Support Networks and Stand-By Arrangements

In most countries, external expert advice and technical backstopping are available to humanitarian actors facing sanitation challenges. Expertise in safe sanitation and processes such as Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) is likely to exist among local non-humanitarian actors such as public water and sanitation utilities, local service providers, developmental NGOs and consultancy firms. Examples of global and regional networks and support options are also described, as well as stand-by arrangements with international organisations that can facilitate quick access to sanitation expertise. 

Key Actions

    • Engage professional expertise when required. Sanitation and FSM can be complex and require specific expertise

    • Do not try to reinvent the wheel! Always try to link up with local actors active in FSM. The WASH sector/cluster coordination mechanism can often facilitate connections to public water and sanitation service providers, local/international NGOs and other relevant organisations

    • Include (informal) commercial service providers as potentially appropriate local actors to connect and collaborate with

    • Connect with local expertise as early as possible in the programme cycle

    • Make use of existing sanitation support networks

    • Share your experiences and learning on the available networks, so that others can also benefit


Quality FSM and safe sanitation services in a humanitarian context often require technical expertise that is not always available within the humanitarian sector. This technical expertise is often locally available or, if it isn’t, can be accessed through support networks and stand-by arrangements. Identifying local actors and how they can be reached (for example through the WASH cluster or other coordination mechanism and sector networks), becoming familiar with available online support and setting up individual connections pre-emergency will make it easier to access timely expert advice when it is needed.


Local expertise: in most countries, public water and sanitation service providers are mandated by the government to ensure access to drinking water and sanitation services. Acknowledging that not every utility is active in the field of sanitation or FSM, it is still advisable to reach out to local government, national sector networks/working groups and public water and sanitation service providers to make use of their experience and expertise and to connect to local actors active in the field of developmental FSM. In many countries, part of the sanitation service chain is covered by commercial service providers such as local desludging and construction companies or technology providers of equipment e.g. slabs/bowls, Mobile Toilets, Septic Tanks or Baffled Reactors. These companies often have relevant knowledge about technologies used locally, what is available on the Local Market and existing local capacities, Skills and Knowledge.

FSM expertise in the development sector: international development actors active in the field of, especially, FSM may have programmes in the same area as the planned humanitarian activities and could be an important source of information. Relevant non-humanitarian actors with FSM expertise include:




Developmental support networks: the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA), is a wider sector network with an online platform which includes a library, a project database and a discussion forum. The forum has a section specifically dedicated to humanitarian sanitation; it is read by a large number of sector experts, often willing to provide timely advice. The FSM Alliance (FSMA) is a member-based network created to support organisations and individuals working in FSM. FSMA hosts the FSM Toolbox.

Local humanitarian coordination – the WASH cluster or sector: local WASH coordination mechanisms can be used to find other agencies active in the field of WASH in the area that may be able to share local FSM experiences.

Humanitarian support networks: the Octopus platform provides a collection of the most recent humanitarian FSM case studies in which humanitarian actors share their FSM experience and learning. The website contains detailed information about design, treatment capacities, costs, effluent data and much more. The SaniHub provides directly accessed expert advice through its helpdesk. It focuses on sanitation and FSM in humanitarian contexts. The helpdesk is managed in collaboration with the Global WASH Cluster Technical Working Group on FSM which can be contacted to connect to other humanitarian agencies with significant FSM expertise.

Stand-by arrangements: it can be beneficial to establish a specific support mechanism as part of contingency planning. Stand-by arrangements can be made with different types of organisations such as:

    • Universities/research institutes: active institutions in the field of sanitation and FSM include: Eawag (Switzerland), IHE Delft (Netherlands), University of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa), German Jordanian University (Jordan) or Meru University (Kenya)

    • Consultancy Companies: different types and modalities of partnership exist between humanitarian partners and commercial consultancy companies. A few examples of large companies with experience in the field of FSM are MottMcDonald, Royal Haskoning DVD, Urban Waters and Triangle Environmental. There are also many small and independent consultancies and experts

Author(s) (1)
Marij Zwart
Netherlands Red Cross (NLRC)
Reviewer(s) / Contributor(s) (2)
Dorothee Spuhler
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
Rob Gensch
German Toilet Organization (GTO)

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