arrow_backEmergency WASH

P.9 Coordination and Collaboration with other WASH Stakeholders and Sectors

The responsibility for coordination in an emergency is generally assumed by the government and is often described in national disaster management policies. In large-scale crises, ad hoc time-bound coordination mechanisms are often introduced. Where these are included in a national disaster management plan, government leadership will usually be strong and must be supported by international agencies. If nationally led coordination is not possible, the internationally developed cluster coordination mechanism may have to be activated. This is sometimes adopted as part of a government coordination plan, or it may sit alongside other government mechanisms where it must still support government plans to fulfil its obligations. The refugee coordination mechanism, led by UNHCR, may maintain a distance from the national government to retain impartial protection oversight, but communication between the parties is nonetheless essential. 

Other sectors such as the health, shelter, camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) or food security and nutrition may have different objectives but they often share wider goals (such as improved health, safety and security of the population, improved information for planning, improved efficiencies and targeting of resources or increased trust in public services). Hence cross-sector coordination is vital to identify and use synergies, develop collective outcomes and ensure a coordinated response. It may include joint training, initial multi-sectoral needs assessments, the continuous sharing of information across sectors and the active involvement of other sectors in planning and coordinating WASH interventions. It may also include coordinated programming with other sectors, for example coordinating the joint distribution of non-food items with the shelter sector and the CCCM, or coordination with the nutrition sector to prioritise WASH interventions in communities where nutrition standards are not met and vulnerability to disease may be higher. Coordination with other sectors can also help address cross-cutting issues such as safety and protection (including child protection and gender-based violence).

Because of the life-saving nature of emergency coordination mechanisms, there can be weaker links to existing development sector coordination platforms. However, coordination efforts must be aligned with the development sector, particularly during the non-acute stabilisation and recovery phase. Coordination with local entities responsible for host communities is also vital to avoid adverse effects and tensions between the affected population and host communities (i.e. ‘do no harm’). In refugee or internally displaced contexts, implementing organisations need to coordinate to ensure the continuity of WASH services and establish comparable service levels in different locations and between refugee and host communities. This coordination will also support longer-term operation and maintenance, build sustained changes in hygiene behaviour and improve the safety and protection of the affected population. In protracted crises it is of particular importance that development and humanitarian actors work side-by-side to address structural and economic impacts and help prevent further fragility and instability.

Process & Good Practice

  • Share information transparently with other stakeholders during sector/cluster meetings (e.g. minutes of coordination meetings, assessment and monitoring tools and data, information on existing and planned programmes, intervention areas, disease prevalence, or WASH service levels). 

  • Ensure that the language used in coordination meetings allows for adequate participation of key stakeholders. Consider how interpreters and translators can be used to support this as required. 

  • Identify and follow up on the action points from coordination meetings (these should clearly state roles, responsibilities and deadlines).

  • Work with the WASH cluster’s Technical Working Group (TWiG) dealing specifically with hygiene promotion (HP) to ensure it is given adequate attention. Advocate for a TWiG if none exists P.10.

  • Coordinate with a Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE, C.9) working group if one exists. RCCE and HP share common goals that benefit from coordinated activities and information sharing. 

  • Consider the sustainability of the HP response for the affected population. Any intervention using only INGOs or NGOs will not be sustained once external donor funding ends. In displacement (on and off camp) settings consider providing support through a WASH Committee T.55 with a hygiene focal point and, where possible, coordinate and collaborate with local health visitors or local government hygiene workers. 

  • Facilitate representation from hygiene committees in WASH cluster, Hygiene TWiG or other sectoral meetings. Coordinate with the committee when donors or senior humanitarian staff visit field projects and ensure that they are introduced to senior staff and included in meetings.  

  • Share information between coordination meetings in the non-acute stage of an emergency, to reduce the information load during meetings.

  • Ensure that there is well-briefed agency representation at the meetings and in the sector working groups to facilitate effective information flow between different sectors.

  • Collaborate with government ministries and personnel and involve them in decision making about the WASH programme. 

  • Train government workers and national NGOs, women’s groups, organisations of persons with disabilities, co-operatives and faith-based institutions. Consider using online training services such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in hygiene and in subjects such as upcycling waste into valuable products, or treating waste so that it is less harmful to the environment and health.  

  • Establish links with the development sector for menstrual hygiene management and adolescent sexual reproduction education. 



To ensure the timely delivery of WASH services to the affected population by involving all national, international and local WASH actors - including the affected population - and relevant other sectors in planning and decision making.


  • Coordination and collaboration with other WASH stakeholders and sector help to ensure participation, avoid duplication, prioritise interventions and maximise the quality of the response and use of available resources.  

  • Local coordination structures, such as those established by national government bodies, local authorities, civil society and sector-working groups, should be identified, used, strengthened and supported where they exist. 

  • If such local structures do not exist, are weak or if the scale of a crisis goes beyond their coping capacities, another time-bound coordination structure such as the internationally developed cluster system is a viable alternative and must be supported by all WASH stakeholders.

  • Effective coordination needs the pro-active participation and commitment of all involved partners (including the affected population, relevant ministries and public institutions, UN agencies, other sector/cluster coordinators, local and international NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, donors and the private sector).

  • Achieving humanitarian minimum standards in one area may influence progress in other areas as overall public health is affected by numerous factors A.2. Close coordination and collaboration with other sectors (e.g. shelter, food security, protection and health) as well as with local authorities and other responding agencies is therefore vital to protect public health and optimise the quality of the WASH responses.

  • Local development actors, platforms and civil society should be actively engaged in the coordination structures to make use of comparative advantages, their expertise and experience in the area and to ensure an incremental hand-over to development partners A.5


Collection of resources to support effective WASH coordination along the humanitarian programme cycle

GWC (undated): Global WASH Cluster Coordination Toolkit (CTK), Global WASH Cluster Advisory and Strategic Team (GWC CAST)

Sphere WASH minimum standards including information on coordination

Sphere Association (2018): The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response 4th Edition