Case study

Effectiveness, scale and sustainability in WASH programmes: a review

2013 Bolivia Kenya Mali Water & sanitation Download as PDF (521.9 KB)


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Published by
Springfield Centre
Results level
Systemic change
Observational / Qualitative
Data source
Secondary data
Intervention type
Improved product / service quality

The case study review of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes assesses interventions in the WASH sector based on three criteria; effectiveness, sustainability and scale. The review also includes examples of four projects based on a systemic approach to WASH and evaluates the micro and macro political economy of WASH.

Main findings

  • Direct delivery programmes and knowledge and skills transfer approaches dominate WASH sector interventions. Additionally these programmes are temporary and limited in scale to a relatively small number of people.
  • Systemic approaches to WASH problems have limited immediate impact, but can lead to larger long term benefits. Examples from Kenya, Mali, and Bolivia, are not entirely successful but highlight the importance of systemic approaches.
  • Current reviews of WASH programmes focus on effectiveness, greater emphasis is needed on sustainability and scale of interventions.
  • The political economy of WASH influences the incentives and willingness of actors to change.

Intervention description

The different projects analysed in the review are categorised as direct delivery, knowledge and skills transfer, and systemic change. These reflect the different approaches to interventions in the WASH sector. While direct delivery projects focus on delivery of physical infrastructure, technical assistance for improving WASH knowledge and skills are another type of intervention, and systemic change programmes attempt to address key constraints and facilitate improvements in the broader systems.

Evidence methodology

  • The study is primarily a review of other reviews of WASH programmes and establishes a framework of evaluation for a wide range of WASH projects.
  • The study is based on secondary evidence including reviews published in academic journals, programme documents to ensure wider coverage of WASH interventions.

Useful for:

Projects and policies in the WASH sector.