Water Currents: Emergency WASH

Water Currents is produced biweekly by USAID’s E3 Water Office. Each issue contains recent news and articles on water sector issues, partner and donor updates, latest sector research, and a special focus on one topic. Please provide your feedback and suggestions by contacting the waterteam@usaid.gov.

The current cholera crisis in Yemen is just the latest example of the need for practical evidence-based recommendations and updated research on WASH in emergency settings. This issue focuses on case studies, recent research, and innovative approaches to implementing WASH services in emergencies, and includes links to recent publications about water treatment, menstrual hygiene management, container-based sanitation, among other topics. Also featured are links to relevant websites and select WASH news items, including several on the cholera epidemic in Yemen.


Publications and Videos

WASH Interventions in Disease Outbreak ResponseOxfam, February 2017. This synthesis identifies, combines, and evaluates existing evidence from 47 studies on the impacts of 10 different WASH interventions during disease outbreaks in 51 humanitarian contexts in 19 low and middle-income countries.

Short-Term WASH Interventions in Emergency Responses in Low and Middle-Income CountriesInternational Initiative for Impact Evaluation, February 2017. WASH interventions are used in nearly all emergency contexts, but limited evidence is available to support best practices and effective use. This literature review synthesizes findings from 106 studies to assess the effectiveness of 13 specific interventions.

Chlorination of Drinking Water in Emergencies: A Review of Knowledge to Develop Recommendations for Implementation and Research NeededWaterlines, January 2017. Chlorination is widely used in emergencies to treat water. This literature review aims to provide responders with practical, evidence-based recommendations for implementing chlorination programs, and recommend areas for future research.

Community Challenges When Using Large Plastic Bottles for Solar Energy Disinfection of Water (SODIS)BMC Public Health, September 2016. SODIS in large vessels can be used for water treatment in low-income and disaster-affected populations, but also has potential drawbacks, such as cold or cloudy weather, or the fear of leaching in plastic bottles. This paper examines these drawbacks and emphasizes the need to study SODIS in greater detail.

Mainstreaming Gender in WASH: Lessons Learned from Oxfam’s Experience of EbolaGender & Development, July 2017. Why did gender mainstreaming in the Ebola response prove particularly challenging? How did the Ebola response differ from previous emergencies? What did we need to know to improve our response to the outbreak? These and other questions are addressed by the authors, who draw on their experiences as nonmedical specialist practitioners involved in the Ebola response.

What is the Scope for Addressing Menstrual Hygiene Management in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies? A Global ReviewWaterlines, July 2016. There is a growing dialogue around menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in emergencies, according to this global review to assess the landscape of MHM practice, policy, and research within the field of humanitarian response. However, the findings indicate a lack of clarity on the key components for a complete MHM response.

Improving Menstrual Hygiene Management in Emergencies: IFRC’s MHM KitODI/ALNAP, February 2016. This case study explores the innovative process by which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies developed and tested a comprehensive kit of relief items to more effectively meet the MHM needs of women and girls in emergencies.

Menstrual Hygiene: A ‘Silent’ Need During Disaster RecoveryWaterlines, July 2016. The authors of this study discuss how MHM needs a gender-sensitive and inclusive approach during disaster recovery. Using case studies from India, this article explores efforts to influence practices, behavior, and attitudes toward MHM through strategic WASH programming.

Sanitation Practices and Perceptions in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya: Comparing the Status Quo with a Novel Service-Based ApproachPLoS One, July 2017. This paper outlines the results of a study by researchers who designed and implemented a novel sanitation system in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. The result was an innovative sanitation management system with liquid-diverting toilets, which separate urine and fecal waste.

What Potential is There for Container Based Sanitation and the Social Enterprise in Urban Emergencies? Humanitarian Innovation Fund, December 2016. Basic pit latrines remain the default sanitation option for most emergency situations. However, as the author explains, container-based sanitation is a viable alternative where conditions are not favorable for pit latrines.

Rapid Methods for Assessing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Services in Emergency SettingsUNHCR, February 2017. This briefing note describes UNHCR's methodology for conducting rapid WASH household assessments in refugee settings.

Trash Talk: Turning Waste into Work in Jordan's Za'atari Refugee CampOxfam International, August 2017. Syrian refugees in Jordan can play a key role in service delivery. In this discussion paper, the author highlights an innovative approach to solid waste management and income generation, and aims to promote further dialogue on the role that Syrians can play in the Jordanian economy.

The WASH’Nutrition Practical GuidebookAction Against Hunger, February 2017. This manual provides specific examples from over 30 countries of how to better achieve positive impact on nutrition through WASH programming and offers practical guidance to help practitioners design and implement programs in both humanitarian and development contexts.

