This brief explores how humanitarian and development programming impact the uptake of household water treatment products and long-term resilience to waterborne diseases, providing an answer grounded in economic theory and empirical evidence. It is grounded in behavioural economics, the field that draws insights from both psychology and economics to help explain human behaviour and decision-making. The eventual goal is to aid in the design of public health interventions at the intersection of humanitarian, development and market systems programming.
One of the catalysts for this study was the observed recurrence of waterborne disease outbreaks in Zimbabwe by Oxfam. A recent pre-crisis market analysis in the capital, Harare, raised concerns that predictably recurring free distributions of household water treatment technologies (HWT) during an outbreak, among other non-food items and water services, could be affecting the sustained uptake and use of HWT and other good hygiene behaviours in non-outbreak periods. This reduced uptake could thereby reduce barriers to infection and weaken local HWT markets.
In this brief we therefore focus on HWT, and in particular on water chlorination, in locations at risk of cholera and typhoid outbreaks, but the principles and concepts presented may be applied to other health technologies as well. While the brief focuses on health consumption behaviours, the concepts can be used to inform diagnosis and design of interventions in other sectors.