5 informative round tables whose recordings are fully accessible:

·         on 24 May (An event of Laudato si' Week - 6th anniversary of the encyclical)

·         on 26 May  in English and French

·        on 27 May  in English and Spanish


On the occasion of these various events, a first summary of the results of the survey was presented and commented on, now available on this page. These data do not, of course, reflect the situation of all the health centres of the Church, but only of certain health centres located in particularly difficult contexts and whose directors agreed to take part in the survey.



Materials available for those who want to study WASH conditions in their own contexts


The following are the main materials used during the survey (developed by experts who collaborated with the Dicastery). They can be used by organisations wishing to assess the WASH situation in their health centre..

·         The evaluation form is available both in Word and Excel in  French, English and Spanish.

·         There is a more detailed Excel version of this form, which includes a) additional sheets programmed to facilitate the analysis of the data collected during the survey and the compilation of a concise report, and b) a decision tree. These materials facilitate the work of those assessing their WASH situation (without necessarily having to use WASH specialists or IT experts) and then drafting projects and funding applications. They are also effective for those wishing to analyse several structures; they are available in English and French.

·         It should be noted that, during this project, a computer programme (using RStudio) was developed for those wishing to analyse WASH conditions in large numbers of health centres (several dozen) and quickly compile numerous summary reports. However, the use of this programme requires advanced computer skills, and anyone wishing to use it can send a special request to the Department.



Initiative update to July 29, 2021

The Dicastery and its partners are working to ensure that all health centres involved in the survey are helped: the Caritas Confederation, Dioceses and religious congregations, NGOs of various kinds, foundations, some government agencies of international cooperation and networks of experts are already in dialogue with the Dicastery, and there are many opportunities to expand these collaborations.

Initiative update to June 15, 2023

Numerous operations to improve WASH conditions in Church health centers in the Philippines, Africa and Haiti have been initiated - and in many cases concluded.

The message sent on behalf of Pope Francis to the World Water Forum held in March 2022 in Dakar recalled the plight of people without adequate access to safe water and/or sanitation, making specific reference to patients in health centres and women giving birth. 

Last April, Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ once again gave visibility to this initiative in an interview (in English).

On June 1, 2023, Caritas Internationalis, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Sisters Ministers of the Infirm of St. Camillus, and the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul held an online meeting during which the progress of the initiative was presented and testimonies and hopes were shared. The event opened with words from Cardinal Czerny. A video recording of his speech, the talk by a WASH expert from CRS, and some testimonies (from Haiti, the Philippines, Nigeria, Mali, and Tanzania) are available. During the meeting, it was explained that funds have already been donated (or pledged) to improve WASH conditions in 51 of the health centres involved in the survey sponsored by the Dicastery; further support (donations, twinning, trainings, partnerships of various kinds, ...) was appealed for to continue in this direction.

Organizations interested in this initiative can contact water@humandevelopment.va and info@humandevelopment.va.

It should be noted that WASH issues are also being considered under the Laudato si' Platform of Initiatives.

17 January 2024