WASH in Drought

Drought causes temporary water shortages whilst aridity is a state of chronic water deficit. It is important to recognise this difference and to realise that emergency responses to drought will usually occur in semi arid areas that suffer from chronic water deficit. It is therefore vital that any WASH interventions do not undermine the populations’ coping strategies by a failure to understand those strategies.

Minimum Requirements

Integrated working with EFSVL

Close collaboration with the EFSVL team is required to ensure ‘joined up’ programming. Amongst other things this will entail:


In drought responses, an in depth assessment is critical to determine the specific PHP and PHE actions that are necessary. Use the Public Health Conceptual Model to examine the different influences on health and nutrition. The following issues should be considered:


The response must:


Appropriate interventions could include repairing of hand pumps, digging or deepening of hand dug wells, provision of fuel and cash subsidies.

Rainwater harvesting such as constructing ponds, contour bunds, subsurface dams and rock catchments may be appropriate as part of preparedness or second phase interventions.

Use country specific and WASH cluster guidelines for recommended water quantity.

Emergency water trucking (EWT) should be considered as a last resort option for emergency response and the following key issues addressed:

Water provision through vouchers is an option that can be utilized in areas where a commercial water trucking market exists. (Cash transfer payments are made to the commercial suppliers for the vouchers that have been submitted by beneficiaries.)

Excreta management

Providing latrines in sparsely populated areas or where the majority of the population are nomadic must be avoided in the drought context and alternative strategies for the containment of faeces should be sought e.g. demarcated areas, defecation away from water sources, cat method, reducing risks due to animal faeces.

Public Health Promotion

The promotion of hygiene must recognise the issue of water scarcity and how this can be managed and where possible should support traditional coping strategies such as the use of leaves for washing and sand for cleaning cooking vessels.

The provision of soap and hand washing equipment may be appropriate in camps and feeding centres but it is not usually practical for regular distribution to dispersed populations such as nomadic pastoralists who move with their extended families.

Possible alternatives are: