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

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Abstract

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.

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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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). https://doi.org/10.1057/ejdr.2013.67

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