Delivering water, sanitation and hygiene interventions to women and children in conflict settings: A systematic review

Daina Als, Sarah Meteke, Marianne Stefopulos, Michelle F. Gaffey, Mahdis Kamali, Mariella Munyuzangabo, Shailja Shah, Reena P. Jain, Amruta Radhakrishnan, Fahad J. Siddiqui, Anushka Ataullahjan, Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Background Access to safe water and sanitation facilities and the adoption of effective hygiene practices are fundamental to reducing maternal and child morbidity and mortality globally. In armed conflict settings, inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure poses major health risks for women and children. This review aimed to synthesise the existing information on WASH interventions being delivered to women and children in conflict settings in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) and to identify the personnel, sites and platforms being used to deliver such interventions. Methods We conducted a systematic search for publications indexed in four databases, and grey literature was searched through the websites of humanitarian agencies and organisations. Eligible publications reported WASH interventions delivered to conflict-affected women or children. We extracted and synthesised information on intervention delivery characteristics, as well as barriers and facilitators. Results We identified 58 eligible publications reporting on the delivery of WASH interventions, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)/United Nations (UN) agency staff were reported to be involved in delivering interventions in 62% of publications, with the most commonly reported delivery site being community spaces (50%). Only one publication reported quantitative data on intervention effectiveness among women or children. Discussion This review revealed gaps in the current evidence on WASH intervention delivery in conflict settings. Little information is available on the delivery of water treatment or environmental hygiene interventions, or about the sites and personnel used to deliver WASH interventions. Limited quantitative data on WASH intervention coverage or effectiveness with respect to women or children are important gaps, as multiple factors can affect how WASH services are accessed differently by women and men, and the hygiene needs of adolescent girls and boys differ; these factors must be taken into account when delivering interventions in conflict settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002064
JournalBMJ Global Health
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2020


  • hygiene
  • maternal health
  • public health
  • systematic review
  • treatment


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