Bringing WASH into the Water–Energy–Food Nexus in Humanitarian Settings

February 2022

WASH intersects with all SDGs – this publication is part of an IDS Working Paper series that looks at the intersection of sanitation and other fields.

This paper examines the water–energy–food (WEF) nexus in a humanitarian context, with a specific focus on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

It highlights the complex and non-linear interactions that WASH has with other areas of the WEF nexus. In doing so, it blends the social dimensions (access, safety, consumption, and use) with the WEF resource dimensions (availability and resource sustainability), including a further emphasis on sanitation as a key, but often ignored, element of the WEF nexus.

Drawing on the case of the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, we examine how household-level access to WASH shapes and is shaped by use, access, and availability of energy and food, and finally their effects on host–refugee interactions. We find that there are implicit and explicit links between WASH and WEF. Moreover, any small intervention in any of the WEF areas has positive knock-on effects on the other resources, especially in enhancing resource access and use. We conclude that bottom-up perspectives on these interlinkages with active participation from both host and refugee households are required to understand the implicit and explicit connections across WASH and the WEF nexus in humanitarian contexts. We also argue that sanitation is a key element of the WEF nexus and should not be ignored within the predominant resource-centric framing of the WEF.


  • WASH innovations need to be grounded in particular contexts, needs, and locations for positive nexus outcomes.
  • Protection, security, and wellbeing are connected to the design of services and innovations.
  • Focus on both host and refugee households.

Additional details

PublisherInstitute of Development Studies
RegionSouth Asia
ThemesChallenging contexts, Fragile contexts, Leave no one behind, Sustainability and safely managed sanitation, Tough physical environments
ApproachesLearning approaches

Srivastava, S.; Allouche, J.; Price, R. and Nelis, T. (2022) Bringing WASH into the Water–Energy–Food Nexus in Humanitarian Settings, IDS Working Paper 563, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, DOI: 10.19088/IDS.2022.006


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