Community management in conflict areas: lessons from Southern Sudan

Water and sanitation programmes are usually a key component of many interventions by aid agencies working in emergency or semi-emergency situations created by armed conflict. Many aid agencies adopt a community-based approach that aims to encourage community participation in construction of facilities and community responsibility for their operation and maintenance. This is normally accompanied by extensive backstopping from agencies in the form of technical support and spare parts supply. However, the complex social-dynamics within in affected communities, together with a ‘dependency syndrome’ that may be created by prolonged exposure to other aid (in form of relief hand outs such as food and housing materials) threatens the success of community management as a strategy for sustaining water services. In particular, there is a risk of failure if agency and community expectations regarding the form and level of support do not match. This paper highlights a case of how mismatched expectations could potentially lead to failure.