arrow_backEmergency WASH

T.11 Events

Many WASH issues hold dedicated days of celebration that are recognised worldwide. They aim to raise awareness and advocate for improved access and the use or funding of facilities such as toilets or menstrual hygiene. Campaigns often have a specific overall theme each year. These Events provide an opportunity for leaders and governments to pledge their commitment to water, sanitation and hygiene and to influence others.

Globally recognised days for hygiene, such as Global Handwashing Day, play an important role in creating awareness about worldwide campaigns and provide an opportunity for stakeholders such as governments, international agencies and NGOs to show their commitment towards achieving a common goal. During these Events, new and creative campaigns are launched, tested and replicated worldwide to encourage the target audience to take up practices such as handwashing or to gain more knowledge on topics such as Menstrual Health and Hygiene P.7. Hygiene promotion programmes can customise the celebration for their context and often guidance is provided about how to do this. The length of preparation may vary from a few weeks to months, depending on the scale of the activity. The Events often target specific behaviours related to that year’s theme, leading to increased awareness and participation to address the issue. For example, men’s involvement might be encouraged in celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day and they might become champions who can influence others. Politicians, religious leaders, stars and influencers can also be engaged in activities T.22. Holding local Events on these days can attract media coverage of healthy hygiene practices or innovative methods of improving hygiene, reaching a wider audience as a result.


Celebrations of important WASH days are global Events. Country-level activities are often planned, especially in schools, but the day may also be marked in other locations and venues by a variety of stakeholders. As a one day Event it is not appropriate during the acute phase of an emergency and is more relevant in the stabilisation and recovery stages. It is important to adhere to the global theme and align with global efforts to show solidarity and support to the topic. As the aim of the Events is to create a unified momentum to action, they are more effective when celebrated at scale. Hence, it is important to mobilise local groups and organisations to plan activities or campaigns together.


  • Develop messages tailored to the local context

  • Focus on motivating the target audience and mobilise other public and private stakeholders 

  • Work with mainstream and social media

  • Assess the impact of your efforts


  • Do not try to address too many behaviours at one time

  • Do not focus on disseminating only one-way messages

Practical Example

In South Sudan, Global Handwashing Day reinforced the habit of washing hands to prevent the outbreak of diseases like hepatitis and cholera in the refugee camps. Refugees, including children, performed catchy Songs T.47 containing core messages on hygiene and combating water-borne diseases. Local TV stations aired handwashing videos with the theme ‘Handwashing keeps cholera away from you and your family’.

Key Decision Critria

Response Phase
Acute Response
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Protracted Crisis
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HP Component
Preconditions and Enabling Environment
Community Engagement and Participation
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Assessment, Analysis and Planning
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Social and Behaviour Change
Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
Target Group
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Older People
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Persons with Disabilities
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Local Leaders
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Society as a whole
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Application Level
Individual / Household
Community / Municipality
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Advocacy and planning guides for different world days

MH Day Alliance International Secretariat (2016): Menstrual Hygiene Day Planning Guide, WASH United

WHO, UNICEF, WSSCC (2008): Celebrating World Water Day 2008. Theme: Sanitation Matters! – An Advocacy Guide

Reports and case studies related to global handwashing day

Global Handwashing Partnership (2021): 2020 Global Handwashing Day Report

Rulashe, P. (2012): Sudanese Refugees Embrace Global Handwashing Day for Disease Control

White, S. (2020): Global Handwashing Day Report: What Have we Learned About Promoting Hand Hygiene During the COVID-19 Pandemic, COVID-19 Hygiene Hub