Introducing key facts about water and sanitation services

Review of Week 1 of Water Supply and Sanitation Policy in Developing Countries Part 1: Understanding Complex Problems (University of Manchester, Coursera)

As I have an engineering background I think I tend to default to viewing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues from an engineering (and maybe pseudo-social) perspective. So I thought it was important to gain, through this course, a better policy perspective.

I thought it was great that they started off by emphasising that water and sanitation issues were complex, and it is interesting that a business school is teaching a course on water and sanitation policy!

The introductory week looked at key factors and current patterns of water and sanitation, but I had doubts about the data from the study they presented. I couldn’t access the full paper to check out the methodology, but I posted a question on the forum. If I do get the full paper I might review it in detail.

Clarissa Brocklehurst, formerly Chief of WASH at UNICEF, was interviewed and did acknowledge the shortcomings of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) data. For example, that existing data do not measure whether water is safe to drink or not. I am glad that she did because I am generally very skeptical of WASH data and statistics , having observed numerous broken water and sanitation facilities (which is not necessary captured by the data) as well the inability of surveys to collect accurate and nuanced information. (Disclaimer: I have not studied the JMP methodology in detail so my judgement may be hash. Something I should probably do one day!)

What surprised me, though, was that there were only a handful of mostly part-time staff working on the JMP. I am definitely in favour of dedicating more resources to collecting high quality data on WASH!

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