Leveraging Inclusive and Climate-Sensitive WASH for Empowerment – LIFE II


Water for Women partners with the International Rescue Committee and partners to deliver climate-resilient inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for 123,980* people living in the districts of Peshawar, Swat and Buner in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan.


With a population of more than 233 million, Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world.[1] Pakistan is also among 11 countries at risk of major instability[2] due to the impacts of climate change and ranked 8th[3] most affected by climate-related extreme weather events over the period 2000- 2021.


Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the global greenhouse gases that warm our planet, but its geography makes it extremely vulnerable to climate change. Pakistan is impacted by two major weather systems — one that can cause high temperatures and drought, like the heatwave of March 2022, and the other that brings monsoon rains, which are intensifying.


The majority of Pakistan's population lives along the Indus River, which swells and can flood during monsoons. In 2022, Pakistan received nearly 190% more rain than its 30-year average from June to August — reaching a total of 390.7mm. Approximately one third of the country was inundated by devastating floodwaters caused by the record rainfall[4] and millions were impacted.


Pakistan’s northern region is also home to more glacial ice than anywhere in the world outside the polar regions. Glaciers in Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions are melting rapidly, creating more than 3,000 lakes, around 33 of which are at risk of bursting, putting some 7 million people at risk.[5]


Since 1998, droughts have resulted in the desertification of many districts by depleting underground and surface water sources, killing livestock and destroying staple crops. Access to safe water for daily household consumption and agriculture is a major challenge, with the population greatly dependent on shallow groundwater aquifers and riverine water, both of which are vulnerable to climate change.[6]

An overhead picture of a rural village in Pakistan

As the sun goes down on Buner, Pakistan, the dust haze becomes more visible. The impact of climate change on the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been quite alarming. (IRC Pakistan)


Climate-related risks to water, sanitation and hygiene

Pakistan is the third most water-stressed country in the world.[7] Per capita water availability decreased from 5,237m3/year in 1962 to 1,188m3/year in 2021.[8] WASH access and behaviours are significantly impacted when insufficient water is available for daily household and agricultural needs, leading to poor community health and well-being.

Some 21 million people lack access to clean water close to home. With primary responsibility for meeting households’ daily water needs, women, girls and children are most impacted by lack of access to water, often having to walk very long distances daily to fetch water. This impacts participation in educational, social and livelihood activities. Lack of water also impacts menstrual health and hygiene management and is linked to malnutrition and stunting in children, among other impacts.

Around 25 million people in Pakistan still practice open defecation, which further threatens the country’s vulnerable water supplies. Annually, a staggering 53,000 children aged under five years die from diarrheal disease linked to poor WASH facilities.[9]


“Leveraging Inclusive WASH for Empowerment (LIFE) Pakistan Project is one of the unique projects as it helped the marginalised communities in terms of water supply, sanitation, hygiene awareness and capacity building. The project significantly contributed to WASH, Governance and social inclusion in district Swat.”

Abdul Haseeb, Environmental Protection Society Program Manager

The project districts of Buner, Swat and Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province lie in the Indus and Swat River catchment area, which confronts direct threats of climate change.


Communities face hazards associated with heavy rainfall, flash flooding and riverine floods — including pollution and contamination leading to waterborne diseases — deforestation, groundwater depletion, earthquakes, landslides, mine blasting and the health impacts of pollution.[10]


A map of Pakistan with the regions of operation highlighted



Leveraging Inclusive and Climate-Sensitive WASH for Empowerment — LIFE II aims to improve coordination and collaboration between communities, duty bearers and governments for climate-resilient and inclusive WASH services, reaching an estimated 123,980 people across the three project districts.

Building on IRC’s Water for Women project, Leveraging Inclusive WASH for Empowerment — LIFE, completed in 2022, the LIFE II project will leverage the learning and best practices of the initial phase, including:

  • Inclusive WASH Jirgas for men and women, further fostering community WASH decision-making and leadership of both men and women
  • Self-help groups, strengthening transgender persons’ involvement in WASH decision-making
  • School WASH clubs — come environment clubs, promoting awareness among school communities of interconnected WASH, environmental and climate change issues
  • Partnerships with government line and local departments, building stronger connections between communities and governments and ensuring that WASH progress and ownership is sustained beyond the life of this project.


