Emergency WASH for Children

October 2014

Children under 18 can represent 50% or more of a crisis-affected population and, as such, children are major stakeholders in almost all humanitarian responses. While existing emergency water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) literature often refers to the hardware requirements of children, particularly to excreta disposal options, it almost never takes into account the needs of children of different ages and more often provides very superficial information. Similarly, literature on hygiene promotion focuses on primary school age children; meanwhile case studies and examples from the field of how to adapt WASH programmes to suit children’s needs are also very limited. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is anyone under the age of 18 years, however children of different ages require very different approaches: children under five are the most vulnerable to water-related diseases, yet most emergency WASH programmes consider primary school age children, neglecting both teenagers and younger children.

Although children are considered as a cross cutting issue in Sphere, most organisations do not consider them as such, and without institutional recognition it is likely that responses aimed at children will remain inconsistent. Save the Children UK obtained funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund to research how the WASH sector was currently responding to the needs of children and what guidance was available, in order to identify best practice and make recommendations for further research and development. Current research examined the existing literature, sent out questionnaires and interviewed practitioners and academics and made use of field work in Ethiopia and Bangladesh. This research was guided by Save the Children, International Medical Corps, UNICEF and Oxfam GB.

Additional details

PublisherSave the Children
ThemesChallenging contexts, Children, Fragile contexts, Leave no one behind

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