Water, sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

This programme builds upon NCA's 2011-2015 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme, with a renewed focus on community participation and sanitation.


1. Problem analysis
2. Methods and intervention strategies
3. Strengthening civil society
4. Added value
5. Integration of gender equality and youth in programming

In 2016, our water, sanitation and hygiene program ensured that almost 1.3 million people got access to clean and safe drinking water.
In 2016, our water, sanitation and hygiene program ensured that almost 1.3 million people got access to clean and safe drinking water.

1. Problem analysis

Despite some progress made in the years approaching the MDG target year of 2015, many governments are still struggling to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to all their citizens. Access to safe water, adequate sanitation facilities, practicing key hygiene behaviours and living in a ‘clean’ environment are fundamental pre-conditions for people’s health and social and economic development. The lack of such conditions exposes people - particularly children and people with compromised immune systems - to transmissible diseases such as diarrhoea and typhoid. This is often a question of life and death. Today, unhygienic conditions cause the death of 1.8 million children due to diarrhoea and other water related diseases.

NCA will prioritise three main challenges:

27. http://www.unwater.org/publications/publications-detail/en/c/231531/

Clean drinking water: By 2012, 748 million people still used unimproved drinking water sources, 2.5 billion people still used unimproved sanitation facilities, human waste from 4.2 billion people was still discharged untreated to the environment, and open defecation was still practiced by 1 billion people27 . Disparities of access to WASH services are due to geographic, economic and socio-cultural inequalities. Unserved population groups may be distinct by ethnicity, religion and education or by intra-household inequalities such as gender, age and disability status. In addition to the disparities between urban and rural areas, there are striking differences between people living in informal suburbs and effluent areas.

Following the 2016 earthquake in Haiti, a part of Norwegian Church Aid's emergency response was water cleansing packets, see how they work here:

Environmental sanitation: Poor environmental and management standards challenge the sustainability of water and sanitation services. The environmental issue is human induced pollution, changes in the environment and over exploitation of water resources. The management issue is that communal infrastructure needs management to provide the service they are designed for. ‘Weak’ management challenges the sustainability of communal schemes.

Water resource management: We need water for many purposes, all of which put pressure on water resources. Changing climate is likely to exacerbate stresses on water resources. In many areas, climate change is likely to increase water demand while shrinking water supplies. This shifting balance challenges us to meet the needs of growing communities. The threat of damages on water and sanitation infrastructures is also likely to increase particularly where more climate-induced hazards are to be expected.

While many governments have policies for sanitation and water supply in place, poor and marginalised people have the challenge that these policies do not reach the authorities at the district level or there is a lack of resources for implementing them. In particular, the poor and marginalised are systematically excluded from access, due to their limited legal rights or by public policies that limit access to the infrastructures that provide water. In short, water scarcity is often the product of political processes and institutions that disadvantage the poor.

In 2016, more than 500 000 people got access to toilets.
In 2016, more than 500 000 people got access to toilets.

2. Methods and intervention strategies

NCA’s methodologies for WASH services are to target the unserved, poor, and marginalised people in rural and urban areas and those marginalised due to gender, disability, age and chronic diseases. Our services are designed to be inclusive and appropriate for all people. NCA particularly focuses on alleviating the burden of women and girls as the ‘traditional’ household water providers and aims to include them in all decision-making processes.

In general, NCA implements the WASH programme through partner organisations. NCA and its partners contribute to the universal access of rights holders to at least basic WASH services and progressively deliver higher service levels. To reach this end, our strategy is to

  1. enable partners and communities to claim their rights to water and sanitation and that services are delivered in an equitable, participatory and accountable way, and
  2. NCA delivers sustainable water supply, sanitation and hygiene services.

NCA preferably integrates water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to achieve a maximum health benefit towards the targeted population. However, there will be contexts where NCA will focus on one aspect of WASH such as sanitation and hygiene promotion, or water service delivery and the sustainability of these services or any other combination. NCA aims to be an innovator in the WASH sector. We engage in applied research to develop more effective and adapted tools, approaches and technical solutions, and trial and pilot cutting edge innovations. NCA will focus on scaling up successful innovations and interventions.

Pivotal for NCA’s WASH programme is our partners’ engagement with communities in order to enable them to take action on their concerns. A pre-condition for this is the thorough understanding of the local conditions through a comprehensive stakeholder and gender analysis. For community mobilisation, we apply approaches and tools that have been shown to be effective like Participatory Rural Appraisal, Community Mapping and others.

NCA may engage with the private sector and market forces to reach its objectives. This can be in the form of arranging linkages where a win-win situation is reached for the rights holders and the private sector.

28. Ref. Emergency Strategy to be developed in 2015.

NCA responds to acute humanitarian crises with the delivery of live-saving WASH services28. NCA implements several of its WASH programmes in fragile states with weak institutions and security challenges due to being in a state of protracted emergency. This global WASH programme is relevant for the rehabilitation/recovery phase after an acute emergency response and in protracted emergencies. The guidelines are limited through the specific challenges of the situation. In both situations, we provide WASH services to host communities and directly affected people.

NCA engages in advocacy in long-term development projects and emergency responses. On a global level, NCA advocates for the human right to water and sanitation and universal access to WASH services. One arena which NCA uses for this goal is the Ecumenical Water Network. At national and district level, NCA supports and enables partners and local groups to claim their right for services from the government. Successful approaches are NCA’s budget monitoring tools (e.g. the public expenditure tracking system (PETS)) and engagement with governments through capacity support to service authorities. In protracted emergency situations, NCA advocates for topics together with other stakeholders on platforms like the WASH cluster coordination mechanism.

