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Guidance: Safeguarding Children in 'WASH', February 2019

Save the Children
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In our WASH work

The provision of safe water and adequate sanitation facilities to communities is a key part of Save the Children’s work in emergencies. However, improperly built and/or poorly maintained WASH facilities (such as latrines) have contributed to child fatalities and serious injuries in the past (commonly from the collapse of the latrine slab or the septic tank ceiling), as have death and injuries caused by water trucks, especially in crowded refugee camps. WASH facilities and distributions (including water distributions) can be locations for sexual exploitation and abuse of children, perpetrated by our staff, partners, and community members.

This document will outline some potential safeguarding risks of WASH programmes, and give you suggestions on how to manage them to ensure children are as safe as possible. It is not an exhaustive list, but may help you think through a good risk management strategy.

Possible ‘people’ risks

  • An unequal power dynamic between children and caregivers who need access to clean water, and NGO staff and partners who are in charge of WASH facilities, arranging water distributions or delivering water.

  • Regular maintenance by unsupervised adults of WASH facilities such as showers, toilets and latrines (which children can access)

  • Untrained WASH staff and volunteers who do not understand the risks of unsafe programming; or who are willing to ‘cut corners’ in an emergency; to finish WASH construction

  • Staff who ‘feel anonymous’ are more likely to use physical violence to discipline children, and may be more likely to abuse children in other ways