Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

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Water, sanitation and hygiene

A safe water point in Kalemie, south Kivu, eastern Congo. Murals are used to pass hygiene messages to users. Photo credit: EU/ECHO/Damien Blanc

Why is this important?

Every year, 30 million people flee their home as a result of conflict or natural disaster, while over 200 million are affected by natural hazards. Very often these people lack access to water, sanitation and hygiene, (also known as WASH) during the emergency when water supply and sanitation systems are damaged or destroyed. Due to climate change and urbanisation, the number of people without access to safe water is expected to nearly double by 2025, reaching 2 billion people.

Lack of access to clean water and to basic sanitation and low hygiene standards increase the vulnerability of populations to epidemic outbreaks. Between 1.8 and 2.2 million people die every year of diarrheal diseases (90% of whom are children under five). WASH therefore represents one of main sectors of humanitarian operations.

How are we helping?

The European Commission is the biggest humanitarian donor in providing WASH assistance with over €220 million allocated in 2014 to projects in this sector. The Commission increasingly supports projects which incorporates WASH components within other sectors, such as nutrition or shelter, in order to increase effectiveness.

The Commission places special emphasis on enabling endangered populations to have quick access to water, sanitation and hygiene services, helping to build up their resilience against crises and taking preventive action against water-borne diseases. Water supply projects, wherever possible, are integrated with sanitation and hygiene promotion actions in order to reduce the risk of water contamination and disease, and to ensure that projects are community-led and self-sufficient.

With Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid under one roof, ECHO is well positioned to coordinate WASH interventions and actors notably in urban settings which require a technically sophisticated response. ECHO draws its expertise in WASH from a network of seven regional and global WASH and Shelter experts, its country experts as well as its NGO, UN and Red Cross partners.

Finally, ECHO provides both financial and professional support to the Global WASH Cluster - the main international forum, led by UNICEF, for coordinating humanitarian WASH actors.

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