Beyond the obvious importance of meeting basic sanitation needs and preventing disease, access to adequate and appropriate WASH facilities plays an important role in the protection and dignity of affected populations, particularly girls and women. Providing water and sanitation facilities alone will not guarantee their optimal use nor will it necessarily improve public health. Only a people’s centred, participatory approach at all stages of the response can help ensure that an adequate and efficient service is provided. In order for WASH programmes to have a positive impact on public health, they need to ensure that the safety and dignity needs of ALL members of the affected population are understood and taken into account, thanks to an inclusive and consultative process.
The Global WASH cluster partners have agreed that 5 minimum commitments should be observed in all their humanitarian WASH programmes to ensure that the distinct assistance and protection needs of the affected population are met. These commitments, centered on people, aim at improving the quality and efficiency of the WASH response programmes in every context, and at ensuring that key issues are taken into consideration by all partners, such as gender, gender based violence, child protection, disability, and age.
The respect of these minimum commitments all along the humanitarian programme cycle reinforces the accountability of the WASH partners to the affected population.
The 5 commitments are generic enough that they can be applied in the various contexts where the WASH cluster operates. They are in line with the SPHERE standards and constitute a minimum set of core actions and/or approaches to be applied by all partners in the cluster. They focus on improvement of current approaches (How partner organizations operate) rather than on drastic programme reorientation. This is why they should not be perceived as generating an additional workload.
The Global Cluster is currently piloting the tool. Four organizations (ACF, Care, NCA and Solidarites) and 4 country clusters (DRC, Niger, Somalia and Yemen) have been piloting the implementation of the approach in their respective missions or with the cluster partners. In May 2015, with the end of the pilot, organizations and clusters will be able to refine the tool, based on their collective learning, and plan for a broader roll out.