Water, sanitation, and hygiene global research: evolution, trends, and knowledge structure.
Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services play a crucial role in promoting public and environmental health as well as social and economic development. At the global level, particularly in the developing world, WASH issues continue to present significant challenges. These challenges have been further intensified by factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, escalating conflicts, climate change, water scarcity, and rising inequality. The scientific community has actively engaged in constructive discussions on these issues, as evidenced by the notable research findings. Therefore, the aim of this study was to comprehensively examine and evaluate global knowledge on WASH. To search for relevant publications, the Scopus database was utilized using specific terms associated with WASH. VOSviewer 1.6.18 software was employed to generate network visualization maps, which assessed collaborative patterns and research trends in the field of WASH. The research output of countries was adjusted considering their gross domestic product (GDP) and population size. The total number of WASH-related publications, including all types of documents, was 1805. By narrowing the search to articles and reviews, the overall global productivity yielded 1589 documents: 1367 (86.0%) original articles and 222 (14.0%) review articles. The USA had the highest number of WASH publications (n = 668; 42.0%), followed by the UK (n = 396; 24.9%), Switzerland (n = 151; 9.5%), and Australia (n = 141; 8.9%). Ethiopia emerged as the leading country in terms of GDP per capita and the number of publications, followed by Uganda, Malawi, India, and Bangladesh. The USA, the UK, and Switzerland exhibited the most extensive collaboration among countries. The main research areas encompassed the role of WASH in sustainable development, the impacts of inadequate access to WASH services on gender equality, children, infants, and the outbreak of COVID-19 and other diseases, as well as the significance of hygiene practices and community and school-based WASH interventions in reducing infections. This study provides a novel analysis of global WASH-related research and highlights the distribution of outcomes across nations. Continued and increased collaboration between developed and developing nations will facilitate the sharing of responsibility for WASH research outcomes and the implementation of effective policies.