In the event of an emergency, prior to any intervention, a clear analysis and prioritisation of humanitarian needs should be established through a well-coordinated and planned assessment. Assessments are the foremost step in the Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC), allowing indicators such as those listed in the Global WASH Cluster (GWC) indicator bank to be measured, with weak points then specifically addressed to optimise impact in a coordinated manner. The assessment must answer the following five questions for both rapid onset emergencies and/or protracted crises:
The assessment will either be a comprehensive interagency sector-wide assessment or a specific WASH sector assessment, depending on the scale of the emergency and the context, the degree of coordination between partners, the available resources and the overall capacity. Specific WASH sector assessments should always include cross-sector data collection and an analysis of the context through secondary data reviews. As an important first step, primary contact will be crucial to understanding the enabling environment including the various governmental stakeholders, community representatives, affected communities, key informants and humanitarian and development actors that are present. If the state leads in any intervention, understanding the institutional landscape and existing contingency and disaster preparedness plans will be paramount. The national government may request surge capacity from humanitarian actors, especially for medium to large-scale emergencies where cluster activation maybe triggered.
Rapid assessment approaches, such as the Multi-Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) or those used by organisations such as UNHCR, are relevant during a rapid onset event, such as a natural disaster or an additional unexpected event during an ongoing, protracted crises or mass movement of people. For more complex long-term, slow onset disasters or protracted crises, more complex assessments could also be used, such as the Multi Sector Needs Assessment, that is used to inform the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO). The HNO, which is undertaken annually as the first step in the UN funding appeal process, results in a Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) as part of the overall UN appeals system. For previously existing water supply systems and/or those newly established for medium- to long-term use, a more systematic risk-based approach, such as a Water Safety Plan (WSP), is recommended (see X.8).
For conducting assessments, the following factors must be considered: