The Myanmar Humanitarian WASH Project

From 2021 to 2022, Water for Women partnered with WaterAid to improve WASH access in vulnerable communities and community-managed schools in Myanmar, reaching over 22,700* vulnerable and marginalised people. 

This project came to a close in December 2022.

A family stands outside their home looking at a COVID-19 awareness poster in Myanmar

Hygiene Kit and COVID-19 preventative message distribution in urban slum community

(WaterAid / Myo Thwet Myat Noe)

View photo updates from Water for Women work in Myanmar


There has been significant progress in expanding access to WASH services in Myanmar. However, coverage remains lower in rural areas than urban centres, and there are considerable differences in access in different parts of the country. Under the umbrella of the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan-MSDP (2018-2030), the Government of Myanmar is committed to achieving universal access to safely managed WASH services by 2030.

Progress in rural sanitation lags behind the milestone of 80 per cent access by 2020 set by the Rural WASH Strategy.  As with water supply, there are huge variations in access across the country, with open defecation still common in some locations.  Regarding institutional WASH, it is estimated that half of the schools in Myanmar and more than half of health facilities are deficient in WASH services and the systems to effectively manage and monitor them[1]

From July 2021 to December 2022, The Australian Government invested $ AUD 1.3 million to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) access for 22,751 vulnerable and marginalised people in Myanmar.

Following the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February 2021, Water for Women concluded its WASH and healthcare project, “Supporting Safer Births Project (SSBP)”, and with its key partner, WaterAid, in collaboration with local civil society organisations (CSOs), began supporting people in need of humanitarian WASH.

This project was informed by rapid assessments in the project locations, including a mobile survey in Yangon and WaterAid Myanmar staff visits to rural locations, which found that 52% per cent of respondents in Yangon reported facing difficulty in accessing drinking water. The main reason given for this was a loss of income following lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil. 

Furthermore, a lack of hygiene supplies including soap and sanitary pads was a challenge reported by 38% and 24% of respondents respectively.

52% per cent of respondents in Yangon reported facing difficulty in accessing drinking water. 

The main reason given for this was a loss of income following lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil. 

A lack of hygiene supplies including soap and sanitary pads was a challenge reported by 38% and 24% of respondents respectively.



The Myanmar Humanitarian WASH Project was delivered in two locations, Yangon and Ayeyarwady, where people were experiencing vulnerability due to lack of access to WASH services, exacerbated by COVID-19 and the political turmoil caused by the military coup d’état.

The project was designed to promote COVID-19 preventative hygiene behaviours in communities, provide emergency support for drinking water, and promote hygiene, including menstrual hygiene, through the supply of hygiene kits and support inclusive WASH infrastructure in community-managed schools. There was a strong focus on gender and socially inclusive WASH to ensure marginalised people such as women, girls and people with disabilities (PWD) were reached in all aspects of the interventions.

Community-managed schools were identified as an appropriate entry point for rural humanitarian WASH to reach target groups without the need to engage with government representatives during this time. Education institutions are critical mechanisms to instill lifelong hygiene behaviours in children, who in turn can become agents of change in their family and communities to prevent the spread of diseases.

Myanmar has a large number of community-managed schools such as monastic education schools, church-based schools, and madrasas which are run by community members. Currently, 1,487 monastic schools are providing education to around 300,000 students. While a few faith-based education schools have some financial resources to manage basic needs, other community-managed schools run with basic infrastructure with support of irregular donations from communities. WASH facilities are therefore limited, and safe water supply is often inadequate. Students at these schools tend to be from low-income families and those who have been most marginalised.

Drinking water supply & child friendly hand washing facility at Kawi Myitzu Nunneries School

Drinking water supply & child friendly hand washing facility at Kawi Myitzu Nunneries School

(WaterAid / Aung Htay Hlaing)


The primary aim of the Humanitarian WASH Project was to support vulnerable and conflict-affected communities to gain access to water and sanitation, reduce exposure to WASH-related health risks and improve their resilience.

In addition, through the project, Water for Women aimed to strengthen the capacity of local CSOs and WASH stakeholders.

The WASH Humanitarian Project directly improved WASH in community-managed schools and households in Yangon and Ayeyarwady.

Specific targets included:

  1. Improvements in WASH access, including COVID-19 prevention practices and menstrual hygiene management in urban communities and five monastic schools in two townships in Yangon peri urban areas.
  2. Improvements in WASH access for people in five rural community-managed schools and communities in two townships of Ayeyarwady Region, which are vulnerable to water scarcity and poor WASH due to climate change.

