arrow_backEmergency WASH

A.5 Assessment Content and Scope

The hygiene promotion (HP) assessment should identify the main public health risks and current hygiene practices that contribute to the risks A.2. It should determine which individuals and groups are vulnerable to which WASH-related risks (A.7 and chapter  E ) and why. It should identify factors that can both hinder and motivate positive behaviours and preventive action (A.2 and chapter  B )

Assessing WASH-related public health risks and how to address them will require an understanding of:

  • Current use of WASH facilities and services,
  • Access to essential household hygiene items P.6
  • Current coping strategies, local customs and beliefs,
  • Social structures and power dynamics in the community A.7,
  • Where people go for healthcare (including traditional healers, pharmacies, clinics),
  • Who is responsible for operating and maintaining WASH infrastructure,
  • Disease surveillance data linked to WASH,
  • Social, physical and communication barriers to accessing WASH facilities and services, particularly for women and girls, older people and persons with disabilities,
  • Income-level variations,
  • Environmental conditions and seasonal trends for diseases.

The assessment must also try to understand the social and behavioural factors (chapter  B ) that influence different peoples’ hygiene practices and how these can be used to influence change as shown in teh figure below.

It will also need to identify the communication preferences of different groups to design an effective response (chapter  C ).


Example Areas for Assessment Based Around the Socio-Ecological Model (adapted from UNHCR and RANAS)

Process & Good Practice

  • Consider different community groups (e.g. men, women, adolescents, elders and people with disabilities) and identify those who are marginalised or particularly vulnerable (A.7 and chapter  E ). 

  • Recognise that the affected community are ‘experts’ in their situation and have knowledge to share. 

  • Remember the importance of communicating with people in their language and ensure that interpreters are well briefed before commencing the assessment C.7

  • Use the ‘F’ diagram, influences on health graphic A.2 and social and behaviour change models B.2 to help identify a broad range of assessment factors and continue to deepen understanding as the programme progresses.

  • Aim to answer the following ten questions through the HP assessment: 

    • What were ‘normal’ practices before the emergency and how have people adapted to the emergency? 
    • What are the widespread ‘risky ‘practices in the community? 
    • What are the different motivators and barriers to practising safer hygiene for different groups? 
    • How can we enable changes in practice and improvements in hygiene? 
    • Who uses ‘safe’ practices and who and what motivates and influences them to do so – can this be used to influence others? 
    • What communication channels are available and which are trusted for promoting hygiene? 
    • What facilities or materials do people need in order to carry out the ‘safe’ practices? 
    • How much time, money or effort are people willing to contribute for those facilities/materials? 
    • Where will those facilities/materials be available? 
    • How will people know that the facilities/materials exist and where they can be obtained?
  • Use different senses to gather information. It is not enough to just ask questions; use other senses such as Observation T.28 to cross check and deepen understanding. 

  • Some questions about hygiene can seem intrusive and there may be taboos about some issues e.g. menstrual hygiene P.7. It can be useful to ask such questions indirectly such as ‘what do women here do?’ rather than ask ‘what do you do?’



To identify which individuals and groups are vulnerable to which WASH-related risks and why. 


  • The assessment must cover public health risks, WASH needs, hygiene behaviour, communication preferences and identify how different groups can best be supported.

  • It is important to understand the complexity of the affected community (A.7 and chapter  E ) and to identify the different hygiene needs that may be present in a given context (e.g. for menstrual hygiene materials, incontinence aids or child-friendly toilets).

  • The use of Behaviour Change B.2 and WASH models can help to ensure a more in-depth assessment leading to a more effective response. These models should be employed throughout the response.


General and technical standards in relation to carrying out assessments (including a WASH checklist)

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

Assessment checklists

CAWST (2021): Behaviour Change Checklist

Rosato-Scott, C., Barrington, D. et al. (2020): How to Talk About Incontinence: A Checklist, IDS

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

Qualitative and quantitative research techniques to collect, collate, analyse, and synthesise information for humanitarian needs assessment

ACAPS (2012): Qualitative and Quantitative Research Techniques for Humanitarian Needs Assessment. An Introductory Brief

How to guides for barrier analysis using doer/non doer method

Kittle, B. (2017): A Practical Guide to Conducting a Barrier Analysis 2nd Edition, Helen Keller International

Davis, J., Thomas, P. (2010): Barrier Analysis Facilitator’s Guide: A Tool for Improving Behavior Change Communication in Child Survival and Community Development Programs, Food for the Hungry