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Core Commitments

for Children

are the core UNICEF policy and framework for humanitarian action


Strategic Result

Children and their communities have equitable access to, and use, safe water and sanitation services, and adopt hygiene practices



  • WASH sector/cluster coordination and leadership functions are adequately staffed and skilled at national and sub-national levels

  • Core leadership and coordination accountabilities are delivered

  • Quantity of water meets an initial minimum survival level of 7.5 litres, to at least 15 litres per person per day (Sphere)[73]

  • Drinking water supply services meet at least “basic”[74] level, as per Joint Monitoring Programme[75] (JMP) standards

  • Quality of water meets WHO or national standards

  • No-one is practicing open defecation

  • A maximum ratio of 20 people per functioning shared toilet, separated for men and women, with locks, child-friendly features and hand washing facilities, is ensured[76] and adapted to people with disabilities[77]

  • Sanitation service meets at least “limited”[78] level, as per JMP standards

  • Excreta is safely contained, collected, transported, treated and disposed of in a way that safeguards public health

  • Health care and nutrition treatment facilities meet at least “basic”[79] JMP service levels for water, sanitation and hygiene services

  • Learning facilities/schools for children, child-friendly spaces and protection-transit centres have at least “basic”[80] JMP service levels for water, sanitation and hygiene services

  • Affected populations benefit from hygiene awareness-raising activities and have access to hygiene and menstrual health information

  • Periodic risk assessments are conducted and inform sector policies and preparedness plans

  • Capacity development and technical support are provided to all stakeholders at national and sub-national levels on linking humanitarian, development and peacebuilding[81]

  • Children, their caregivers and communities are aware of available WASH services and how and where to access them

  • Children, their caregivers and communities are engaged through participatory behaviour change interventions

  • Affected people receive key hygiene communication in a timely manner

  • At least 70% of target population is aware of key public health risks related to water, sanitation and hygiene and can adopt measures to reduce them

  • Handwashing facilities are available as per the SPHERE standards

  • Affected populations have access to necessary hygiene items to adequately undertake essential daily personal and household hygiene activities

  • Affected populations benefit from hygiene awareness- raising activities and have access to hygiene and menstrual health information. Women and girls have access to menstrual supplies and facilities in the community

1. Leadership and coordination


Effective leadership and coordination are established and functional 

See 2.1.2 Coordination

2:  Water supply


Affected populations have safe and equitable access to, and use a sufficient quantity and quality of water to meet their drinking and domestic needs 

3: Sanitation


Affected populations have safe access to, and use appropriate sanitation facilities; and excreta is safely managed

4: WASH in health care facilities and learning environments


Affected populations have safe access to, and use, appropriate WASH services in health care and learning facilities for children

5. WASH system strengthening


WASH national and local systems are equipped to assess, prevent and address risks and hazards at service delivery and user level 


See 2.2.4 Linking humanitarian and development

6: Hygiene promotion and community engagement for behaviour and social change


At-risk and affected populations have timely access to culturally appropriate, gender- and age-sensitive information, services and interventions related to hygiene promotion, and adopt safe hygiene practices


See 2.2.7 Community engagement for behaviour and social change

Key Considerations


Coordination and Partnerships 

  • As sector/cluster lead/co-lead for WASH:  identify gaps; support effective advocacy, timely responses to filling critical gaps; establish monitoring and evaluation and knowledge management processes; consider specific needs related to gender, disabilities and age.

  • In the case of a disease outbreaks, clarify at an early stage the roles of WASH sector and UNICEF on infection prevention and control measures in health care facilities, in close coordination with the health sector.

  • Collaborate with the private sector, in the framework of Child Rights and Business Principles.


Quality Programming and Standards

  • Conduct multisectoral assessments, planning, programming and monitoring to address public health risks and malnutrition by creating barriers along the main pathways for pathogens to infect humans.

  • Foster a multisectoral and integrated approach to contribute to reducing WASH-related risk factors at community/household level and in public health, education, protection facilities.   Collaborate with Health, Education, Child Protection, Gender and Disability sectors when planning WASH facilities for health centres, schools, temporary learning spaces, child-friendly spaces and protection centres. 

  • Consider the use of cash transfers to deliver WASH responses: implement needs assessments, market analyses, and organization of cash/vouchers management tools.

  • Target those who are most in need and hard-to-reach. Aim to close equity gaps in line with the “leave no-one behind” agenda.

  • Aim for higher standards of service provision where feasible, starting with meeting at least the Sphere standards and indicators and aiming for higher JMP service levels. Water quality and quantity should aim to meet WHO guidelines, national standards, or equivalent.

  • Promote household toilets and bathing facilities as the ideal for user safety, security, convenience and dignity when feasible because of the demonstrated links between ownership and maintenance.  Alternatively, provide gender-segregated communal/shared facilities with context-appropriate safety features such as door locks and lighting.

