arrow_backEmergency WASH

T.35 Protection Mainstreaming

All hygiene promotion (HP) interventions must proactively include measures to ensure that interventions do not inadvertently cause harm to people or undermine the values, standards and norms that underpin the humanitarian response

WASH programming that does not address protection mainstreaming can increase vulnerability, exacerbate violence and prevent access to adequate WASH. Working in a team, hygiene promoters must (1) prioritise safety and dignity and avoid causing harm as much as possible by preventing and minimising any unintended negative programme effects which may increase people’s vulnerability to both physical and psychosocial risks, (2) promote meaningful access: access to assistance and services must be in proportion to need and without barriers (e.g. discrimination). Pay special attention to individuals and groups who may be particularly vulnerable or have difficulty accessing WASH assistance and services, (3) be accountable to communities M.4 by establishing appropriate mechanisms T.13 through which affected populations can feedback on the adequacy of interventions and have their concerns and complaints addressed, (4) enable participation and empowerment (chapter  E ) by supporting the development of self-protection capacities and assisting people to claim their rights including, but not exclusively, the rights to water, sanitation and health, (5) manage risks by Monitoring M.2 potential risks on an ongoing basis and identifying ways to prevent and mitigate them.


Mainstreaming protection is mandatory in all HP programmes, throughout the programme cycle and in all response phases and contexts.


  • Build the capacity of staff and partners to understand the problem of violence related to WASH and recognise what their responsibilities are 

  • Make links with protection, gender and gender-based violence specialists to assist in improving programmes and responding to the challenges 

  • Ensure that WASH facilities are designed, constructed and managed in ways that reduce the users’ vulnerability to violence


  • Do not consider ‘protection’ as the sole responsibility of specialists

  • Do not be afraid to ask for help and support to fulfil the protection requirements of HP and other WASH staff

Practical Example

In Liberia, examples of violence or vulnerabilities to WASH-related violence were shared during meetings with a range of organisations working in protection, women’s empowerment and WASH. For example, in Grand Gedeh, a new borehole was sited next to the town chief’s compound at his request. When the NGO returned to monitor, they found that the women would not use the borehole because there were always men sitting outside the chief’s house and they were frightened of being harassed. Beating and harassment were common (for women and children) if they stayed away too long from home, including when collecting water. The siting of the borehole should have involved women who were the primary users of the facility.

Key Decision Critria

Response Phase
Acute Response
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Protracted Crisis
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HP Component
Preconditions and Enabling Environment
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Community Engagement and Participation
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Assessment, Analysis and Planning
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Social and Behaviour Change
Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
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Target Group
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Older People
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Persons with Disabilities
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Local Leaders
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Society as a whole
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Application Level
Individual / Household
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Community / Municipality
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Tool kit developed for WASH practitioners working in development, humanitarian and transitional contexts

House, S., Ferron, S. et al. (2014): Violence, Gender and WASH. A Practitioner’s Toolkit, WaterAid, SHARE

Safe programming in humanitarian responses

Oxfam (undated): Safe Programming in Humanitarian Responses. A Guide to Managing Risks

Tool kit on protection mainstreaming in humanitarian response

Global Protection Cluster (undated): Protection Mainstreaming Toolkit. Field Testing Version

Example protection checklist from the Occupied Palestinian Territory

OHCHR (undated): Checklist for Mainstreaming Protection in WASH Programmes. Protection and WASH Cluster

Guidance on Protection, gender and inclusion

IFRC (2021): Protection, Gender and Inclusion in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion - Leaving No-One Behind in WASH (Available in different languages)