Regional map of Myanmar areas of operation


"[all communities] frequently faced water shortage issues in the summer season and none of the villages were able to solve these issues despite trying different approaches to access water. However, with WaterAid’s support for a long-term sustainable water supply system as well as WASH access through establishment of the necessary facilities under the Water for Women project, water is now available during all seasons, the communities also feel empowered and happy to have received the support that was much needed."

Naw Paw Paw Htoo, Operation Manager, Pathein-MyaungMya Association 


Project activities were designed to achieve four key end-of-project outcomes:

  1. Increased access to improved, inclusive WASH services among target communities in Yangon and Ayeyarwady.
  2. Improved awareness of COVID-19 preventative practices and menstrual hygiene practices among target communities in Yangon and Ayeyarwady.  
  3. Staff have enhanced capacity to deliver and support inclusive WASH in community-managed schools.
  4. Increased documentation and dissemination of knowledge, best practices and learning from the Humanitarian WASH Project.


Key Achievements

At completion of this project, all the anticipated results were achieved, including:

  • Delivery of emergency drinking water and hygiene kits for 5,000 vulnerable households, including water filters for continued access to safe drinking water for 2,000 of the most vulnerable households. 
  • Support of 10 community managed schools provided with water supply systems; accessible and gender segregated toilets; accessible handwashing facilities and drinking water stations; serving 2,048 people. 
  • Shared concepts and practices related to sustainable, gender and socially inclusive WASH infrastructure and behaviour change.
  • Support provided for sustainability including training community school management committees in operations and maintenance (O&M); and strengthening capacity of community schoolteachers to facilitate interactive hygiene behaviour lessons for students.
  • Documentation and dissemination of knowledge and learning from the project in 3 products, including through a national learning and sharing forum with CSOs from across Myanmar.

While the project was implemented in an insecure and volatile humanitarian context, working with the committees of community managed schools increased the potential for the GEDSI WASH infrastructure and practices to be sustained in the longer term. 


"In the clean water and sanitation facilities provided by WaterAid in villages, the basic needs for common use have been considered, especially for pregnant women, children, people with limited mobility and elderly people. Because of this, everyone can easily use the new and inclusive toilets… From our perspective as a (collaborator), when we implemented development activities in a community, we mostly supported them with the things that we considered are needed. In fact, we need to think about the concerns and needs of the community. This was a key learning for us.”

Naw Paw Paw Htoo, Program Manager (Pathein-MyaungMya Association), Ayeyarwady



GSI inclusive sanitation facilities at Hlaingdama Sitagu Nunneries School

GEDSI inclusive sanitation facilities at Hlaingdama Sitagu Nunneries School

(WaterAid / Aung Htay Hlaing)


 A water and WASH response is a COVID-19 response


In 2020, the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene was underscored as the globe grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from Australia's Partnerships for Recovery, our partners pivoted their projects and worked collaboratively to support countries in their COVID-19 responses and to embed COVID-19 preparedness into their WASH projects.


In Myanmar, WaterAid disseminated hygiene messages though a number of mediums such as working with one of Myanmar's best-known broadcasters to produce a series of episodes to promote handwashing practices, including with the Water for Women Program Manager.


Together with their partner Jhpiego, WaterAid liaised closely with the Ministry of Health and Sport to identify potential areas of support and collaboration, including through preparations in Township Hospitals, and transitioned to more digital ways of working with partners and stakeholders.


The project focused on key WASH and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) activities in 5 Township Hospitals in the Ayeyarwaddy Region. This included the TEACH-CLEAN training package developed for cleaning staff in healthcare facilities to enhance skills and knowledge to ensure hygiene standards are met in township hospitals, and for cleaners to be able to perform their jobs safely; as well as through priority actions identified through the Quality Improvement (QI) assessment process.


Australia continues to support COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery activities across the Indo-Pacific region to secure our region's health, wellbeing and stability in these challenging times.


An unprecedented crisis requires a coordinated response. Through our water resources management and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects, we are not only delivering safe, equitable and sustainable water and WASH, we are also building healthy, inclusive and resilient societies. We're supporting individuals, communities and countries to endure, and recover from, the COVID-19 crisis as well as to future extreme events and natural disasters. 



Water for women logo
WaterAid logo
PMA logo

Australia's development assistance program is proud to have partnered with WaterAid Australia, WaterAid Myanmar, WaterAid UK and project collaborator, Panthein-MyaungMya Association to deliver this project.

*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress.


[1] WaterAid Myanmar (2021). Meeting MSDP Goals for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): Challenges and Opportunities

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