Assignment name: Capacity Building on Urban WASH, and Knowledge Generation on Adaptation to Water Insecurity in MENA countries

Project duration: September 2016 to July 2017

Funders: UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office (MENARO) & the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

The challenge

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supply systems and services in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries have increasingly weakened due to protracted conflicts.
Direct damage to infrastructure, economic crises and population displacements have all affected the capacities of utilities and independent service providers, many of which were already operating in difficult conditions before these conflicts started. In 2016, an estimated 44 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance for WASH in MENA.

International organisations have intervened to help respond to emergency needs. However, the drawn out nature of conflicts requires an approach that is suitable to the nature and scale of the challenge.

This means helping build the resilience of local service providers, as well as that of international organisations which need to prepare for short and long-term outcomes in areas directly affected by armed conflict. This also concerns urban hubs hosting the majority of these displaced communities, such as Jordan and Lebanon.

WSUP approach

For this project, we formed a partnership with UNICEF and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). The partners aimed to learn from past experience of WASH service provision in MENA during conflicts, and identify opportunities for building the resilience of local service providers and the international organisations that support them.

Our approach combined two elements. Firstly, technical training to strengthen urban operations of WASH service providers in areas hosting refugees, as well as in fragile states and towns directly affected by war. Secondly, targeted research to identify, document and disseminate resilience-building and coping mechanisms for water service provision in MENA.


For the first sub-project, we were asked to build UNICEF and its partners’ technical capacities for urban WASH operations, as they respond to emergency needs and develop appropriate long-term WASH programmes.

Our team organised a training event in Amman with UNICEF staff and key partners in MENA countries. This event brought together 40 urban WASH professionals from 10 countries to share their experiences of WASH programming. Key lessons were drawn out and recommendations for future programming summarised and shared.

For the second sub-project we led a joint research with IIED and UNICEF on coping mechanisms for water service provision in MENA. The research involved a study of 10 MENA countries, with 70 interviews and 19 surveys with government representatives, local service providers, non-government organisations, United Nations agencies and civil society organisations from Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the State of Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon.

Fieldwork was carried out in Jordan and Lebanon. The results of the study were presented during a workshop and in two publications identifying opportunities for building the resilience of water service providers in MENA.

Related links

Water, crises and conflict in MENA: how can water service providers improve their resilience? Report, October 2017

Supporting water service providers during conflicts: Four page Briefing Paper, June 2017


The collaboration with WSUP to encourage good WASH practices in urban WASH in the region has been successful… This combination of initiatives – initial learning exchange workshop, research, feed-back workshop, and dissemination of findings – will modestly contribute to the quality of our support to water service providers, and ultimately secure water supply to the most at risk groups in urban centres and camps.

Pierre Fourcassie, Regional WASH specialistUNICEF MENA Regional Office