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T.46 Social Support

Adapting to a new behaviour, particularly in an emergency, can be overwhelming. Providing the right form of Social Support from the right person can reduce the feeling that making a change is impossible.

For planning Social Support activities, the ‘four Ws’ (Who is providing What to Whom and When?) should be considered and carefully answered.  

Who: depending on the behaviour, a friend, family member or hygiene promoter might be the best person to provide Social Support. 

What: can include (1) emotional support offering empathy and providing care, (2) instrumental support providing practical, financial or material help, or (3) informational support providing advice and guidance. 

Whom: for individuals to accept Social Support, important criteria about the supporter should be considered, e.g. gender, age or religion.

When: it is important to consider when the support would be most helpful. It may be after the first information has been received, or later when the person has encountered challenges.

There are various types of Social Support. One-to-one mentoring, where ‘the supporter’ visits people to perform a certain activity (such as demonstrating how to perform the behaviour T.10 or providing material or emotional support). Another method activates the existing social network of family and friends; family members (e.g. the elder sister or mother) are invited to provide support when needed. Support groups are another option, for people who have tried to perform the new behaviour to share experiences, challenges and solutions. A positive side-effect of encouraging Social Support amongst the target group is that the community’s social structure is strengthened


Social Support can be used in all response phases and contexts. Support networks are often initiated by communities themselves.


  • Plan carefully and conduct a qualitative assessment (chapter [A]) of the ‘four Ws’ before the intervention. This also reduces the risk of potentially negative effects should the wrong type of support be provided (e.g. a girl might want emotional support with her menstrual hygiene management but only receives informational support)


  • Do not only provide Social Support through hygiene promoters but involve existing social networks such as family, friends or neighbours

Practical Example

During India’s sanitation campaign, Gram Vikas, a local NGO with a focus on improving the disposal of children’s faeces, provided mothers with Social Support. The Support included three activities: (1) Household Visits T.18 by promoters to provide informational and emotional support to the mother as she started to practise safe disposal and/or latrine training with her child, (2) working with the community’s social network to bring other family members into the process (e.g. father and grandmother), encouraging them to provide the mother with a helping hand and (3) facilitating regular caregiver support groups where mothers came together to discuss their experience of adopting new practices, sharing the challenges and successes.

Key Decision Critria

Response Phase
Acute Response
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Protracted Crisis
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HP Component
Preconditions and Enabling Environment
Community Engagement and Participation
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Assessment, Analysis and Planning
Social and Behaviour Change
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Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
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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General information on Social Support

House, J. (1987): Social Support and Social Structure, Sociological Forum, Vol. 2(1). Pages 135-146

Glanz, K., Rimer B. et al. (2008): Health Behavior and Health Education. Theory, Research and Practice, John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0787996147

Sclar, G., Mosler, H. (2021): Caregiver Social Support and Child Toilet Training in Rural Odisha, India: What Types of Support Facilitate Training and How?, Applied Psychology : Health and Well-Being