NCA focuses on sanitation, hygiene and water services in schools and health institutions. We normally implement school sanitation in collaboration with authorities, parent associations, teachers and pupils. NCA will deliver institutional sanitation as a package of infrastructure improvement, hygiene behaviour change activities and viable management arrangement to assure sustained use of the facilities. NCA has a focus on WASH services delivered at the lowest tier of health institutions. An important aspect is the inclusive access to sanitation facilities of all people: children, women, elderly people and those are living with disabilities, providing solutions for menstrual hygiene management and hand washing.

Lack of access to adequate sanitation is one of the major challenges people face. Therefore, NCA will facilitate the empowerment of people to make choices about their household sanitation. We use approaches and tools that have been proven to effectively stimulate demand for sanitation facilities like community wide total sanitation (CLTS, SLTS) and other approaches to end open defecation. We apply marketing approaches in order for targeted people to better access improved sanitation services and to be able to climb up the ‘sanitation ladder’. Sustainability of sanitation is an important issue for NCA. We see sanitation services as the total sanitation service chain from the toilet facility to collection and transport of faeces to its treatment and its safe reuse or disposal. The sanitation chain is particularly important in urban household sanitation.

NCA will work with the two aspects of sustainability of sanitation:

  1. The environmental aspect of safe excreta (faecal sludge) management and waste water treatment in order to protect people, the environment and water supplies, and
  2. Environmental sanitation where NCA will focus its intervention on the community level, finding arrangements for solid waste management, drainage and vector control.

A mandatory part of our sanitation and water services is the focus on hygiene behaviour change of key risk hygiene behaviours. NCA applies approaches and tools that have shown to have effects like Participatory Community Based “Total Hygiene” (PHAST, CHC, WASH in school, CtC) and marketing of single interventions like Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage approach. Sustainability of hygiene behaviour has as an intermediate step awareness raising and more knowledge about hygiene behaviour risks. However, NCA aims for sustained hygiene behaviour change particularly of hand washing with soap and point of use water treatment and safe storage. Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) is an issue that NCA will mainstream in the design of sanitation and water facilities and hygiene promotion.

Reaching the unreached with reliable water services is one of the pillars of NCA’s global WASH programme. We deliver not only basic water supply services, but aim to deliver progressively higher service levels. Providing at source drinking water quality is often of concern in many countries. We therefore have a focus on this topic working with water safety planning and other measures. Community-based management of water service delivery is NCA’s main management model while trying out other models where appropriate such as private ownership (self-supply), different forms of public-private partnerships and approaches at larger geographical scale (Triple-S). While delivering new water schemes to marginalised urban and rural dwellers, NCA is also focusing on the sustainability of non-functional water supply service infrastructure. Projects addressing sustainability of used and non-functional water schemes are relatively cost-effective when rehabilitating them. Sustainability of water schemes depends on many aspects such as: local ownership, affordability, legal frameworks, access to markets and the capacity of service providers whether from within the community or externally. NCA works to correct all aspects that may limit the long-term benefits derived from infrastructure, and supports and follows up the different forms of service providers.

Householders use water for domestic and productive purposes, and designers of water schemes must bear this in mind. NCA also implements projects using the Multiple Water Use Services (MUS) approach. NCA’s WASH programmes integrate measures to improve water security where appropriate using approaches that have proven to be effective like Community-Based Water Resources Management (CBWRM). Other tools are protection of water catchment areas and measures such as recharge, retention, reuse (3R approach) of water resources management. NCA will carry out social and environmental risk assessments in situations where planned water supply projects may have a likelihood of negative environmental or social effects. Hazards may threaten people, their assets and water and sanitation infrastructures. Therefore, NCA mainstreams disaster risk reduction measures in its activities where appropriate.

3. Strengthening civil society

NCA aims to strengthen civil society in the countries where we are active. To reach this end, NCA’s WASH programme is normally implemented through national partners, but with exceptions. NCA’s strategy of partnerbased implementation has the advantage of the close link with local communities. NCA works to build the capacity of its partners, as NCA’s partner’s rootedness in the local society gives them the possibility to engage with the main duty bearers.

We strengthen civil society at the local level in the WASH programme through: 1) facilitating the communities ownership of communal WASH services infrastructure, 2) the facilitation of building networks and associations of CSOs like water committees, and 3) the facilitation of CSOs and associations claiming social services from authorities.

Through the ACT Alliance, NCA links the local level WASH programmes with the global level. With more than 40 years of experience in the WASH sector, NCA is an accountable organisation to rights holders as well as to donors. We have shown to be able to manage large-scale programmes and to deliver results.

4. Added value

NCA’s partners’ rootedness in the national society gives them the possibility to engage with the main duty bearers, to claim the right to water and sanitation services and to influence political decisions. NCA’s partners’ trusted position in local communities is conducive for mobilising communities. For NCA, potential partners need to have proven expertise in the WASH sector, accountable and transparent organisational management and rootedness in society. NCA continuously builds partners’ and stakeholders’ capacity to ensure that standards (HAP, SPHERE, CoC, DNH, etc.) are upheld and maintained in all aspects of collaboration.

5. Integration of gender equality and youth in programming

NCA will seek to integrate domestic water supply with improved gender equality. In many societies women and girls take care of supplying and using water domestically. They use considerable time and energy to transport water from the source to the household. Consequently, they have less time and energy for learning, socialising, and other productive and economic activities than men and boys. Providing water as close as possible to the household will benefit girls and women by saving time and energy that they can devote to other purposes.

Read about our WASH-results in our Global Report 2015