Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Humanitarian Action

CCC Commitments and Benchmarks

Commitments Benchmarks
Commitment 1

Effective leadership is established for WASH cluster/inter-agency coordination, with links to other cluster/ sector coordination mechanisms on critical inter-sectoral issues.

Policy  |  Tools
Benchmark 1

oordination mechanism provides guidance to all partners on common approaches and standards; ensures that all critical WASH gaps and vulnerabilities are identified; and provides information on who is doing what, where, when and how, to ensure that all gaps are addressed without duplication.

Commitment 2

Children and women access sufficient water of appropriate quality and quantity for drinking, cooking and maintaining personal hygiene.

Policy  |  Tools
Benchmark 2

Children and women have access to at least 7.5-15 litres each of clean water per day.

Commitment 3

Children and women access toilets and washing facilities that are culturally appropriate, secure, sanitary, user-friendly and gender-appropriate.

Policy  |  Tools
Benchmark 3

A maximum ratio of 20 people per hygeienic toilet or latrine squat hole; users should have a means to wash their hands after defecation with soap or an alternative (such as ash).

Commitment 4

Children and women receive critical WASH-related information to prevent child illness, especially diarrhoea.

Policy  |  Tools
Benchmark 4

Hygiene education and information pertaining to safe and hygienic child-care and feeding practices are provided to 70% of women and child caregivers.

Commitment 5

Children access safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in their learning environment and in child-friendly spaces.

Policy  |  Tools
Benchmark 5

In learning facilities and child-friendly spaces, 12 litres of drinking water per child per day (depending on climate and individual physiology); 50 children per hygienic toilet or latrine squat hole at school; users have a means to wash their hands after defecation with soap or an alternative; appropriate hygiene education and information are provided to children, guardians and teachers.

Technical Justification

A balanced and integrated WASH approach is essential to preventing and reducing mortality, especially among children in humanitarian crises. Recent empirical evidence shows that diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death and illness for children in humanitarian crises. Every episode sets back growth and development. Almost 90 per cent of diarrhoeal cases are preventable through safe drinking water, basic sanitation and appropriate hygiene behaviour. Diarrhoeal episodes are reduced by 25 per cent by improving the water supply, 32 per cent by improving sanitation, 44 per cent by hand washing with soap, and 39 per cent by household water treatment. Water quality interventions could play a role in reducing diarrhoeal episodes by roughly half to 70 per cent or more.

Programme Action

  • Preparedness
  • Response
  • Early Recovery


  • Clarify the responsibilities of UNICEF and its partners regarding WASH in humanitarian situations.
  • Strengthen existing coordination mechanisms or, if not available, create mechanisms in collaboration with national authorities to ensure that the humanitarian response is timely and coordinated and conforms to humanitarian principles and agreed-upon standards and benchmarks.
  • Establish a multi-sectoral rapid assessment mechanism and format, including priority WASH information.
  • Develop a contingency plan with budget and supply needs and, where possible, pre-position essential gender-sensitive sanitation and hygiene supplies, water supplies, purification technologies and chemicals, and tools.
  • Establish long-term agreements for procurement of specified WASH supplies, assess local market for potential water-trucking capacity, and ensure the availability of water delivery partners and agreement on methods and standards.
  • Identify key resource people and/or institutions with specific knowledge and skills in sanitation and hygiene education and behaviour change for deployment in emergency planning and response; and collect pertinent information on sanitation and hygiene education.
  • Ensure that contingency planning is undertaken for children in their learning environments (e.g., schools); pre-position essential WASH supplies and tools for enhancing children's learning environments; and raise awareness of the WASH CCCs in humanitarian action among local and national government officials, civil society, traditional and religious leaders, etc.


