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Market-based WASH

At a glance

Promoting market-based responses to emergencies through WASH market-mapping and analysis.


Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) emergency responses affect markets, intentionally or not.  WASH hygiene supplies (such as soap) and services (such as latrine desludging) are often bought and sold in a market before, during and after a crisis. Aid responses significantly affect that market - both by buying from it and by providing alternative (often free) supplies. Aid that is not market-aware may cost more, put suppliers out of business, raise prices and undermine recovery.

Instead, aid agencies can work with functioning markets to supply quality goods quickly and cheaply, respond to local preferences, and give people the dignity of purchasing power and choice. They can also contribute to post-disaster recovery through supporting, strengthening and developing local markets.

Why we do it

Why Do Market-Based WASH Programming?

Key Benefits:

  • Appropriateness and Dignity:  people can purchase according to their needs and preferences.
  • Improved efficiency of programme delivery: using existing supply chains can be cost-effective, reduce duplication and provide supplies quicker through market actors who are already present.
  • Contribution towards market rehabilitation and economic recovery: strengthened markets can support recovery and resilience through restoring or increasing livelihood opportunities.

What is Market-Based WASH Programming (WASH MBP)?

WASH MBP uses the market to deliver essential WASH goods and services or restores and develops the market system. Market analysis assesses the market system's capacity to supply essential WASH commodities and the level of demand. Understanding WASH demand is critical as it is driven by complex factors such as people's knowledge of the health risks. Demand may therefore need stimulating through, for example, hygiene promotion.

Market systems are composed of a web of producers, distributors, traders, service providers and consumers operating within an institutional and regulatory environment. Major disasters may destroy a market, but in smaller or protracted crises, markets are often the principal means by which people obtain critical commodities. If humanitarian agencies do not consider the market, interventions can accidentally do harm - undermining demand and putting traders out of business.

How has Oxfam worked with WASH MBP?

Starting in August 2015, the project had a lifeline of two years and was implemented across five focal countries: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Haiti, and South Sudan. The overall project goal was to increase disaster resilience and effectiveness of WASH related emergency responses through strengthened governance and market-based solutions. The specific objective was to enable governmental authorities and humanitarian relief agencies to utilise market-mapping and analysis as the basis for more efficient and effective emergency response strategies

WASH and Markets in Crisis

The following are guidelines explore the development, implementation and analysis of market-based WASH programming. 

For all publications, see the WASH and Markets in Crisis series.