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Water and Sanitation

One of the main challenges which face humanitarian actors is providing crisis affected people with access to water and adequate sanitation. The methods used need to be adapted to the complexity of contexts: is the operation taking place in an emergency, reconstruction or protracted crisis context? Is it taking place in an urban or semi-urban area or in and around a camp?

Until recently, it was common to use the term WatSan to refer to this sector, but it is increasingly being replaced by the acronym WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), as this reflects more closely the reality of the sector’s three main areas of activity:

  • Access to both drinking water and multiple use water (with specific issues involved in each domain);
  • Sanitation (availability of latrines, used-water drainage, waste disposal, etc);
  • The promotion of hygiene (for example, at a very basic, yet vital, level, the promotion of hand washing).

For logistical reasons, humanitarian organisations rarely arrive on the scene in the first few days after a disaster takes place. As gaining access to water is a matter of life and death, local solidarity mechanisms spontaneously spring into place. The objective of emergency WASH programmes is as much to reduce health risks and the impact of water-related diseases as it is to supply water. Sanitation and the promotion of hygiene are therefore of great importance. Unfortunately they are not given the prominence they deserve.

The challenges facing the WASH sector are the same as those facing the humanitarian sector as a whole. These include taking the environment into account, improving links between emergency relief and development and improving coordination between actors.

For more information, contact Julie Patinet

Groupe URD’s projects related to this theme:


Articles related to this topic in "Humanitarian Aid on the move":

Read more

Study of a programme on social water management in the Central African Republic, February 2015, for SOLIDARITES INTERNATIONAL, in French
Key messages EcoSan, Chad, 2009-2013, in French
Eau et assainissement en sortie de crise : entre urgence et développement, Agence Française de Développement et Groupe URD, actes du séminaire des 12 et 13 janvier 2009, novembre 2009 (fichier pdf, 5Mo).
Mener un projet de gestion sociale de l’eau, divergences entre modèles importés et réalités du terrain (expériences en Afghanistan et au Maroc), Sylvestre Parmentier, Vincent Thomas, Johan Pasquet, Thierry Ruf, Jeanne Riaux, Savoirs partagés, résumé de la table ronde du 24 janvier 2007, Agropolis Museum, 20 p.
A review based on a Multi and Cross Sector Approach, Chapter 2 : SECTOR ISSUES : Urban Development, Water & Irrigation, Agriculture, Nutrition, Health, Education, par Amélie Banzet, Christine Bousquet, Béatrice Boyer, Agnès De Geoffroy, François Grünewald, Domitille Kauffmann, Peggy Pascal et Nicolas Rivière, LRRD project, Afghanistan, Avril 2006
Water sector review, Nicolas Rivière, LRRD project, Afghanistan, 2001 - 2006
L’eau, la nourriture et l’homme , François Grünewald, forum CICR "Guerre et eau", 1998