Briefing note

Ensuring access to water for crisis-affected populations

Published 21. Mar 2023
When the world committed to achieving universal and equitable access to water as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the promise to Leave No One Behind was recognised as both an ethical responsibility and a key criteria for success.

Five years later, however, individuals living in fragile and conflict-affected areas remained less than half as likely to have access to safely managed water, sanitation, and hygiene services than those living in stable settings.

Taking action to improve access to water and sanitation in fragile contexts is vitally important. It is essential in reducing the prevalence of water-borne illnesses, which continue to result in millions of preventable deaths each year. It helps prevent the emergence of conflict arising from water shortages and associated disputes, and enables populations to maintain agricultural livelihoods that may provide an alternative to joining armed groups.

It also helps avoid the use of negative coping strategies like early marriage that are used when parents cannot meet the basic needs of all of their children. Further, it is essential in enabling displaced populations to find a solution to their displacement, whether in their places of origin or in secondary locations.

Closing this gap and delivering on the SDG targets requires urgent action. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) supports the Call to Action for Survival WASH and Resilient WASH and would like to further draw attention to three recommendations in particular.

  1. Take action on climate change and natural resource management.
  2. Put in place measures to protect water and water systems during conflict.
  3. Develop and implement equitable transboundary water sharing agreements.