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Incontinence is a complex health, protection, social and dignity issue where a person cannot control the flow of their urine or faeces. It is a highly stigmatising condition which affects the ability to live in safety and dignity.

People with incontinence need more privacy, soap and water and time to manage their hygiene and daily activities, but older people may find it difficult to access WASH facilities safely and in a timely manner. Given numbers of older people living alone and those in need of home-based care, the challenge also goes beyond access to communal WASH services.

There is limited experience and evidence available to understand the scope of the problem and its implications. There is also limited awareness about the issues among WASH and other practitioners and decision makers.


To understand the barriers to inclusion of older people with incontinence in humanitarian WASH programming the research uses primarily a qualitative approach and prioritises to speak to and listen to older people themselves on their experiences of living with incontinence or caring for people with incontinence.

This will be vital to develop a robust understanding of types of barriers to manage incontinence such as lack of accessible toilets or related to their health status and carer provision and coping mechanisms of people with incontinence – learning directly from people affected by it.

The innovation will further investigate how the WASH sector can better engage with and support people with incontinence with linkages across sectors, such as health, protection, age, disability and gender.
Ultimately the innovation will be a catalyst to bring a focus on the needs and priorities of people with incontinence and the importance of engaging with them.


The output will include a set of research methodologies alongside reference material to guide the future research in this area and support the timely application in the field. In addition, a report of the findings and a briefing note, which will include recommendations on good practices for learning about this issue going forward will be developed and shared. The findings will be fed back to the people involved in the research. To raise the importance of the work on incontinence and encourage the further involvement of elderly people the outputs will be widely disseminated using accessible formats.

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