A WASH Committee consists of members elected by the community who are responsible for keeping the water supply, sanitation and hygiene facilities and services operational. It comprises women and men representing different ages and groups e.g. people with disabilities and vulnerable groups who use or depend on specific WASH facilities.
A WASH Committee aims to enhance community involvement in WASH projects and enable a sense of ownership so that facilities and services are maintained and last as long as possible E.7. It supports the capacity of a community to actively engage in planning, implementing and monitoring their water supply and sanitation facilities (P.3 and P.4). The decision to set up a WASH Committee and the Terms of Reference (ToR) is the responsibility of the community; the role of the hygiene promoter is to facilitate this process. WASH Committees usually include a chairperson, secretary and treasurer. In addition, they may include hygiene facilitators and caretakers and other important stakeholders. WASH Committees meet at regular intervals according to an agreed agenda to discuss or update the WASH situation in the community. Ideally, they should meet with community members (depending on the needs of the specific context) to discuss problems and update them on WASH activities and plans.
Setting up WASH Committees can be time-consuming and many potential committee members will be busy with additional responsibilities early in an emergency. As a result, it is more applicable to the later stages of the response (e.g. recovery phase and prolonged camp settings) or in development contexts. It needs experienced community mobilisers or hygiene promoters to motivate, provide guidance and strengthen community capacity.
Use existing community structures to set up a WASH Committee rather than creating new ones
Ensure a diverse and representative group of committee members
Jointly develop and agree on clear ToRs according to the needs
Do not allow local politics or powerful groups to interfere with the effective running of the committee
Do not withdraw support until the WASH Committee members have adequate capacity to manage the WASH services independently
In Thailand, Malteser International set up WASH Committees in the refugee camps and surrounding host communities. An important aim was to discuss WASH-related issues to avoid conflict between the displaced and host communities over the sharing of water sources. The WASH Committees of the displaced and host communities were each responsible for implementing small-scale projects that they had identified. The projects aimed to improve WASH in their respective communities with each other’s support. Coordination meetings were conducted with the representatives of the WASH Committee to discuss WASH-related issues and the sharing of water sources.
UNICEF, RSPN (undated): Guiding Booklet for Village Sanitation Committee. Pakistan Approach to Total Sanitation (PATS). UNICEF’S Sanitation Programme at Scale in Pakistan (SPSP-Rural)
Uckrow, K., Stephan, Y. (2012): Structure and Functions of WASH Committees in Rural Areas. A Guideline, arche noVa
Oxfam (2009): Public Health Briefing Paper: Working with Community Committees