Water supply and sanitation are essential services, crucial to human and economic development, but they have often been mismanaged. Institutional fragmentation and poorly targeted finance has led to disappointing outcomes in some countries. The links to health systems, especially with regard to sanitation and hygiene, have not always been made. With the right policies in place, other countries have seen rapid increases in used of improved infrastructure, and falling child mortality as a result.
Implementing services that last the course is a key objective in WASH policy and programming. There are financial, social and environmental aspects to sustainability. All of these, and more, are crucial to ensuring that the service is permanent.
WASH services often need significant capital investment, but it is the operations and maintenance costs which are more important in the long-run. Too often, expensive infrastructure falls into disrepair, and not enough thought is given to revenue collection processes which will ensure sustainability.
Without strong monitoring systems, it is hard to understand progress towards goals and target resources appropriately. This can hinder the understanding of the effectiveness of WASH interventions. Thorough evaluations based on solid data can inform policy development and ensure resources are being spent appropriately.
WASH services cut across the health, education and environment sectors, and have no single obvious institutional home. In many countries, this has led to fragmentation and no ministerial leadership in the sector. Sanitation in particular has often fallen between the mandates of water and health. Political economy analysis can help in diagnosing the blockages which are holding back progress, and leads to recommendations for institutional reform which can turn around a stagnating sector.