  • Ensure that water and sanitation systems (incl. their locations, technologies and service delivery mechanisms) 1) are resilient to extreme weather events (risks must have been assessed and appropriate interventions identified and implemented); 2) use renewable energy where possible; 3) do not aggravate climate impact (do not harm).

  • Engage in solid waste management on a case-by-case situation at household, institutional or community level, including medical and menstrual health and hygiene waste.

  • WASH requires specific approaches in urban environments. Higher density, limited visibility of at-risk groups and diverse ownership of assets affects the choice of response options and methods of delivery.

  • Systematically engage affected communities, with specific attention to women and girls, to plan and implement: 1) preparedness and preventive action at community level; 2) needs assessments and WASH response, including identification of water point locations; design and adaptation of bathing and laundry facilities; identification of priority hygiene items to include in hygiene kits; design and adaptation of key hygiene messages to the local context. Establish feedback mechanisms to give affected people, especially women and girls, more control over the response and its impact on them.

  • Ensure that adolescent girls and women are provided with an option to choose preferred menstrual health and hygiene materials and sanitation facility designs.

  • Ensure that all at-risk groups, including women and girls, older people, people with disabilities and others with specific protection concerns feel safe and are protected from discrimination and GBV when collecting water or using toilets and bathing facilities, day or night, through participatory planning and regular beneficiary feedback mechanisms. Equip and train WASH personnel to refer GBV survivors.  If there are no GBV actors available, train WASH staff on the GBV Pocket Guide.

  • Engage persons with disabilities at all stages when designing accessible WASH facilities.

  • Using safe and confidential feedback mechanisms based on affected populations’ preferred methods of communication, systematically use their views to review, inform and correct WASH interventions.

  • Ensure that communities participate in decisions that affect their lives and have access to safe and confidential complaints mechanisms.

Linking Humanitarian and Development

  • Engage in multi-hazard risk assessment, planning and programming for WASH, in line with the Sendai Framework and other global standards and guidance on disaster risk reduction.

  • Ensure that in contexts affected by conflict, fragility, or major challenges to social cohesion, WASH interventions are underpinned by a conflict analysis and are conflict sensitive.

  • Ensure WASH data on water points and water infrastructure is stored in a robust manner (backed up digitally and off-site) that can be used for disaster recovery and rehabilitation programmes.

  • Engage in Post Disaster Needs Assessment and recovery strategies for sustainable and resilient solutions.

  • Strengthen humanitarian-development-peace linkages by moving from temporary to longer-term and durable solutions (e.g. establishing cost-effective water and sanitation infrastructure as soon as possible and keep water trucking to a minimum).

  • Design WASH interventions that are resilient to current and future climate impacts and promote adaptive and environmentally sustainable WASH systems, using solar power where possible.

  • Train communities and build national and local capacities for local water and sanitation system management that can remain after the emergency response.

  • Align target and result figures with the JMP and UNICEF standards for coordination, water, sanitation, hygiene and WASH in schools, health centres and other institutions to help countries keep track of achievements towards SDGs during emergencies.


[73] The quantity of water needed for drinking, hygiene and domestic use depends upon the context. It will be influenced by factors such as pre-crisis use and habits, excreta containment design and cultural habits. A minimum of 15 litres per person per day is established practice in humanitarian response. It is never a “maximum” and may not suit all contexts. In the acute phase of a drought, 7.5 litres per person per day may be appropriate for a short time. In an urban middle-income context, 50 litres per person per day may be the minimum acceptable amount to maintain health and dignity.

[74] “Basic” drinking water supply service level as per the joint WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), refers to “Drinking water from an improved source, provided collection time is not more than 30 minutes for a roundtrip including queuing.”

[75] The joint WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply Sanitation and Hygiene provides regular global reports on

drinking-water and sanitation coverage to facilitate sector planning and management, to support countries in their efforts to improve their

monitoring systems, and to provide information for advocacy

[79] “Basic” WASH services in health care facilities as per JMP refer to 1) Water is available from an improved source on the premises;

2) Improved sanitation facilities are usable with at least one toilet dedicated for staff, at least one sex-separated toilet with menstrual hygiene facilities, and at least one toilet accessible for people with limited mobility; 3) Functional hand hygiene facilities (with water and soap and/or alcohol-based hand rub) are available at points of care, and within 5 metres of toilets.

[80] “Basic” WASH services in schools as per JMP refer to 1) Drinking water from an improved source is available at the school; 2) Improved sanitation facilities, which are single-sex and usable at the school are available; 3) Handwashing facilities, which have water and soap available.

[81] Capacity development and technical support aim to reinforce, among others, WASH institutional arrangements; coordination; risk-informed sector policies plans and strategies; and financing.

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