Building Inclusive Environments

2016 Global Innovation Challenge.

2016 Global Innovation Challenge focused on Inclusive WaSH

The 800 million people with disabilities living in low- and middle-income countries experience inequities in access to education, employment, and social services. While unjust policies and social stigmas impede progress, the lack of safe and accessible water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities is crippling. To empower girls, children with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations toward self-efficacy, we collaborate with global organizations like UNICEF, building socially inclusive policies, tools, and environments.

What is Inclusive WaSH?

By Kory Smith

More than 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability, 80% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries where basic needs, such as sanitation, often go unmet. The Community for Global Health Equity's Inclusive WaSh team has recommended and begun to test core questions to monitor WaSH in schools through the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water and Sanitation, the official United Nations mechanism tasked with monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in WaSH.

Through the 15-year campaign to achieve the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), 2.6 billion people gained access to improved drinking-water and 2.1 billion people gained access to improved sanitation. As a result, throughout much of the world, efforts and investments can now be steered toward healthcare, education, and other public health initiatives. While universal access to improved water sources appears in reach through the Sustainable Development Goals, the next 15-year campaign, meeting the target for improved sanitation will be a challenge, as 2.4 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation facilities. Moreover, universal coverage in both sectors – water and sanitation – will not be met if the needs of marginalized and vulnerable populations are not addressed. As of 2015, for example, approximately 360 million people with disabilities worldwide lacked access to improved sanitation facilities.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene (or WaSH) programs are critical for promoting public health and are linked to economic development. WaSH projects have been central to international development efforts, managing humanitarian crises such as refugee resettlement, and the general advancement of rural and urban areas throughout history. Improving WaSH efficacy is not only about improving the quality and scale of infrastructure; facilitating adoption of, education about, and management of systems is also necessary. In addition, WaSH interventions, especially in low-income settings, need to meet the physical and psychosocial needs and preferences of marginalized and vulnerable populations – such as children, older adults, girls and women, and people with disabilities. “Inclusive WaSH” is a human-rights approach to planning, design, and implementation that improves access for these groups.


kory smith.

Smith receives national book award for study of African city

Our Working Solutions

Students partnering with the Appropriate Technology Centre in Uganda.

Students partnering with collaborator Asha Bamutaze at the Appropriate Technology Centre in Uganda

Identifying Needs Testing Options Scaling Up Evaluating Solutions
  • Interrogating public policy, environmental governance, and sustainable urbanism
    Dr. Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah’s research explores the frontiers of scholarship on urban health and planning, environmental governance, and public policy in the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Frimpong Boamah’s belief in an interdisciplinary approach to urban planning and studies, specifically, and social science research, generally, drives his research, teaching, and community service agenda.
  • Global Innovation Challenge: 2016
    Global Innovation Challenge (GIC) 2016 participants assessed problems and developed innovative social, economic, technological, and public-policy solutions to meet the sanitation needs of one of the world's most vulnerable populations: the 360 million children and adults with disabilities worldwide.
  • Latrine Use: Prevalence, Motivators, and Interventions
    In 2015, approximately 2.4 billion people worldwide did not have access to improved sanitation facilities. Seventy percent of people lacking access to these facilities live in rural areas. The resultant open defecation, 90% of which occurs in these same rural areas, often leads to contaminated water, hands, and household environments.

Our Team

Our work is done in collaboration with many talented community partners. We list these partners on the affiliated project pages.