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P.8 Market-Based Programming (MBP)

In 2016, the Global WASH Cluster (GWC) released a position paper on cash and markets and set up a global-level Cash and Markets Technical Working Group (TWiG) to provide guidance and support to WASH partners to deliver quality MBP. A set of guidance documents and training on MBP for WASH has been developed in different languages. Since then, MBP, including CVA, has been increasingly used in humanitarian WASH response. 

As markets are a central element of people’s life and livelihoods, they should be part of the planning for humanitarian WASH programmes. Humanitarian responders should be aware that they are market actors with a significant impact on local markets and that their interventions are therefore not ‘market-neutral’. MBP begins with a market analysis to assess if the market system can supply essential commodities and to assess the demand. Preferably, a pre-crisis market assessment (PCMA) will already have been done and can be compared to the post-shock assessment to support the planning of a quality emergency response. Based on the assessment findings, local markets can either be identified as affected by a crisis or as supportive in meeting the WASH needs. There are four different ways that WASH programmes can be delivered by engaging the local market, as reflected in the MBP framework (see resources section).

1. Improving Market Demand and Access: demand can be strengthened by improving access to local markets. Barriers to access can be financial (lifted through CVA), physical (lifted by improving roads, organising fairs), or socio-cultural (changed through behavioural change strategies or social marketing).

2. Improving Market Supply and Availability: using, supporting and developing markets can strengthen the availability and capacity of the market system to deliver critical goods and services in an emergency. Improvements begin by using existing local market structures to deliver immediate humanitarian assistance; this is usually based on the local procurement of WASH goods and services or the use of CVA. It may also include the restoration of market systems after a shock event, allowing humanitarian actors and beneficiaries to use the market as soon as possible. Methods include grants to market vendors, facilitating access to information, providing fuel vouchers or subsidies or spare parts to transport businesses (e.g. for water trucking or desludging operators) and supporting market traders to increase warehousing capacity (e.g. for hygiene items). Longer-term interventions to strengthen the resilience of the WASH market system include business model development (e.g. supporting private actors or community-based organisations to set up safe water kiosks), supply chain development (e.g. for construction materials to be made available locally at a more affordable price), product design (e.g. designing affordable water filters) and improved access to financial services. Market-based programming also allows the humanitarian sector to utilise its buying power and the setting of quality standards to drive market actors to increase the quality and diversity of products offered (e.g. menstrual products that meet the global quality specifications developed by UNHCR / UNFPA / UNICEF).

3. Reform of the Market Regulatory Framework: to help markets recover, humanitarian interventions can also include activities to support the reform of the regulatory frameworks of relevant markets (national rules, norms and standards). This could be through advocacy for improved regulations (e.g. water quality assurance for safe water kiosks), direct engagement in policy-making processes or by strengthening the capacities of the actors involved (e.g. governments, regulators, utilities, etc.). 

4. Strengthening of Market Services and Infrastructure: for critical WASH market systems to function, the broader market services and infrastructure may need to be supported, restored or developed. This could include loan guarantees for microfinance institutions, digital cash delivery technologies, improved market information as well as the rehabilitation of roads, transportation and telecommunication networks. These activities are often not directly related to WASH and can pose a challenge to WASH actors unless they are carried out through cross-sectoral interventions and/or with multidisciplinary teams.

Process & Good Practice

  • Collaborate with other WASH team members to analyse how market systems work and how they are impacted by the disaster; ideally, do this during the preparedness phase P.9

  • Provide training for local or national WASH teams on MBP for WASH in emergencies. Corresponding training are offered by the GWC and its members/partners.

  • Collaborate with the WASH team to conduct a series of assessments, starting with a multisectoral initial assessment, followed by a WASH technical assessment and then a market and risk assessment.

  • Identify and select response options, analyse risks and develop programme objectives. If a CVA programme is indicated, identify how this will be carried out.

  • Assess CVA’s appropriateness in relation to the frequency of a distribution. It is most effective for recurrent needs such as hygiene item distributions P.6 as it is costly and time-consuming to establish for one-off distributions. 

  • Ensure that recipients of a CVA are identified, registered and processed and that the assistance is delivered in an equitable, transparent and safe manner. Feedback from recipients must be sought M.5 and data protection standards adhered to.

  • Communicate (chapter  C ) with the affected community and maintain dialogue with them throughout the programme. Communication is an essential component of all MBP programmes. Ensure that:

    • People of any gender, age, disability, or social group can access communications from the programme. 
    • Communications are two-way: the responders provide information and receive and act upon information from communities.
    • Referral information and systems are in place (e.g. referrals for protection-related risks). 
    • Suitable languages C.7 and communication channels (C.4 and C.5) are used. 
    • Accountability and feedback mechanisms are established (M.4 and T.13) and opportunities are identified for communities to use them for customer feedback (e.g. when receiving goods/services from the private sector). 
  • Monitor markets and processes throughout the response and look for further opportunities to strengthen local WASH markets. 



To ensure that (local) markets are used to deliver essential WASH goods and services, that markets are restored and/or the wider market system is developed. 


  • In the WASH sector there are several markets for water (e.g. water trucking), sanitation (e.g. toilet construction, desludging services) and hygiene (e.g. soap, menstrual products). 

  • There are no ‘market-neutral’ humanitarian interventions. WASH interventions can both support or undermine existing markets.

  • An initial market analysis is required, as a minimum, in the assessments of all humanitarian WASH programmes in all contexts to identify the scope for market-based programming (MBP) interventions. Hygiene promoters are part of this analysis. 

  • There are four key dimensions of the WASH market in humanitarian response: (1) demand and purchase power versus (2) supply, quality and quantity of goods available in relation to (3) market norms and policies and (4) services and infrastructure. Understanding the demand is critical, as it can be complex and is closely related to people’s knowledge and perceptions (B.3 and B.5) of the health risks. 

  • Use a basic needs analysis with the target population to define the ‘basic needs’ and how much it would cost in the current emergency situation. This is then reflected in the minimum expenditure basket, which includes prioritised (multi-sectoral) items needed regularly by the affected households. It is important to have such a multi-sectoral overview, as shortcomings in access to commodities or services in one sector can adversely impact the performance of (MBP) interventions in other sectors.

  • Market-based programming can include engagements with markets for delivering immediate relief including cash and voucher assistance (CVA) as well as activities to strengthen the market, wherever significant disruptions are identified (e.g. rehabilitation of a warehouse or a road for access). 


Guidance and position papers on Market-Based Programming

Allen, J., Brown, J. (2021): Market-Based Programming in WASH. Technical Guidance for Humanitarian Practitioners 2nd Edition, GWC

Barbiche, J., Collins, O. (2020): Evidence-Building for Cash and markets for WASH in Emergencies. Practices in Market-Based Programming in the Hygiene Sub-Sector, GWC

GWC (2019): Guidance on Market Based Programming for Humanitarian WASH Practitioners

GWC (2016): Cash and Markets in the WASH Sector. A GWC Position Paper

Minimum expenditure basket decision tool

Klein, N., Baizan, P. (2020): Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) Decision Making Tools, CaLP

World Bank (2020):  Communication during Disaster Recovery. Disaster Recovery Guidance Series

Overview of cash learning resources with the possibility to select sector, theme, type of transfer, or payment methods

CaLP (undated): CaLP Library