Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)

WASH is an acronym that stands for the interrelated areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Being critical to human life, ensuring access to potable (clean) water for drinking is an obvious immediate priority in crisis response. Water is also critical to food preparation, maintaining sanitary conditions and preventing the spread of disease. Access to basic toilets is thus another priority in emergencies, to ensure human waste does not become a source of disease. The delivery of WASH assistance in emergencies must also take into account the development of sustainable systems. Notably, WASH is an area of constant technical innovation.

Woman and man standing next to water tank

Photo: UNICEF/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin

Key actors

Formal coordinating platform for humanitarian WASH actors in all parts of the sector

WASH Cluster Lead Agency and has a leading role in developing standards and  "best practice," enhancing coordination, and maintaining surge capacity resources

A leading actor in aspects of WASH with a particularly high impact on health, including the spread of water- and sanitation-related disease

Specialized resources

Recent WHO Guidelines providing comprehensive advice on maximizing the positive health impact of sanitation interventions

Manual offering technical guidance on different methods for disposal, applied to different phases of disaster or conflict

An overview of hygiene promotion in emergencies for WASH coordinators and program managers.

Key references

Standards specifying the minimum levels to be attained in humanitarian response regarding the provision of water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion, as well as key actions, indicators, and guidance notes for meeting them

Four-page illustrated technical notes providing practical, evidence-based recommendations for responding to immediate and medium-term water, sanitation, and hygiene needs of populations affected by emergencies

Practical guide aiming to support the coordination of cluster actors to improve the sectoral response to humanitarian crises

Latest discussions


Global WASH Cluster