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Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)


There are few things more important in a crisis situation than access to clean water and a hygienic method of disposing waste.  Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, the former Director General of the World Health Organisation, says:  

“Water and Sanitation is one of the primary drivers of public health. I often refer to it as ‘Health 101,’ which means that once we can secure access to clean water and to adequate sanitation facilities for all people, irrespective of the difference in their living conditions, a huge battle against all kinds of diseases will be won."[1] 

In disaster and other crisis situations, people need access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to prevent the spread of disease.

Floods can contaminate water sources. Damaged infrastructure can mean that water is no longer being provided. Conflicts that displace people from their homes mean that access to WASH must be addressed in unfamiliar surroundings, often in overpopulated camps. Unhygienic sanitation practices can cause diseases to spread.

Medair’s WASH projects provide essential, life-sustaining support that helps restore dignity to those affected.


Medair's WASH Sector
Woman uses a new source of clean water in Afghanistan

Woman uses a new source of clean water in Afghanistan


In 1991, Medair conducted our first small WASH project in Southern Sudan. In 1999, new organisational goals and experienced personnel began transforming Medair into a serious WASH contributor.

At the time, Medair had been rehabilitating existing water points in Southern Sudan, but we then began drilling new boreholes with a hand drill. In 2001, Medair purchased a drilling machine, and our team was able to drill 15 new boreholes within about a year.

Medair’s most common WASH activity has been the rehabilitation and maintenance of water points like springs, open wells, and boreholes that use a hand pump. These projects are complemented by hygiene education and by the training of water committees to  keep a water point functioning.

In emergency situations, where quicker and larger-scale operations are needed, Medair has gained competence in technologies like machine drilling, well jetting, chemical water treatment, and mass latrine construction. In addition to emergency response, Medair still explores and adapts simple technologies like sand filters, solar disinfection, and sludging where possible.


Core Strengths of Medair's WASH Sector
Well jetting in Madagascar

Well jetting in Madagascar



For two decades, Medair has provided long-lasting responses in WASH crisis situations around the world. Most of Medair’s country programmes now rely to some degree on this sector, and our WASH personnel possess many years of valuable experience.

Needs Assessment

Medair conducts a baseline WASH survey of any prospective crisis to identify the nature and urgency of the situation. We evaluate the number and types of facilities and resources needed, allowing us to accurately plan our overall response.

Flexible Approach

Medair has the flexibility of offering several different choices of technology, ranging from high-tech solutions (machine drilling, chemical treatment) to low-tech solutions (jetting, digging). Simple technology is normally preferable in order to be cost-effective and to build on existing local knowledge. However, in emergency situations, we may employ a more sophisticated and faster method to save lives and prevent disease.


Medair employs techniques like a modified well-jetting method, which is a simple way of providing a supply of ample clean water quickly. Medair also designed a small mobile water treatment system that uses inflatable tanks and chemicals and which is used for treating dirty surface water throughout the Sudan.

Focus on Beneficiaries

Medair works alongside the community in the planning and implementation of all our activities in order to nurture ownership and sustainability.

Balance Between Technical Implementation and Training
A brand new sanitation facility might never be used if people did not understand its purpose, while teaching alone will fall short when people cannot see and use practical equipment. For this reason, a balance is vital between the provision of new equipment and training in its proper usage. Hygiene teaching is also integrated into almost every Medair programme.

Internal Conferences and Knowledge Management
Medair hosts an annual internal WASH Conference, which allows for dissemination of knowledge, and the development and evaluation of sector goals and best practices. A highly qualified sectoral advisor oversees the knowledge management.

Coordination with Other Agencies

Medair works in close cooperation—not competition—with other actors in the humanitarian sector. This allows us to provide the best and most useful support possible. We also coordinate our efforts internally to achieve synergies with other Medair sectors, such as Health Services or Shelter and Infrastructure.


Case Study: Southern Sudan
Medair uses a machine driller to create boreholes in remote places in Southern Sudan, where the water table is often 100 metres deep. Each borehole will serve at least 500 people. Medair has also installed Surface Water Treatment Systems (SWATs) at way-stations for returning members of the population. In every intervention, we also promote proper hygiene and good sanitary practices.

Case Study: Madagascar
When seasonal cyclones strike Madagascar, the resultant flooding often destroys water points. Medair has been able to quickly create a high number of jetted wells using an innovative technology.

Case Study: Sudan (Northern States); Uganda

Both of these countries contain overcrowded camps which present particular WASH challenges. One important achievement has been the installation of water distribution systems in the camps. Water is pumped from a borehole to an elevated tank, which provides water to beneficiaries through a piping system and tap stands. Medair also engages in the mass construction of simple latrines at the camps.  

[1] Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, former Director General of the World Health Organization

Other Sectors of Expertise

Health Services
Shelter & Infrastructure