WASH resilience in post disaster recovery

“WASH” in emergencies is not a new innovative word! It is a composite domain that looks at water systems, sanitation facilities and hygiene practices. Sphere Standards, internationally recognized guidelines for humanitarian aid workers to get things right on the ground during emergencies defines a framework for WASH.

Disasters provide a unique opportunity to rebuild new systems and strengthen communities, not just in terms of physical rebuilding but also improve on existing infrastructure and provision of services.

Most water-­‐related diseases that spread rampantly after disasters like floods or cyclones can be attributed to inadequate water supply or lack of sanitation facilities and inadequate mechanisms or facilities for excreta disposal. For the purposes of this study, achieving recovery in the context of water, sanitation and hygiene can be understood to mean:

• Enhancing the resilience of water -­‐ sanitation systems and hygiene practices to future/secondary water-­‐related hazards.

• Creating an overall stronger infrastructure for water supply, storage, treatment facilities and sanitation systems.

• Strengthening institutions like local village level governing bodies, district level government agencies, non-­‐governmental agencies and community groups which are engaged in WASH systems by adopting measures for sustainable recovery.

Prioritized activities and approaches to reducing risks in recovery should essentially expand the resilience of a community through both structural and non-­‐structural measures. This could be made possible, when but only when there is a commitment to ensure that the rebuilt institutions and structures are more secure than they were before.

Disaster reconstruction in terms of shelter, livelihoods and economy have interested academicians and practitioners, as a result of which there has been considerable literature on guidelines and principles on shelter management, rehabilitation approaches and restitution practices. However the coverage is patchy; focus is techno-­‐centric; and very little attention is paid to critical infrastructure like water – sanitation. There seems to be an obvious lack of understanding the prevalent local practices and cultural context. Evaluative studies fail to incorporate learning of how these practices and approaches to promote resilience to disasters in general.

Hence there is a need to collate and generate findings and evaluate approaches that will lead to sustainable and resilient communities with the sectoral focus on WASH services and facilities.


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