Moving from humanitarian to sustainable WASH in the Middle East - what next?

Written by Omar El Hattab, Regional WASH advisor for UNICEF MENA (Middle East and Northern AFrica), Marielle Snel, Regional WASH advisor for World Vision MEERO (Middle East and Eastern Europe) and Anne Lloyd (Consultant)

Although many of the countries in the Middle East region have advanced water and sanitation services; several countries face numerous challenges, such as water scarcity, energy crises, complex social and political dynamics and conflict. While the international community continues to respond to the on-going humanitarian needs across the Middle East region, there is a critical need to start thinking beyond the emergency to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In order to advance the discussion on how to better support sustainable WASH  services in the region, World Vision and Unicef organised and funded a learning event/workshop entitled “Moving from humanitarian to sustainable WASH” between 19 – 21 September 2017 at the Kempinski hotel, Amman, Jordan specifically for  agencies funding and implementing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services in the region. Twenty five people attended, from 11 different organisations (including UN, donors, NGOs, a private organisation and the Red Cross), working either globally, regionally, or based in countries within the region including Jordan, KRI, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.

The meeting had three main objectives:

  • To identify and share experiences of practice in proper water, sanitation and hygiene behaviour and ensuring sustained WASH, in particular for the Middle East Region, with a focus on moving from humanitarian to long term sustainable WASH development; 
  • To identify key recommendations based on presentations and discussions; and
  • To identify gaps and potential work that may emerge.

Throughout the meeting there were presentations with discussions based around six themes:

  • Humanitarian interventions
  • WASH in public institutions
  •  WASH in conflict sensitivity
  • Monitoring & evaluation
  • Water scarcity & insecurity and
  • Sustainability WASH.


The participants discussed which activities for these themes could be done at three different phases (emergency relief, reconstruction/rehabilitation, sustainability); this led to an agreement that although there is great diversity and many challenges within the region, everyone is aiming at sustainability, which can be considered to have five key aspects: institutional, financial, social, environmental and technical.

The participants then held discussions around actions needed and by whom to better support sustainable WASH services within the region, based around the five aspects of sustainability. This led to a draft Declaration of key messageswith the intention of moving towards a Regional WASH strategy that can guide more coherent, effective and accountable support to governments, and to people who lack sustainable WASH services across the Middle East region; (Note this was drafted by Nat Mason, Senior Research Fellow at ODI).

Key points in this declaration include:

  •         diversity of contexts and rapid change,
  •         complex political dynamics,
  •         high costs for services,
  •         increasing pressure on natural resources and
  •         social tensions and conflict.

Please be aware that a separate blog will come out on this next week.

In terms of next steps, following the successful conclusion of this September workshop, the participants agreed to organize a workshop in March 2018 including participation of a priority group of MENA countries for discussing the paradigm shift and agreeing on the regional framework formulated in the course of the September workshop.

The next workshop will aim at obtaining consensus on the framework and agreeing the way forward. While the framework does capture the various strategies, themes and issues to be addressed, these still need to be translated into actions at country level. It’s against that backdrop that one of the envisaged outcomes from the March workshop will be an agreement on formulation of country level strategies for “transiting from Humanitarian WASH Assistance into Development WASH Services”.Upon successful conclusion of the March workshop, it’s envisaged that work at country level will immediately start with a view of concluding priority country level strategies before the end of 2018. Simultaneously, the group will embark on preparation for a 3rd workshop towards the end of 2018 for including the rest of MENA countries for the same purpose.

All in all, the participants appreciated the meeting; and the majority of those who completed a short feedback form at the end of the meeting felt that the objectives of the meeting had almost been achieved (ranking 3 out of 4). The key highlight for the participants was the opportunity to discuss with a wide variety of stakeholders.

 It was noted by the WV Regional WASH Adviser, Dr. Marielle Snel that this meeting is a milestone as inter-sectoral cooperation is so important to seriously move forward. The Regional WASH Adviser for Unicef, Dr. Omar El Hattab concluded: “I think everybody realises that World Vision and Unicef took it upon themselves to organise this event; from now on the World Vision and Unicef logos will disappear; this is about us- our work (together) and we are committed to take this forward.”