From WaterWiki.net

Jump to: navigation, search

> Projects | Publications | Who is who

Name World Health Organization
Logo Image:Whologo.jpg
Geographic Scope Global
Subject Focus Expertise Health
Contact E-mail: info@who.int
URL http://www.who.int/en/
edit  ·  AboutUN-Water
UN-Water Partners: AquaFed | The Global Compact | GWP | IAH | IAHS | ICID | IWA | IWMI | PSI | RAMSAR | SIWI | UNSGAB | WSSCC | WBCSD | IUCN | World Water Council | WWF
UN-Water Task Forces on WaterWiki: UN-Water Country-level Coordination TF
Key UN-Water Reports: Water Monitoring (Monitoring Task Force report - Aug 08) | UN-Water/reports
Related WaterWiki-resources: UN World Water Development Report | Water Monitoring
Key External Links: About UN-Water | About WWAP | World Water Development Report (WWDR)



The World Health Organization is the United Nations specialized agency for health. It was established on 7 April 1948. WHO's objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health is defined in WHO's Constitution as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

WHO is governed by 192 Member States through the World Health Assembly. The Health Assembly is composed of representatives from WHO's Member States. The main tasks of the World Health Assembly are to approve the WHO programme and the budget for the following biennium and to decide major policy questions.

WHO works on aspects of water, sanitation and hygiene where the health burden is high, where interventions could make a major difference and where the present state of knowledge is poor:

Water-specific WHO programmes

1. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WSH)

Water, Sanitation and Health (WSH) supports the health sector in effectively addressing water and waste-related disease burden and engaging others in its reduction. Moreover, it assists non-health sectors in understanding and acting on the health impacts of their actions.

2. Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage (HWTS)

HWTS interventions can lead to dramatic improvements in drinking water quality and reductions in diarrhoeal disease, making an immediate difference to the lives of those who rely on water from polluted rivers, lakes and, in some cases, unsafe wells or piped water supplies. To accelerate health gains to those without reliable access to safe drinking water, WHO established this network to promote HWTS. The network format optimizes flexibility, participation and creativity to support coordinated action.

3. International Small Community Water Supply Network

The International Small Community Water Supply Network was formed to promote the achievement of substantive and sustainable improvements to the safety of small community water supplies, particularly in rural areas, as a contribution to the Millennium Development targets related to water and sanitation. Network members work together to identify common management and technical issues and problems in relation to community supplies, and find workable solutions in geographic and cultural context.

The mission of WHO's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WSH) programme is the reduction of water and waste-related disease and the optimization of the health benefits of sustainable water and waste management.

In achieving its mission, WHO water-related activities include the following:

1. Water and sanitation (European and African Regions) The water and sanitation programme assists Member States by:

  • supporting the implementation of the Protocol on Water and Health, the first international instrument for the prevention, control and reduction of water-related diseases in Europe;
  • carrying out capacity-building activities at the regional, subregional and country level.

The programme also collaborates with WHO headquarters in developing, revising and updating manuals and guidelines.

2. Water and sanitation in the WHO European Region In this Region, 120 million people do not have access to safe drinking-water, and even more lack access to sanitation, resulting in waterborne diseases such as diarrhoeal diseases, hepatitis A and typhoid fever (170,000 estimated cases in 2006). Microbial contamination has been recognized as the prime concern throughout the European Region. Chemical pollution is localized but may also have a significant impact on health.

New and emerging pathogens, such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium and some chemicals, pose additional challenges in the short term. Extreme weather events, such as floods and increased water scarcity, pose challenges for the mid-term future.

3. The Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes is the first major international legal approach for the prevention, control and reduction of water-related diseases in Europe. The Protocol was adopted in 1999 at the Third Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health and entered into force in August 2005, becoming legally binding for the ratifying countries. So far, it has been signed by 36 countries and ratified by 21. Water, sanitation and health (African Region) http://www.afro.who.int/wsh/

4. Water, Sanitation and Health Programme supports countries in providing access to safe water and adequate sanitation for all in order to improve the health and well being of the populations.

Specifically, the WSH provides:

  • technical and financial Provision of technical and financial support to Member States for developing policies, strategies and plans of action to improve the sustainability of water supply and sanitation systems.
  • Guidance and tools for sustainability of water supply and sanitation facilities with focus on: Operation and maintenance, community management, participatory health and hygiene education transformation, Drinking water quality surveillance.
  • Assists countries in resource mobilization for the development of the water supply and sanitation sector.
  • Acts as a Secretariat for the AFRICA 2000 Initiative for Water Supply and Sanitation.
  • Makes collection, analysis and dissemination of information on water supply and sanitation sector monitoring through development of regional and national data bases.
  • Advocates for intersectoral action and expanding partnerships across different sectors, institutions and groups through networking.
  • Support to training and research in the field of water supply and sanitation.

5. WHO and the MDGs Some of WHO's work is tied directly to one MDG, for example, WHO's work on HIV/AIDS. Other work touches not one specific goal, but several at the same time, for example, WHO's work on strengthening health systems.

6. WHO Water Drinking Guidelines WHO’s Guidelines for drinking water Quality are updated every few years. A three volume publication examines microbiological, biological, chemical and radiological aspects of drinking water. It evaluates 36 inorganic constituents, 27 industrial chemicals, 36 pesticides, four disinfectants and 23 disinfectant by-products.

Key Resources


  • WSPortal, Health through water - A collection of web-based practical guidance on Water Safety Plans. It covers system assessment, monitoring, management and communication. Under each area, tools and case studies are presented.
  • Water Law and Standards - This is a database of National Water Legislation, a joint project of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • WHO Statistical Information System (WHOSIS) - an interactive database bringing together core health statistics for the 193 WHO Member States. It comprises more than 70 indicators, which can be accessed by way of a quick search, by major categories, or through user-defined tables. The data can be further filtered, tabulated, charted and downloaded.
  • The Health and Environment Lexicon - A multi-language glossary of health & environment terminology created in order to promote a common understanding of terms related to health and environment. At present it can be utilised in the six WHO official languages; Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. However, it is consistently being expanded and improved.


  • Safer water, better health - the first-ever report depicting country-by-country estimates of the burden of disease due to water, sanitation and hygiene highlights how much disease could be prevented through increased access to safe water and better hygiene.
  • A Snapshot of sanitation in Africa (2008) - contains a new set of sanitation coverage estimates for Africa for the year 2006 based on preliminary JMP estimates.
  • Meeting the MDG drinking-water and sanitation target: the urban and rural challenge of the decade - Entering the International Decade for Action, Water for Life, 2005–2015, this report looks at the challenge of meeting the MDG target for drinking water and sanitation.
  • Water For Life: Making it happen - This report makes clear that achieving the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation will bring a payback worth many times the investment involved. It will also bring health, dignity and transformed lives to many millions of the world’s poorest people.The humanitarian case for action is blindingly apparent. The economic case is just as strong.
  • Guidelines for drinking water quality - WHO produces international norms on water quality and human health in the form of guidelines that are used as the basis for regulation and standard setting, in developing and developed countries world-wide.
  • Core questions on drinking-water and sanitation for household surveys - How many people lack access to drinking-water and sanitation? This question is usually answered through the outputs of household surveys and censuses conducted throughout the world. But wide variations in survey tools and methods, make comparison between different surveys problematic. To help overcome this problem, the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) has developed a set of harmonized survey questions (the 'Core Questions').

Click Here for all of WHO's publications relating to water, sanitation and health.

Work on the Ground


See also

External Resources


1506 Rating: 2.5/5 (99 votes cast)