The humanitarian Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) sector has always been at the core of emergency responses: ensuring an adequate supply and equitable access to clean water and sanitation services are vital for the affected populations. They are the first steps towards a dignified and preserved life.
However, with the increasing number of affected people, in addition to the increasing length, scale, and complexity of the humanitarian crisis, WASH actors recognised they needed to urgently accelerate and adapt their efforts.
This confirmes the results of Doctors Without Border's "Where is everyone?" report from 2014, which highlighted various shortcomings in humanitarian aid, including technical capacities, prioritisation and internal dysfunctions.
In October 2017, the Inter-Agencies WASH Group (IAWG) -an informal group of the largest WASH organizations- and the Global WASH Cluster (GWC) invited key WASH stakeholders and agencies to meet and identify challenges and opportunities for the sector. They discussed new approaches to save additional lives, to achieve targeted public and environmental health outcomes, and to create synergies between acute emergencies, humanitarian crises, and long-term development. This launched several studies, such as the emergency gap one and the WASH sector capacity study led by the Urgence-Réhabilitation-Développement Group (URD).
The latest presented their findings to the GWC's annual meeting in 2019 which led to the identification of five key recommendations, endorsed by fifteen of the largest organizations involved in the WASH sector:
- Recommendation #1: Reposition WASH as a core sector for survival and protection
- Recommendation #2: Quality WASH responses should be timely and efficient and reach the most inaccessible and difficult places
- Recommendation #3: WASH responses are predictable and effective only when robust protocols are in place
- Recommendation #4: The predictability of the WASH response depends on the timeliness and flexibility of financial resources
- Recommendation #5: It is essential to build synergies between acute humanitarian situations, protracted contexts and development
The outcome of this process provided the basis for the strategic framework for the WASH Road Map. It articulates how, through collective commitments and strategic engagement, the humanitarian capacity of the WASH sector ought to be enhanced.The document was finalized in early 2020, outlining three functional pillars and three operational areas. A year later, in January 2021, the fifteen Emergency Directors formally approved the Road Map, confirming their commitment to contribute to and support the implementation plan through four working groups divided into a total of 16 innovative initiatives, each led by one or two of the partner agencies.
Since then, over fifteen organisations have officially joined the collective, actively contributing through their expertise to the WASH Road Map vision: By 2025, the humanitarian WASH sector will have the capacity and resources to deliver qualitative responses at scale, anywhere and anytime.
In 2023 took place the Mid-Term Review of the WASH RoadMap meant to review the first three years of the collective, its initiatives, and their progress, to dive into the ways initiatives, working groups and other governance entities collaborated, to question the failure and success of certain initiatives, and much more. After dozens of surveys and interviews, the external consultant leading the Mid-Term Review submitted her final report with many great recommendations and levers of action to make sure the WASH RoadMap action achieves its goals and that no initiative is left behind during the two years to come. This involves a complete redefinition of the governance model of the collective, a transformed monitoring tool, the merging of certain initiatives that showed great synergies, and other tangible changes to put in place sooner rather than later.