From 2023-2024 this project aims to deliver lasting impact through:

  • Strengthened capacities of government line departments and local service delivery departments for improved service delivery, and improved coordination and collaboration within the departments and between communities and service delivery departments
  • Improved use of and access to climate-resilient inclusive WASH services for all
  • Increased decision-making around WASH for women/girls, and other marginalised groups
  • Documented evidence of the climate-resilient approaches to spotlight and share project learnings for wider benefit.
A young school girl smiles as she splashes her face with clean water

 A student returning from school washes her face using clean water from the nearby water source in district Buner, Pakistan. (IRC Pakistan). View more photo update from our work in Pakistan.

“We appreciate the efforts of LIFE project in supporting Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in improving WASH services in communities and institutions. Provision of water services for visually and hearing-impaired children and supporting transgenders in living a dignified life has been very useful. The water supply schemes for impaired children institutes are functional for the last five years and more than 200 impaired children are benefitting from this service on daily basis.”

Abdul Akbar Khan, Assistant Director Social Welfare Department



Graphic with words 'Latest from project'
Pakistan country summary thumbnail



This project is an extension of Leveraging Inclusive WASH for Empowerment—LIFE, which was delivered from 2018-2022. 

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WASH-related climate challenges for this project

  • The majority of water supply sources in the three target districts are unprotected, such as open-source springs and dug wells.
  • Climate-resilient infrastructure design and construction standards are lacking.
  • Improper sewage disposal practices are in place using an unsafe land-filling technique by communities and institutions.
  • The use of outdated technologies and a lack of resources hamper the ability of duty bearers to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population.
  • Despite some knowledge and information about climate change and its potential consequences, people are unaccustomed to adaptation and mitigation methods.
  • No structure or community-based organisation exists to raise awareness among the communities of climate change.



“I had to go to fetch water approx. 12-14 times every day, with the installation of water pump[s] in the village, my life has completely changed for good. Now I have more time to do embroidery and my health is also improving.”

A mother of 12 children explains some of the changes in her village in the district of Swat since the LIFE project commenced (IRC Pakistan)


In Pakistan, women-led Inclusive WASH Jirgas are ensuring that women are finally part of the decision-making process for their WASH needs and proving valuable mobilisers within their communities.




The LIFE II project aims to reach the following beneficiaries in Bhubaneswar and Jaipur by the end of 2024:

Direct beneficiaries: 123,980*

  • women and girls: 60,258
  • men and boys: 63,222
  • people with a disability: 8,679

Indirect beneficiaries: 26,020*




water for women logo

international rescue committee logo

EPS logo

Australia' Development Assistance program is investing in Pakistan to achieve these outcomes. Water for Women is proud to be partnering with IRC and the Environmental Protection Society (EPS) and working with the Local Government and Rural Development Department, Social Welfare Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commission on Status of Women, Public Health Engineering Department, the Department of Health and Department of Education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Feature photo: Happy children pose for the camera following a COVID-19 prevention information session in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (IRC)


*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress.


[1] Population Stat World Statistical Data, Pakistan Population (website), accessed May 2023.

[2] ENVPK, These 11 Countries Risk Instability due to Climate Change (news article), 12 June 2022.

[3] Associated Press of Pakistan, Pakistan ranked 8th most vulnerable country due to climate change: NA told (news article), 10 August 2022.

[4] G Rannard, How Pakistan floods are linked to climate change (news article), BBC News, 2 September 2022, accessed May 2023.

[6] WaterAid, The Water Gap – state of the world's water in Water security, Equality and non-discrimination, 21 March 2018. 

[7] Business Standard, Water crisis looms large in Pakistan, may face absolute scarcity by 2040 (news article), 22 March 2021. 

[8] Habib et al., Water availability, use and challenges in Pakistan - Water sector challenges in the Indus Basin and impact of climate change, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Islamabad, 2021.

[9] UNICEF Pakistan, WASH: water, sanitation and hygiene (webpage), UNICEF, accessed May 2023.

[10] According to a rapid climate risks and vulnerability assessment conducted by IRC in May 2022, 82% of the respondents in each district identified hazards such as flooding/flash flooding, deforestation, earthquakes, land sliding, mines blasting, health impacts of pollution. A high deforestation rate was reported by 63%, soil degradation by 72%. Underground water depletion was identified as major risk by 100% of respondents in Swat, 74% in Buner and 50% in Peshawar.




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