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Technological innovations are on exponential curves; but are water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) measurement methods stuck in time?

Luis Andres's picture

Co-authors: Evan Thomas and German Sturzenegger

Technological innovations have the potential to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development—if we rise responsibly to the challenge of measuring their impact.

Fifteen years is a long time for technology. In 2003 the “World Wide Web” was pervasive by 1986 standards. Yet today, the web of 2003 may very well have been spun by a single spider.

It’s been over two years since the United Nations introduced the Sustainable Development Goals. How can we better monitor progress toward them? This month, the World Bank Group and the InterAmerican Development Bank, along with collaborators from partnering institutions, published an overview of innovations in the monitoring of water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) impact measures, directly tied to SDG #6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” The authors explore the potential of new measurement technologies to “revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development in the sector,” one of the hopes pinned to the SDG framework.

How will Argentina achieve universal access to water and sanitation? Takeaways from International Water Association Conference in Buenos Aires

Gustavo Saltiel's picture
Palermo Water Treatment Plan, Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos, AySA, Buenos Aires

Argentina set ambitious targets of providing universal access to water and 75 percent access to sewerage services for its citizens. How can the country move toward this goal? 
 
That was the theme of the discussion on “Argentina Day” at the recent International Water Association (IWA) Water and Development Congress and Exhibition held in Buenos Aires, where water professionals from around the world and Argentinian officials met to exchange knowledge, experiences, and strategies.

The tyranny of toilets

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
Students heads to a female only toilets in Maskoke Primely and Secondly School
in Gode Town in Ethiopia. Credit: UNICEF Ethiopia

In the lead-in to World Toilet Day, we hear a great deal about the role of toilets in sanitation and in better health and human development outcomes.  Toilets are good development. Period.
 
We hear less about the fact that toilets are often sites and instruments of social exclusion.
 
Let me explain.
 
Segregated toilets for males and females were intended to give women privacy and to respect the “intrinsic” physical differences between the sexes.  In fact, in most developing countries, segregated toilets are a sine qua non for female participation in public spaces, in education and in employment. 
 
But the story is more complex.

Incentivizing collaboration to address childhood stunting

Craig Kullmann's picture

Childhood stunting is one of the most significant impediments to human development and economic growth, affecting approximately 155 million children under the age of five globally, with long-term consequences later in life such as impaired cognitive development, chronic disease, and lower earnings as adults. Evidence shows that there is an urgent need for collaboration between actions in water, sanitation, health, nutrition, and other sectors to effectively combat childhood stunting.
 

 
This was discussed during the recent World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, where leaders from the World Bank and client countries met to talk about Changing Behaviors to Incentivize Collaboration to Address Childhood Stunting. Aimed to provide guidance on how to collaborate better across sectors and institutions, this event provided an opportunity to share the latest results from the global Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Poverty Diagnostic Initiative, led by the World Bank’s Water and Poverty Global Practices in collaboration with the Health, Nutrition, and Population and Governance Global Practices.

“Compressed demand”: How Uttar Pradesh is making sure rural sanitation subsidies for toilets go to the most needy

Arun Kumar Dobhal's picture

When the “Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin” (SBM-G) was launched in October 2014 with the goal of making rural India free from open defecation by 2019, it gave states and districts more flexibility than previous national sanitation programs had. This led to a successful experiment in Uttar Pradesh called “demand compression”.

The state was preparing to use a tried-and-tested triggering process, where trained motivators concentrate their efforts on a community to help improve their understanding of safe sanitation and stimulate demand for toilets in rural communities where open defecation is still common. However, they faced a problem. If all the households that were eligible for government subsidies would actually claim them, funds would soon run out. With an estimated 15 million households across Uttar Pradesh without a toilet and eligible for a government subsidy of around $200, about $3 billion would be needed.

Household toilet constructed from own resources

When nutrition meets WASH: reflections from Ethiopia and Madagascar on fighting stunting

Claire Chase's picture

Co-author: Sophie Durrans, Research Uptake Officer at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

A child who is stunted early in life – who fails to grow as tall as expected for their age – often has reduced physical and mental development. Water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) influences a child's growth in multiple ways. Evidence across low and middle-income countries demonstrates that higher open defecation rates are associated with stunting and higher overall incidence of poverty.

Gender and sex inequalities in water, sanitation, and hygiene

Libbet Loughnan's picture

This blogpost is part of a series of thematic blogs for the World Bank's Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Poverty Diagnostic.

Woman carries water containers near polluted stream and water pipe in Maputo, Mozambique

Addressing gender and sex inequalities in WASH is not only recognized in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 and 6, it is central to the entire ambition of the SDGs themselves. Some water, sanitation, and hygiene issues are faced only by women because of their biological sex, whereas others are more influenced by gendered societal norms. To truly leave no one behind, we need to be mindful of and work against gender and sex inequalities in all development work. 
 
New World Bank research is a valuable contribution to doing just that.  ‘Reducing Inequalities in Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene in the Era of the Sustainable Development Goals’ reveals that a drastic change is required in the way countries manage resources and provide key services, starting with better targeting to ensure they reach those most in need.  In many cases, this means women and girls. 

How can we make water and sanitation more inclusive and accessible?

Kamila Anna Galeza's picture

“What’s wrong with this picture?” Louisa Gosling of WaterAid asked the participants at her training on Disability-inclusive Water Operations at the World Bank Water Week in March 2017. She pointed to a photo of a woman standing on the wall of a well. It was round and high, the ground around it muddy, and there was no lifting mechanism in sight.

More pictures followed… latrines and water sources with steep steps, narrow doorways, unstable construction without handles or rails. The more pictures we saw, the clearer it became what was wrong - all the facilities shown were inaccessible and dangerous, quite likely impossible to use for many people. 

Photo Credit: WaterAid

The biggest bang for our limited water and sanitation buck: can investing in small towns lead the way?

Aroha Bahuguna's picture



While the share of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 56 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2012, the region’s rapid population growth outpaced the decrease in poverty, resulting in higher number of poor people than before. More specifically, Africa’s urban population is expected to triple in size in the next half century, which is putting pressure on scarce resources in cities, exacerbated by capacity, budget and governance bottlenecks. The densely-populated areas with low levels of water and sanitation services pose a serious threat to public health – cholera epidemics have broken out in urban areas in several African countries in recent years.

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