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Case Study: Strengthening capacities of National Societies in emergency WASH response and preparedness

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The Asia Pacific is a region riddled with disasters that cause destruction, damage and loss of life. To save lives and preserve the living, it is critical to re-establish water sources and rehabilitate systems paralysed by disasters to prevent the onset of disease. Large operations point towards urgent needs for functional preparedness in emergency water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Under the humanitarian mandate to assist people affected by disaster and crises, the role of National Societies and Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers on the ground is pivotal for immediate response and effective recovery.

The Asia Pacific Regional Office (APRO) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) took a programme approach in accompanying National Societies to develop capacity in emergency WASH. From lessons learned through past operations, efforts focused on strengthening branch capacities as volunteers at this level would be first responders in emergencies. The programme is primarily supported by the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) to equip National Societies with expertise and assets. Since 2012, up to 29 National Societies have benefited from capacity development, knowledge sharing, WASH assets, networking and regional events, and country level technical support.


This case study takes a closer look at experiences in three countries and one sub-region, each with a unique profile, a specific set of challenges and opportunities, and differing levels of WASH competencies. Through the lens of the participating National Societies and the communities they serve, this study captures rich layers of learning from multi-country implementation between 2016 to 2020.

The unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic gives a glimpse of the resulting global restrictions that are testing aspects of National Society capacity and preparedness on the ground. It is an opportunity to take stock of progress and the outlook ahead - to celebrate achievements and share experiences with National Societies and partners contemplating capacity development in emergency WASH in the Asia Pacific region.


The programme aims for Asia Pacific National Societies to maintain, improve and scale-up WASH capacities to meet acute (disaster) and chronic needs (development). The following sections look at the impact of increasing emergency WASH response capacity in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR and countries in the Pacific region, under three programme pillars:

Technical knowledge and know-how on WASH approaches and concepts

Appropriate and accountable provision of WASH services to populations affected by disasters

Effective and efficient response that address WASH needs of those affected sustainably

The impact of capacity development in emergency WASH is clearly seen through the responses of National Societies in recent disasters across the region.