One of the reasons why Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities fail is the lack of constituted authority to manage the facilities. The most important section in the planning of a WASH project is missing in most projects in Africa; there are poorly constituted committee or no care-taker committee instituted to work with the government, NGO’s and Philanthropist who execute WASH projects in communities. These projects, most of the time come almost free for beneficiaries so they tend to mismanage them, but a well constituted WASH Committee will put the checks for effective functionality and sustainability of these projects.  

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Committee is an organized group of concerned passionate individual which are constituted to supervise, manage, maintain and repair WASH projects in a particular community. A WASH committee should be set-up from the beginning of each WASH project. Some Communities, have sanitation committee whose main duty are mainly to organized and monitor monthly clean-up activities in these community, some also inspect toilet facilities of household making sure it meets the minimum required standard of a safe toilet system, while they fine or pursued those who have no toilet system to build one and those who have less standard toilet systems to build an Eco-friendly sanitary system.

All WASH Committee are not the same, every community have her peculiar WASH needs and challenges, the essence of the committee is to address these peculiar challenges; therefore every WASH Committee is instituted to address the specific need of the community.

This piece is aimed at exposing the shortfall of some WASH committee due to poor formation, also enumerate the criteria and procedure for forming a standard committee.




The life-line of every WASH project is purely dependent on the capacity and activity of the committee. A committee consist of passionate individual who have a burning desire that water crisis, poor water management, poor sanitation, improper hygiene practices are abolished from their community.

The main purpose of a WASH committee is the management of every aspect of the project from the planning to the execution and unto the continuous maintenance of the facility. The practice of instituting a committee at the end of the development of the project is an abnormal way of instituting a WASH committee because, no one can manage what he don’t understand. The committee have to know the Technical, Financial and Social aspect of every project. All members need to understand:

1. Technical Aspect: The planning, process, procedure and execution pattern of WASH facilities will enable them know where to start troubleshooting or which technician to call when there is a breakdown or malfunctioning in the system. They will simply know how the WASH Facility/system works.

  • 2. Financial Aspect: Every member should know the financial implication of every part or action pertaining to the facility. They need this knowledge for estimation, budgeting for future repairs. They need to know what it takes to keep the WASH system running financially and think of ways to raise finances for these maintenance.


This article enumerates one of the ways of raising funds Financial Sustainability of Water Facilities in Nigeria through Pre-Paid Water Metering System

  • 3. Social Aspect: Members need to know the social effect of the facility on the community, educate them and keep them aware on the effective use of the facility available to them.

Therefore, the purpose of setting up a WASH committee is aimed at the continuous running of the Technical, Financial and Social aspect of every project. However, a proper needs assessment should be carried out to know which of the aspects above do a certain community needs more than the other.




The following steps should be followed to setup a WASH committee in communities:

  1. Needs assessment
  2. Nomination of Committee Members
  3. Screening of Nominees
  4. Election of Nominees
  5. Workshop/Training Sections.
  6. Introduction of WASH Committee Members to the community and Contractors of the project.
  7. Handing Over of Project to the WASH Committee.




One of steps for engagement in any community project is evaluating the needs of the community, it is important to also evaluate the personalities needed for the establishment of the WASH committee. Pertaining to the WASH committee, look out for the existing challenges in managing similar projects in the community? How do the community manage similar projects?

For a narrowed information gathering the following guide can be used:

a) Seek to know the existing stakeholders in the areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

b) Discover their existing participation in the WASH activities in the community.

c) What have been their challenges to ensuring the community have clean water and safe environment?

d) Develop a road map to handle these challenges and use the road map to highlight terms of reference for the committee.

e) The responsibilities vested on the committee will determine the personalities needed in the committee or the need for subcommittees.




From the needs assessment, needed nominees and offices can be spelt out. As stated above, every community have peculiar needs and these needs determines the personalities needed in the WASH committee.

A community meeting (for a small community) or stakeholders meeting (for larger communities) will be summoned, the needs of the community will be communicated in the meeting and nominations will be made. It is important the benefiting community choose these committee members for fair representation. The needs of the community should be spelt out, so the inhabitants will nominate accordingly. The following scenario may necessitate the personalities attached.

a) A Community with weak compliance to building sustainable sanitary systems –  Health educators, task force personnel.

b) A Community that is experiencing dilapidation of WASH Facility or suspected dilapidation of WASH facilities in future– group of technicians (plumbers, electricians and building engineers), Administrative personnel, technical officers.

c) Possibility of lack of finance to manage the WASH facility – financial experts, auditors, Administrators and community leaders.

The list of scenario is unending, however as stated above the needs of the community determines the personalities needed. Each category should have multiple nominees to enable a vote been cast and not unopposed election, unless where not possible the community can appoint a matching personality to their needs.




The donor agency for the project, expertise, WASH Consultants and WASH professionals should serve as the screening committee, they will make background checks on the individuals. Then a face to face screening exercise should also be conducted, pertinent questions concerning their area of strength. The number of nominees per office should be at least four (4) so that after the screening, about three (3) will be available for election.





The following offices are electable for WASH Committee;

  • President:
  • Vice-president
  • Secretary
  • Vice-secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Health and Hygiene promoter
  • Technical Support Coordinator
  • Taskforce Officer
  • Auditor

Victory for the above offices should be by simple majority, below are their duties as suggested by Karin Uckrow Et al; 2012.


  1. Call committee members for meetings and assemblies.
  2. Prepare the agenda for the meetings in concordance with the other members.
  3. Chair meetings and assemblies.
  4. Coordinate and supervise the tasks which are under other member’s responsibility.
  5. Sign, jointly with secretary, all documents related to the projects.
  6. Sign, jointly with the treasurer, all financial transactions.
  7. Represent the committee and community members in public activities.
  8. Authorize, jointly with other members, all activities, purchases and expenses related to the project, reporting this regularly to the community.
  9. Ensure the accomplishment of the rules, regulations and internal agreements within the committee.
  10. Being kind and polite with other members of the committee giving them the opportunity to express themselves.
  11. Find out answers to: What to do? Why to do it? When to do it? Where and how to do it? Who and with what to do it?
  12. Call and prepare the Annual General Meeting (AGM)
  13. Prepare the annual election of WASH committee members that is part of the AGM.


Vice President:

  1. Assist to the President in his/her functions.
  2. Support in preparing the agenda for meetings.
  3. Facilitate the discussion of themes in the meeting.
  4. In absence of the President assume his/her functions.
  5. Facilitate and support finding out answers: What to do? Why to do it? When to do it? Where and how to do it? Who and with what to do it?



  • Prepare, jointly with the President, the agenda for the meetings.
  • Convoke, jointly with the President, the General Assemblies.
  • Write the minutes of each meeting.
  • Filing of all documentation related to the committee and assemblies such as requests, certifications, licenses, letters, etc.
  • Respond all documentations when necessary.
  • Register of all correspondence and documents, attendances and minutes.
  • Support in others secretarial tasks.



  • Assist to the secretary in her/his functions.
  • In absence of the Secretary assume her/his function.



  • Collecting funds, fees and other income sources and deliver receipts for the money received.
  • Financial control.
  • Custody of funds and all property of the project sharing responsibility with the President and the Secretary.
  • Responsible for the accounting book and managing the cash book.
  • Maintain funds available to implement the activities and managing petty cash.
  • Filing of all account documents and correspondence such as: checks, invoices, receipts.
  • In charge of purchases when necessary.
  • To set up financial reports and presenting them to the committee and the community.
  • Sign, jointly with the president, all financial transaction.
  • Preparing a financial report on a monthly basis for the committee and community.


Read up one method a Committee can use to raise funds Financial Sustainability of Water Facilities in Nigeria through Pre-Paid Water Metering System


Health and Hygiene Promoter:

  • Home visits to community members on a regular basis, educating them on the use of available WASH facilities.
  • In schools: facilitating the students to improve personal hygiene.
  • Conducting common awareness programs with help of people from respective local authorities.
  • Reporting of hygiene activities to the Committee.


Technical Support Coordinator:

 I suggest this office have technicians who work with him/her as sub-committee members; Plumber, Electrician and building technician should be part of his team. Their duties are as follows;

  • Operating of WASH facilities (e.g. water pump).
  • Carry out troubleshooting and repairs on the facilities.
  • Responsible that major repairs are done by supervising and working with the technicians.
  • Reporting of operation and maintenance activities to the board.


Taskforce Officer:

  • He works with the treasurer to collect dues/charges/rents for WASH facility usage.
  • Enforce sanctions and laws made by the committee.
  • Guide and secure all facilities from destructive users and possible theft.




a) They review the financial reports from the treasurer monthly, quarterly or yearly.

b) They evaluate the financial progress and how much have been used to maintain the facility for the year.




After a well conducted election, the elected officers should be trained to understand their specific role, this is a capacity development training so they can function in their respective offices.

 The following topics and more can be taught at the sessions:

  • Duties of WASH Committee and roles of different officers.
  • Leadership framework
  • Business Development capacity
  • Communications and Community engagement
  • Conflict resolutions
  • Gender based representation
  • Financial Management
  • Project Management
  • Budget and Planning
  • Facility Management
  • WASH Education

The workshop and capacity building sessions are not limited to the above, the training should be detailed.




The awarding institutions (government institutions, NGOs and the Philanthropist) should introduce the WASH committee first to the community and then to the Contractors; the committee starts working with the contractors from the project planning stage, they can act too as checks to the project growth. The Technical Support Officers MUST be part of the project from the start to the finish, this will enable him/her have a balanced knowledge on the functionality of the WASH facility system; the knowledge the Technical Support Officers acquire within the project execution stage, will be beneficial during repairs and troubleshooting. However, the executives are all eligible to attend all meetings for the project.




At the end of the project, a day of commissioning the project will be set; on this day the project will be handed over to the WASH committee who starts managing the facility (ies) from that day.




Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) committees are the lifeline of every WASH project. The sustainability of any WASH project that is infrastructure base is dependent on the formation and capacity of the WASH committee; any WASH Facility that lacks proper management team suffer dilapidation and don’t stand the test of time, even been contracted to seasoned consultants and developed with state of arts materials. The need of a well-formed, trained and functional WASH committee cannot be over emphasized.    




  • Karin Uckrow, Yvonne Stephan; 2012; structure and functions of WASH Committees in rural areas; Arche Nova-Initiative for People in Need. Pg 9-10.

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