Assignment name: Facilitate IFRC’s organisational assessment and develop its strategic orientation for urban WASH

Project duration: August 2016 – May 2017

Funder: IFRC

Clients: The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies

The challenge

Although IFRC and the national societies have implemented or are implementing urban water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) operations or programmes, most of their WASH work to date has focused on rural contexts.

The 2017 IFRC WASH policy and Global Strategic Direction for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, defines urban WASH as one of the four focus areas for the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals.

This policy recognised both the IFRC’s limited urban experience and the need for the organisation to be better prepared for an inevitable increase in demand on the need to provide urban WASH services, both humanitarian and developmental, to vulnerable populations, especially to those at most risk or least served.

We helped develop strategic orientation which builds on these documents to define more clearly the urban WASH agenda for the IFRC and the Red Cross/Red Crescent (RC/RC) National Societies and provide operational guidance to the IFRC as a whole, and specifically to the Urban WASH technical working group.

WSUP approach

The role of the IFRC in responding to urban disasters and specifically the provision of immediate life-saving services for WASH in emergency contexts and the distribution of non-food items is well established. Nevertheless, the requirement in urban contexts to engage with and to coordinate with local authorities, service providers and many other stakeholders presents new and more complex challenges.

We’ve worked to shape the IFRC’s orientation towards urban WASH, undertaking a participatory organisational assessment of IFRC’s past, current and future engagement in urban WASH. The assessment identified the strengths and advantages that the RC/RC can build upon to develop their role in urban WASH, and provided guidance of how this can be achieved in practice.


A redrafted IFRC future Strategic Orientations in Urban WASH document has been produced. The document is a succinct, easy to understand document that all RC/RC WASH staff, including volunteers, can read, absorb, adhere to and use as a guidance.

Key messages are simple and to the point, to ensure organisation-wide usage. The document is not intended as the definitive urban WASH Strategy for IFRC, but acts as the basis for future engagement in urban WASH, including in development and emergency contexts.