Assignment name: Facilitating the participative development of UNICEF’s Regional Framework for urban WASH in South Asia.

Project duration: August 2016 – October 2016

Funder: UNICEF

The challenge

We were commissioned to support UNICEF South Asia in developing a coherent approach to urban water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the region over the coming decade.

South Asia presents key challenges which UNICEF must accommodate in its work in the region. These include an urbanising population with some of the largest mega-cities in the world, and large numbers of residents living in informal settlements, for example Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. There are also deep-rooted problems with open defection and poor hygiene, and significant solid waste management issues.

UNICEF’s Regional Framework for urban WASH needed to take into consideration the global UNICEF WASH strategy (2016-2030), the sustainable development goals, UNICEF HQ positioning, the South Asia urban WASH context, the existing experience of some UNICEF country offices and the role of other development partners.

WSUP approach

We undertook a review of existing documentation at the global level alongside documentation from South Asia and other UNICEF regions to identify strengths and weaknesses of approaches used to date. Interviews were conducted with UNICEF and key external informants, at country, regional and global levels, to identify opportunities and threats, resulting in the formulation of a framework with recommendations for UNICEF’s future engagement in urban WASH in South Asia.

A key consideration informing the development of the framework was that individual/community solutions in rural areas require very different institutional set-ups than the complex systems that underpin operations in urban environments.

The framework draws out these key differences in order for UNICEF to understand better how it can evolve its urban work. It identifies key strategic drivers for UNICEF and its work in urban areas and provides outline guidance of analytical approaches. These are based on building an understanding of the enabling environment, five levels of spatial analysis, with particular attention given to settlement typology, and a more in-depth approach to stakeholder analysis.


The framework has afforded UNICEF South Asia greater confidence to guide country programmes in relation to urban WASH programming. The framework recognises the significant level of urban WASH work which UNICEF is currently undertaking across South Asia, its deep involvement in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the particular focus on slums.

Through this examination of UNICEF’s comparative strengths, the final framework highlighted five focus areas for UNICEF, alongside a number of cross-cutting themes and a range of potential activities that contribute towards the focus areas.

  1. Upstream work on policy influence: At the national government level, including lobbying for pro-poor urban WASH, governance and regulation
  2. Mid-stream work on data collection and analysis: Generating evidence to advocate for rights for children and the most vulnerable, and entitlements for budgeting
  3. Mid-stream work on capacity-building: For local authorities and a wide range of services providers, giving attention to WASH and solid waste management sustainable planning, including environmental impact mitigation and financial modelling
  4. Mid and downstream work on resilience: Spanning development mitigation measures to humanitarian interventions

Downstream work on multi-sectoral programme activity: Through social mobilisation, innovation and demonstration models and very limited service provision for those most deprived.