BRAC WASH Programme

Empowerment and social change to end contamination

Posted on 27 August 2014


BRAC’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme -BRAC WASH enables millions of people in rural Bangladesh to achieve safe and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene. It provides direct support to communities, stimulates demand for sanitation and behaviour change and trains Village WASH Committees to transform rural life for the next generation.

BRAC WASH is unique in its scale, capacity to inspire and dynamic approach. IRC, a Netherlands based think-and-do tank with over 45 years’ experience in the WASH sector, supports the programme. 

BRAC WASH I was launched in 2006 with support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) in 152 upazilas (sub-districts). It initiated a holistic hygiene promotion and education programme to reach 38.8 million people in rural Bangladesh. This was seen as a learning process for a successful WASH programme at scale to ensure that 25.9 million people have access to and use hygienic sanitation and to provide safe water supply for 1.8 million people.

The second phase (WASH II) began in October 2011. BRAC WASH II funded by EKN and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continues this work and extends it to 25 of the poorest and hard to reach areas. BRAC WASH II is designed to ensure sustainability and build capacity, networking and collaboration with the government, private sector and NGOs. Action research addresses emerging challenges.

In July 2012, a third phase (WASH III) began, with funding from DFID and Australian Aid. BRAC WASH III extends the project to another 73 upazilas.


BRAC supports the Government of Bangladesh to achieve the seventh Millennium Development Goal – halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. To promote sustainability, BRAC WASH strengthens community ownership, builds linkages with local government, and supports local entrepreneurs to develop their businesses and supply low-cost sanitation materials.


BRAC WASH is transforming rural Bangladesh by supporting 30,7 million people to access safe sanitation, upgrading more than 2.2 million latrines to hygienic standards and delivering hygiene education to 65 million people in 250 upazilas.

Hygiene and behavourial change are the backbone of the programme. Households are supported directly through sanitation grants, loans and repairs, and indirectly by promoting demand.

Water: Many drinking water sources in Bangladesh are contaminated E-coli and arsenic. Saline intrusion is a growing problem too. BRAC WASH has extended drinking water coverage for 1.92 million people, by providing new connections and repairing existing options through loans, grants and cost sharing approaches. Innovative technologies and piped water systems are introduced where tube wells cannot be provided.

Current status

Today BRAC WASH works with the whole community in 250 sub-districts with a special emphasis on poor and ultra-poor households without access to safe water supply and sanitary latrines. BRAC WASH also works with secondary schools to provide 4,200 sanitary latrines with menstrual hygiene facilities. BRAC WASH has introduced several innovations to stimulate a nation-wide sanitation movement from the grass roots: School WASH Committees and Student Brigades in 4,265 secondary schools were trained and are responsible for proper use and maintenance of latrines and the cleanliness of school premises. Over 18,500 Imams have been trained in hygiene promotion to reach out to people in their communities. Men are actively targeted through tea stalls to discuss sanitation and hygiene practices. 

Project plan

Since 2006, IRC has supported this large-scale holistic programme that enables the poor in 250 sub-districts of Bangladesh to seize control of their lives. Asknowledge and innovation partner in BRAC WASH, IRC has made significant contributions towards

  • Hygiene promotion –the redesign of behavioural change communication (selling not telling) and a specific approach to hygiene promotion for men.
  • Monitoring and learning – development and design of a rigorous and participatory outcome monitoring methodology (QIS), a ‘SenseMaker’ pilot and support for the annual monitoring and learning workshops.
  • Sustainability – taking steps to strengthen sanitation value chains, and investigating the life-cycle costs of sanitation services.
  • Coordinating action research, on topics such as faecal sludge management, low-cost sanitation technologies, and drinking water in saline areas.
  • Support for documentation of BRAC WASH activities and wider dissemination in the WASH sector.


A rigorous outcome monitoring exercise conducted in 2012, covering a representative sample of 8,000 households revealed that across all income groups at least 84% of the population had access to a hygienic latrine. In addition, the programme has succeeded in ensuring that a very large majority (93%) use their latrine.

In schools, a high proportion of the school facilities now remain operational.  Schools ‘contribution towards the cost of the facilities has increased from a third to half of the cost.

BRAC WASH subsidies for the ultra-poor, loans for the poor, community mobilization and hygiene promotion are resulting in community-wide improvements. Since 2006, the numbers of latrines constructed, upgraded and rebuilt have increased among the ultra-poor, poor and non-poor. 

Pit emptying and safe final disposal of faecal sludge   was identified as challenge after the end of BRAC WASH I. BRAC WASH II is undertaking action research on the reuse of faecal sludge to deal with this problem. Watch the video on the IRC website for more background information. 

Lessons learned
Climatic conditions such as heavy rains and high water tables pose challenges for sustainability of toilets built. Reaching the poorest in remote and underserved areas remains a challenge. Annual review meetings help the programme improve its implementation strategy. BRAC WASH is trialling ‘floating toilets’ that can survive floods and protect the health and livelihoods of 670,000 people.

Technologies used

For monitoring purposes the Qualitative Information System (QIS) and SenseMaker are used.
QIS- Qualitative Information System 

The Action Research will result in the development of several tools, technological innovations and business models:

In total there are 6 Action Research areas each will deliver its own tool/ business model.

More information on the programme: BRAC WASH website and video

Project location

Project partners

  • IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre