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Community Engagement in WASH Emergencies: Understanding Barriers and Enablers Based on Action Research from Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Engaging communities in humanitarian programming is key to ensuring their participation in decision-making that affects them as outlined by commitment 4 of the Core Humanitarian Standards. Based on learning from the West-African Ebola response (2014–2016), Oxfam’s WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) team is undertaking a paradigm shift toward greater community engagement (hereafter referred to as CE) in WASH, with a strong focus on measuring community participation—a crucial step toward understanding how we can better involve communities in reducing the risks of WASH-related diseases. This article presents key findings from Oxfam’s recent responses in Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), describing the process of building trust and identifying barriers and enablers to meaningful CE in emergencies.

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