Contextual and Psychosocial Factors Predicting Ebola Prevention Behaviours Using the RANAS Approach to Behaviour Change in Guinea-BissauBMC Public Health, May 2017. Dealing with disease outbreaks in a community can sometimes require innovative ways of aligning existing hygiene programs with relevant psychosocial factors. This research sheds light on important aspects of public health interventions during emergencies and epidemics.

Supporting Water Service Providers During Conflicts: Briefing NoteIIED, June 2017. A study of water utilities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon revealed how interventions that move toward structural support as early as possible during emergencies can reinforce water utilities’ resilience. This briefing note explains how they can make service provision more sustainable and equitable.

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene: Health in Complex Humanitarian EmergenciesEmory University, July 2017. In this video, Thomas Handzel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives an overview of WASH interventions for the online course "Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies."

USAID/OFDA Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Sector UpdateUSAID, February 2016. In Fiscal Year 2016, USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) provided approximately $247 million for WASH programs in more than 35 countries. Featured interventions in this update include WASH support following an earthquake in Ecuador; El Niño responses in southern Africa; and waste management in South Sudan.

Making Humanitarian and Development WASH Work Better TogetherODI, August 2016. The worlds of humanitarian WASH and development WASH tend to operate in silos. This policy brief explores the nature and causes of the disconnect between the sectors and possible solutions.

Integrated Vector Management (IVM) in Humanitarian Emergencies ToolkitThe Mentor InitiativeUSAID, July 2016. This toolkit outlines the vector-borne diseases commonly encountered in humanitarian emergencies and recommends a range of IVM strategies for controlling them.

The Sphere Handbook: Minimum Standards in Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene PromotionThe Sphere Project, 2011. The Sphere Handbook provides minimum standards for humanitarian response in several sectors. This chapter outlines standards for WASH promotion in humanitarian response, key actions to take to meet those standards, and how to measure their success. It also includes suggested activities and inputs to help meet the standards.


USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. OFDA is responsible for leading and coordinating the U.S. government’s response to disasters overseas. OFDA responds to an average of 65 disasters in more than 50 countries every year in rapid-onset disaster situations.

Global WASH Cluster (GWC). GWC is a partnership grouping 32 members for the improvement and coordination of humanitarian response in the WASH sector.

Updated WHO/WEDC Technical Notes on WASH in Emergencies. This series, originally prepared in 2011 and updated in 2013, provides practical, evidence-based recommendations in responding to the WASH needs of populations affected by emergencies. They are intended for field technicians, engineers, and hygiene promotors, as well as staff from agency headquarters.

Natural and Nature-Based Flood Management: A Green GuideWorld Wildlife Fund (WWF), May 2017. WWF, in partnership with USAID/OFDA, developed this guide as an open-source tool to support the use of natural and nature-based methods for flood risk management.



It’s a Slow Death, The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis New York Times, August 23, 2017. This interactive story charts the scale and origins of the recent cholera outbreak in Yemen, the worst in more than 50 years.

USAID Helps Yemen as It Faces a Food Security Emergency and the World's Worst Cholera OutbreakUSAID, August 2017. As of August 17, health agencies had recorded more than 522,000 suspected cholera cases and nearly 2,000 associated deaths in Yemen. USAID/OFDA and partners are providing critical health, humanitarian coordination, and WASH assistance in response to the widespread cholera outbreak.

What Can Be Done to Improve Hygiene Programming in Humanitarian Emergencies?London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Environmental Health Group (EHG), May 2017. EHG recently embarked on a new project with two other organizations to improve the way hygiene programs are designed in humanitarian crises. This research is being funded by USAID.

Starting a Marathon with a Broken Ankle: How Poor Water and Sanitation Sets Children BehindThe World Bank Water Blog, August 2017. The WASH Poverty Diagnostic is part of a global initiative to improve evidence linking WASH and poverty. It provides evidence that children under the age of 5 need to clean and safely managed water to reduce their risk of malnutrition.

The Cost of Clean Water: $150 Billion a Year, Says World BankReuters, August 2017. Guangzhe Chen, senior director of The World Bank’s global water practice, states that countries need to quadruple spending to $150 billion a year to deliver universal safe water and sanitation to reduce childhood disease and deaths while boosting economic growth.

Seven Reasons We Are Facing a Global Water CrisisReuters, August 2017. In this article, Leah Schleifer of the World Resources Institute discusses water demand, the cost of water, and other issues that must be resolved to prevent a global water crisis.



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