Social protection and WASH can achieve common goals

Social protection and WASH can achieve common goals
4 May 2023

By Sajanika Sivanu, Climate Centre, Toronto, Canada

The Climate Centre and the Norwegian Red Cross this week released a new brief entitled Synergies in Social Protection and WASH: What should Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies know?

It argues that: “Poverty and inadequate [water and sanitation] infrastructure are mutually reinforcing … Social protection and WASH interventions stand to gain much by focusing on programme outcomes that address these challenges more holistically.”

The brief explores how WASH and social protection share common goals and objectives, and how integrating them can lead to more impactful and sustainable outcomes.

As recently as 2021, the UN said one in four people worldwide still lack “safely managed drinking water in their homes and nearly half the world’s population lacked safely managed sanitation”.

Poor WASH facilities aggravate poverty, gender inequality and health conditions and erode well-being and economic growth, while extreme heat and intense rainfall are the “key negative climate change impacts on WASH systems”, the new Climate Centre brief says, yet “climate-induced risks are yet to be fully introduced into infrastructure planning”.

Critical areas

Synergies in Social Protection and WASH
includes case studies of the distribution of menstrual hygiene kits in Uganda’s Palorinya refugee settlement, for example, and the expansion of Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net Programme to ensure access to basic WASH services during droughts, both of which show how WASH can be promoted through social protection interventions with the assistance of National Societies.

The role of National Societies in integrating WASH and social protection is explored for emergencies and development contexts, as well as for public health and in urban areas, with recommendations to:

…explore existing relationships with social protection actors to gain insight into the policies and gaps at the intersection of WASH and social protection, and understand how National Societies can strengthen coordination in both areas.

…identify opportunities to work with organizations in social protection to merge objectives and outcomes while reducing duplication.

…assess WASH-related readiness for emergencies and the possible integration of programming and communication on WASH.

…participate in meetings of the working group on social protection led by the Climate Centre.

Learn more about the intersection of these two critical areas and the potential for transformative change through collaboration and shared objectives.

Nearly 50,000 migrants crossed the dangerous Darién Gap from Colombia in the first eight weeks of the year, five times more than the same period in 2022, the Panamanian authorities said. Here the Panamanian Red Cross tests the quality of drinking water it supplies to people on the trail at one of its humanitarian service points, where other WASH supplies and protection are also available. (Photo: Maria Victoria Langman/IFRC)