Skip to main content
Log in

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Interventions in the Pacific: Defining, Assessing and Improving ‘Sustainability’

  • Original Article
  • Published:
The European Journal of Development Research Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Through the conduct of ex post evaluations, this article examines the impact of aid projects and programmes beyond the funding period in the water and sanitation sector, which, since the inclusion of hygiene, has recently become known as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). The evaluations were conducted in rural areas of three Pacific countries: Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. This article argues that in assessing the lasting impact of community development projects (in this instance, WASH) the term benefit persistence better captures the wider scope of impact that a project might have on a community extending beyond the stated project goals and objectives. These ‘additional’ or unstated impacts can extend the benefit that aid projects can have. A number of areas that strengthen the likelihood of benefit persistence were also identified.


A travers des évaluations ex-post, cet article examine l’impact, au delà des périodes de financement, des projets et programmes d’aide au secteur de l’eau et de l’assainissement qui, depuis l’inclusion de la composante hygiène, a récemment pris le nom d’« eau, assainissement et hygiène » (WASH). Les évaluations ont été effectuées dans les zones rurales de trois pays du Pacifique: la Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée, les îles Salomon et la République de Vanuatu. Cet article fait valoir que lorsque l’on évalue l’impact durable des projets de développement communautaires (dans ce cas, WASH), l’expression « persistance des bénéfices » rend mieux compte de l’impact plus large qu’un projet peut avoir sur une communauté et qui peut dépasser les buts et objectifs énoncés du projet. Ces effets « supplémentaires » ou non anticipés peuvent étendre les bénéfices potentiels des projets d’aide. Un certain nombre d’aspects renforçant la probabilité de la persistance des bénéfices ont également été identifiés.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. See Curtis et al (2009) for a discussion of the role and importance that ‘disgust’ plays in the motivation for hand-washing rather than health improvement per se.

  2. Improved drinking water sources include: household connection, public standpipe, borehole, protected dug well, protected spring and rainwater collection.

  3. The most well-known definition of sustainable development is provided by the World Commission on Environment and Development as ‘progress that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

  4. Similarly, AusAID (2000), a major funder of WASH in the Pacific, defines sustainability in the context of donor-funded development programmes and projects as the continuation of benefits after major assistance from a donor has been completed.

  5. WaterAid (2011) argue that ‘If communities slip back into a situation where they have to rely on unimproved water and sanitation services then investment has effectively been wasted’ (p. 5).

  6. Fieldwork was undertaken by one of the co-authors who has more than 20 years’ experience working in the Pacific and extensive expertise in this sector.

  7. A VIP latrine is a pit (hole in the ground) with a slab (platform) on top with a toilet seat with a hole in it through which urine and faeces pass. The pit is vented through a pipe that rises to above the level of the latrine roof. This pipe is sealed with flywire or similar to trap flies that may breed in the pit and are attracted to the light.

  8. PHAST is an initiative of the World Health Organisation and stands for Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation.

  9. The use of PHAST in this manner was reported during the ex post evaluations.

  10. Future research in the Pacific should examine the relative strengths of delivering WASH interventions through a sector-wide approach versus community-based approaches. While the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, they can have different objectives and delivery mechanisms.

  11. It is acknowledged that different leaders (men and women) may be required at different stages of the project cycle.


  • Abeysuriya, K.R., Willetts, J.R., Carrard, N.R. and Mitchell, C.A. (2013) Decentralised and distributed systems: What will it take to make them a sustainable option for urban sanitation in the 21st century? Water 15 (3): 42–44.

    Google Scholar 

  • Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2001) Improving Life for the Poor through Water Supply and Sanitation. Manila, Philippines: Asian Development Bank.

  • Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2002) Impact Evaluation Study on Water Supply and Sanitation Projects in Selected Developing Member Countries. Manila, Philippines: Asian Development Bank.

  • Appleton, B. and Sijbesma, C. (2005) Hygiene Promotion. (Thematic Overview Paper 1) The Hague, the Netherlands: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.

    Google Scholar 

  • AusAID (2000) Promoting Practical Sustainability. Canberra, Australia: Australian Agency for International Development.

  • AusAID (2013) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Canberra, Australia: Australian Agency for International Development,, accessed August 2013.