  • Strengthen and/or establish WASH cluster/inter-agency coordination mechanisms; prepare a WASH cluster/inter-agency WASH plan of action and coordinate its implementation.
  • Ensure that the rights and needs of children and women to a safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene are included in the WASH response plan, budget and appeal documents, and ensure that children and women are provided priority access to safe water of appropriate quality and quantity.
  • Ensure that children's WASH needs in their learning environments and child-friendly spaces are included in the WASH sector response plan.
  • Ensure that the WASH humanitarian response contributes to the rights and needs of children and that water, toilets, washing facilities and soap are available at all times to children and women.
  • Ensure that the WASH humanitarian response fulfils the rights and needs of children as related to toilets in their learning environments, that soap is available at all times for hand washing, and that such facilities are child- and disabled-friendly, private, secure, culturally appropriate and appropriately segregated by gender.
  • Ensure that children, women and caregivers receive essential and culturally appropriate information on hygiene education and key hygiene practices, and that an appropriate number of hygiene education promoters are in place, trained and equipped with hygiene education materials.

Early Recovery

  • Ensure that WASH coordination and action are linked to recovery and long-term development phases and the early recovery cluster/network, and that they address risk reduction.
  • Ensure that water technologies and approaches are compatible with national standards and longer-term sustainable development - thus addressing risk reduction - and that a capacity development plan is put in place for local-level operation and maintenance of water services.
  • Ensure that sanitation and hygiene approaches and technologies are appropriate, conform to national standards and are coordinated with longer-term sustainable development, addressing risk reduction.
  • Ensure that a periodic surveillance mechanism is put in place to keep track of trends regarding access to and use and maintenance of hygiene facilities as well as related disease trends.
  • Ensure that hygiene promotion strategies are compatible with national approaches and longer-term sustainable development, addressing risk reduction; that a capacity development plan is put in place to sustain hygiene promotion efforts; and that a surveillance mechanism is established.
  • Ensure that WASH strategies and technologies for children's learning environments are compatible with national strategies and longterm development, addressing risk reduction, and that a capacity development plan is put in place for local-level operation and maintenance of children's WASH facilities in learning environments.
  • Ensure that WASH interventions are based on a robust assessment and analysis of disaster risk.
  • Initiate a gap analysis of local and national capacities in water and sanitation, and ensure integration of capacity strengthening in early recovery and transition plans, with a focus on risk reduction.

Guidelines and Tools

Generic or Multi-Area
Level 3 Emergencies: SSOPs for Programme Cooperation Agreements (PCAs), UNICEF, 2015 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
UNICEF Cholera Toolkit, UNICEF, 2013 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
WHO Technical Notes on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Emergencies, WHO, 2011 2 | 3 | 4
Using pre-certified agreements (PCAs) as contingency mechanism, Examples from selected COs 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
WASH Cluster Coordination Manual, UNICEF, 2009 1
WASH Cluster, Inter-cluster Coordination Matrixes, UNICEF 1
WASH Cluster Capacity Mapping Tools, UNICEF
Sphere Minimum Standards - Handbook p.97-104, SPHERE, 2011 2
Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage in Emergencies, IFRC, 2008 2
Emergency Water Sources - Guidelines for Selection and Treatment, WEDC, 2007 2
Guidelines for Water Treatment in Emergencies, OXFAM, 2003 2
Sphere Minimum Standards Handbook p.105, SPHERE, 2011 3
Excreta Disposal in Emergencies, WEDC, 2007 3
Excreta Disposal for Physically Vulnerable People in Emergencies, OXFAM 3
Sphere Minimum Standards Handbook p.91, SPHERE, 2011 4
Behaviour Change Communication in Emergencies Toolkit, UNICEF, 2006 4
Hygiene Promotion in Emergencies Package, UNICEF 4
Introduction to Hygiene Promotion in Emergencies - Tools and Approaches, UNICEF 4
Hygiene Promotion Visual Aids Library, UNICEF 4
WASH in Schools and Other CFS
Sphere Minimum Standards - Handbook p.129-130, SPHERE, 2011 5
WASH in Schools Monitoring Package, UNICEF 5
Cross-cutting and Other Emerging Issues
IASC Guidelines for Addressing HIV in Humanitarian Settings, WASH Ch. p 55, IASC, 2010 2 | 3 | 4
Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction in WASH Emergency Response and Recovery, UNICEF, 2010 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, p.316, Global Protection Cluster WG, 2010 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
IASC Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action, WASH Ch. p.105, IASC, 2006 2 | 3 | 4
Cross Cutting Issues and Intercluster Initiatives, UNICEF 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
Excreta Disposal for Physically Vulnerable People in Emergencies, OXFAM 3