Access rates for adequate sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa remain among the lowest in the world. In West Africa, three countries in particular – Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Niger – have typically ranked among the lowest performing African countries in this category, with only 20 percent, or less, of the population in each country having access to improved sanitation just five years ago. The practice of open defecation was prevalent in rural areas. The resulting contamination of drinking water and food supply from poor sanitation practices led to chronic outbreaks of diarrhea, with children showing signs of malnutrition, undernutrition, and stunting.
Meanwhile, an increasingly erratic climate affected the timing and intensity of seasonal precipitation. These shifts triggered widespread food insecurity in a region highly dependent on rainfed agriculture, jeopardizing agricultural livelihoods and threatening rural families with the constant specter of hunger.
In 2011, in response to these multifaceted challenges, USAID began the West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WA-WASH), an ambitious multiyear initiative to protect and improve drinking water supply, extend sanitation coverage, and provide food security to some of West Africa’s most marginalized communities.