  • Belout, A. and Gauvreau, C. (2004) Factors influencing project success: The impact of human resource management. International Journal of Project Management 22 (1): 1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clarke, M. (2002) Achieving behaviour change: Three generations of HIV/AIDS programming and jargon in Thailand. Development in Practice 12 (5): 625–636.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cleaver, F. (1999) Paradoxes of participation: Questioning participatory approaches to development. Journal of International Development 11 (4): 597–612.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Curtis, V. (2007) Dirt, disgust and disease. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 61 (8): 660–664.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Curtis, V., Danquah, L. and Aunger, R. (2009) Planned, motivated and habitual hygiene behaviour: An eleven country review. Health Education Research 24 (4): 655–673.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Development Assistance Committee (DAC) (2010) Criteria for Evaluating Development Assistance, Development Assistance Committee, OECD, Downloaded 16 September,,2340,en_2649_34435_2086550_1_1_1_1,00.html, accessed August 2013.

  • Diallo, A. and Thuillier, D. (2005) The success of international development projects, trust and communication: An African perspective. International Journal of Project Management 23 (3): 237–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Donnelly, J. (2010) Maximising participation in international community-level project evaluation: A strength-based approach. Evaluation Journal of Australasia 10 (2): 43–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dov Dvir, D., Raz, T. and Shenhar, A. (2003) An empirical analysis of the relationship between project planning and project success. International Journal of Project Management 21 (1): 89–95.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Easterly, W. (2006) The White Man’s Burden. New York: Penguin Books.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Gesch, P. (2007) Working out of two mind sets: Critical methodology and PNG traditional ways. Contemporary PNG Studies DWU Research Journal 7 (November): 17–34.

    Google Scholar 

  • GoPNG (2010) Papua New Guinea Medium Term Development Strategy 2011–2015. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: GoPNG.

  • Guba, E. and Lincoln, Y. (1989) Fourth Generation Evaluation. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kleemeier, E. (2000) The impact of participation in sustainability: An analysis of the Malawi rural piped scheme programme. World Development 28 (5): 929–944.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Narayan, D. (1995) The Contributions of People’s Participation: Evidence from 121 Rural Water Supply Projects. Environmentally Sustainable Development Occasional Paper No 1. Washington DC: World Bank.

    Google Scholar 

  • Overseas Development Institute (ODI) (2006) Sanitation and Hygiene: Knocking on New Doors. ODI Briefing Paper 13. London: Overseas Development Institute.

  • Riddell, R. (2007) Does Foreign Aid Really Work? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sanitation and Water Conference, Melbourne (2008) Meeting the Sanitation and Water Challenge in South East Asia and the Pacific, downloaded 15 September 2010,

  • Sijbesma, C. (2011) Sanitation Financing Models for the Urban Poor. (Thematic Overview Paper 25) The Hague, the Netherlands: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.

    Google Scholar 

  • Trudgen, R. (2000) Why Warriors Lie Down and Die. Darwin, Western Australia: Aboriginal Resource and Development Services.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vallance, R. (2007) Is there a Melanesian research methodology? Contemporary PNG Studies, DWU Research Journal 7 (November): 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  • WaterAid Australia and International WaterCentre (2008) ‘Introduction: The Facts’ in Sharing Experiences: Sustainable Sanitation in South East Asia and the Pacific. Brisbane, Australia: WaterAid Australia and International WaterCentre, pp. 3–9.

  • WaterAid (2009) Management for Sustainability: Practical Lessons from Three Studies on the Management of Rural Water Supply Schemes. Tanzania: WaterAid.

  • WaterAid (2011) Sustainability Framework. London, UK: WaterAid.

  • WHO (2004) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Links to Health: Facts and Figures. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation.

  • WHO and UNICEF (2013) Joint monitoring program for water and sanitation,, accessed 8 October 2013.

  • Willetts, J., Halcrow, G., Carrard, N., Rowland, C. and Crawford, J. (2010) Addressing two critical MDGs together: Gender in water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives. Pacific Economic Bulletin 25 (1): 162–176.

    Google Scholar 

  • Willetts, J.R., Paddon, M., Nguyen Dinh Giang, N., Nguyen, H. and Carrard, N.R. (2013) Sustainability assessment of sanitation options in Vietnam: Planning with the future in mind. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development 3 (2): 262–268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • WVA and WaterAid Australia (2007) Getting the Basics Right: Water and Sanitation in South East Asia and the Pacific. Melbourne, Australia: World Vision Australia.

Download references


This article is an output from an Australian Development Research Award (ADRA) research project generously supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). The views are those of the authors and not necessarily those of AusAID.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Clarke, M., Feeny, S. & Donnelly, J. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Interventions in the Pacific: Defining, Assessing and Improving ‘Sustainability’. Eur J Dev Res 26, 692–706 (2014).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: