Research Consultant (Ghana Climate Innovation Center, Climate Resilient WASH Infrastructure)

UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA)
Accra, Ghana
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
International Organization
Experience Level: 
Mid-Level (5-7 Years)
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


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United Nations University

The United Nations University (UNU) is an international community of scholars engaged in research, postgraduate teaching and capacity development, and dissemination of knowledge in furtherance of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The mission of UNU is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States.

UNU-INRA objectives

The United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) is one of 14 research and training centres and programmes (RTC/Ps) established by UNU worldwide. The mission of UNU-INRA is to strengthen the capacity of Africa’s universities and research institutions to conduct research and produce well-trained, well-equipped, and motivated individuals capable of developing, adapting, and disseminating technologies that advance food security and promote conservation and efficient use of the continent’s natural resources for sustainable development. For more information please visit

We are currently looking for an outstanding individual with a strong commitment and the potential to bring a significant contribution to the activities of UNU-INRA.

Developing Climate Resilient WASH Infrastructure


Access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities and services is essential to human health, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity. Goal six (6) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscores improved access to WASH as a fundamental requirement for sustainable development. Improved access to WASH facilities leads to multiple benefits including health (e.g. reduction in diarrhoea, respiratory infections, worm infestations, etc.), education (e.g. reduction in number of school days lost) and economic growth (healthy and educated populace). On the other hand, poor access to WASH facilities will lead to dire health and education consequences and retard a country’s economic development. Despite these benefits, several factors militate against the provision of WASH facilities, especially for poor and vulnerable communities.

In a recent report, UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and WHO (World Health Organization) highlighted gross inequalities in access to WASH, which has compounded human security challenges in vulnerable communities. The report estimates that globally, 2.2 billion people do not have safely managed drinking water services, 4.2 billion do not have safely managed sanitation services and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities [1]. The situation is not so different in Ghana. Although 86% of the population have access to safe drinking water, only 13% have access to improved sanitation, which drops further to 8% in rural areas. With respect to schools, 62% of schools have toilet facilities and 65% have access to water onsite, although little is known about the quality, location or sustainability of these services2.

Climate change and variability threatens to further compound the current problem of low access to WASH facilities, especially in vulnerable regions like Africa. The relationship and inter-dependency of the WASH components (water, sanitation, hygiene, etc.) makes it highly susceptible to climate change and variability (loss and damage). For example, extreme climatic events, especially pertaining to precipitation and temperature, will affect the quality and quantity of water supplies, which will in turn trigger sanitation and hygiene challenges. Apart from the impact of climate change on the availability or otherwise of water, WASH infrastructure are susceptible to climate extremes, especially floods and extreme heat. Recurrent floods in Ghana often destroy WASH infrastructure in schools, worsening the already poor availability and access to these facilities. Furthermore, studies have established a link between extreme temperatures and increasing occurrence of diseases. Campbell-Lendrum et al. (2007) found that the incidence of diarrhoea in developing countries is expected to increase by about 5% for every 1oC increase in temperature. Extreme temperatures could also negatively impact WASH infrastructure based on the materials used for construction. Unfortunately, many WASH infrastructure are not, by design, protected against climate extremes.

Considering the projected increase in the occurrence of extreme events in the future (Sylla et al. 2015, 2018), it is important to rethink the design of WASH infrastructure to be resilient against the risk posed by climate change and to prevent a further decline in the access to WASH facilities for vulnerable population. WASH infrastructural development must adopt new design strategies that enhance the capacity of vulnerable groups to absorb the impacts of the expected climatic changes. A rethink of the design of WASH infrastructure also provides an opportunity to incorporate the concept of environmental sustainability, and contribute to national efforts at transitioning to a green economy. In this case, the use of waste (solid and liquid) from WASH facilities to generate clean energy and/or support organic farming for enhanced food security and nutrition will be beneficial to both users and the environment. This will eventually lead to reduced GHG emissions and limit the impacts of climate change.

Research Objective

The objective of this research is to investigate the climate resilience of existing WASH infrastructure in selected basic schools in the Volta region of Ghana, and recommend alternative designs and management practices that enhances the capacity of students/teachers to adapt to the risk posed by climate change and promote environmental sustainability. The investigation will focus on the design and management practices of WASH facilities as well as options to turn the risks into opportunities by integrating green economy concepts (e.g. clean energy generation and organic fertilizer derivation from waste) into the design of WASH infrastructure. Further, gender differences in access to WASH infrastructure in schools will be assessed and possible linkages to climate change effects analysed. The study will result in policy recommendations on WASH infrastructure designs that manages existing challenges to access and concurrently manage future climate change and resource sustainability issues.

The specific objectives of the study are to:

  • determine the resilience of WASH infrastructure in basic schools to climate change (extreme events), and assess how increasing occurrence of extreme events in the future can impact access to WASH facilities in schools
  • determine immediate adaptation measures and practices to be adopted for existing WASH facilities to reduce the impact of climate change on access and thereby increase resilience to climate change
  • recommend alternative designs for WASH infrastructure that reduces the risk posed by existing climate effects as well as future changes, and concurrently promote environmental sustainability; specifically, the integration of green economy concepts (e.g. waster re-use for energy and agriculture) into the design of infrastructure will be considered
  • determine gender differences in accessing WASH facilities in basic schools and provide recommendations to reverse the trend
  • develop indicators for assessing vulnerability and resilience of WASH infrastructure in schools setting

Scope of work

UNU-INRA and GCIC require the services of a consultant (or consulting company) to conduct this study. The consultancy contract will be prepared in accordance with the rules of GCIC. The consultancy will entail desk study as well as field visits to basic schools in the Volta region to review existing WASH infrastructure and conduct interviews with users. The study city or town will be selected through deliberations between the consultant and UNU-INRA/GCIC. Field visits to the selected city or town will afford the consultant the opportunity to interrogate principles of climate resilient infrastructure and investigate possibilities of integrating climate innovation into the design of WASH infrastructure. The consultant will work closely with designated staff of the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources as well as relevant staff at UNU-INRA and GCIC. The consultant will be required to carry out the following specific tasks to achieve the deliverables:

Task 1: Review the resilience of existing WASH infrastructure to climate change

This task will entail field visits to selected basic schools to appraise existing WASH infrastructure and how they have been affected by previous climate change related events (e.g. floods). This assessment could be based on observations, literature review, and administration of questionnaire to students and teachers in the respective schools. This task will derive information on the design, features and the robustness of WASH infrastructure against the occurrence of extreme events, which will aid in assessing its resilience to climate change impacts. The task will derive information on gender access to WASH infrastructure. Further, the extent to which previous climate change events/incidences have affected access to WASH facilities in the schools will be established under this task.

Task 2: Determine current and future adaptation measures

This task will investigate and recommend relevant principles and immediate adaptation measures that can be adopted to reduce the impact of climate change on access to WASH facilities. It will further investigate and recommend climate resilient WASH infrastructural designs, taking into consideration the biophysical and socio-economic factors of a potential site for installing a WASH infrastructure. Possibilities of integrating climate innovation, such as waste re-use for clean energy generation and/or derivation of organic fertiliser for school farming, into the design of WASH infrastructure will be considered. This task will provide a range of regional/global best practices that enhances the resilience of WASH infrastructure to climate impacts and promotes environmental sustainability.

Task 3: Gender analysis

Based on results of field visits in task 1, this task will focus on analysing differences in gender access to WASH infrastructure in basic schools, possible causes and key recommendations to overcome this challenge. Possibilities to modify WASH infrastructural designs to ensure equity in access will be explored in this task.

Task 4: Report writing and development of infographics

The consultant will write a final report outlining the approaches taken, and results obtained, in each of the three preceding tasks. Further, the consultant will develop infographics that communicate the key findings to various stakeholders.


The following are the expected deliverables:

  • a final report detailing the methodologies employed and findings obtained in Tasks 1, 2 and 3
  • a short report detailing the policy relevance of the research as input to future revisions of the country’s water and sanitation policies
  • infographics that communicate the key findings of the study to various stakeholders in, and outside, the WASH space
  • a compilation of the electronic versions of all documents/articles consulted during the research and web links from which information were sourced
  • survey protocols used during the research and results obtained, if any
  • a list of contacts established with private sector, academia, government bodies, and development partners during the research period


The consultancy is expected to be conducted with 30 input days. These days include days for field work.

Qualifications and requirements

Consultants for this assignment must have:

  • at least a Master of Science (Msc) degree in environmental science, natural science, health sciences or related fields with 5 to 10 years sustained research experience
  • previous experience with WASH and climate change projects
  • demonstrable research experience, e.g. publications in peer-reviewed journals



Campbell-Lendrum, D.H., Woodruff, R., Prüss-Üstün, A., Corvalán, C.F., and Organization, W.H., 2007. Climate Change: Quantifying the Health Impact at National and Local Levels. WHO Environmental Burden of Disease. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Sylla, M.B., Faye, A., Giorgi, F., Diedhiou, A., and Kunstmann, H., 2018. Projected Heat Stress Under 1.5 °C and 2 °C Global Warming Scenarios Creates Unprecedented Discomfort for Humans in West Africa. Earth’s Future, 6 (7), 1029–1044.

Sylla, M.B., Giorgi, F., Pal, J.S., Gibba, P., Kebe, I., and Nikiema, M., 2015. Projected changes in the annual cycle of high-intensity precipitation events over West Africa for the late twenty-first century. Journal of Climate, 28 (16), 6475–6488.