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Lessons learned in WASH: Response during Urban Flood Emergencies

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1. Preamble

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) response in urban contexts has been identified by the Global WASH Learning Project as a priority for technical learning in the sector. The increased numbers of earthquakes and cyclones have brought us all closer to urban environments, yet it is recognised that many agencies lack adequate skills to address the complex challenges involved. Urban flooding is one type of emergency that requires a WASH response. This paper is intended for WASH technical advisors and personnel involved in planning and delivery of WASH programmes in urban flood emergency situations. Material in the paper is based both on a rapid review of literature, and on outputs from a learning workshop held in Haiti in March 2009. The workshop was attended by international inter-agency WASH advisors and practitioners and allowed for sharing of experiences from Haiti and other urban flood emergencies. The focus of the Haiti workshop was on WASH responses, with an emphasis on three words: Flooding, Urban, and Technical. This paper aims to: capture good practices and lessons learned in WASH response to flooding in urban contexts; and identify associated common technical challenges and gaps.

This paper identifies various lessons that can be learned from the experiences of relief agency staff when responding to urban flooding emergencies. The paper does not claim to be comprehensive, but can serve as a helpful document, which captures some important lessons to help improve future responses to floods in urban areas, and which can be added to in the future. In addition, these lessons have provided a framework for the development of technical guidance materials to support technical learning in the sector. A series of technical briefs have been developed on issues identified in this paper and are available via the WASH Cluster website

We would like to thank the participants at the learning workshop in Haiti (March 2009) and members of the project Steering Group (including representatives from Care, CRS, Oxfam, REDR, UNICEF and ACF) for their contribution to this paper.