What factors impact the effectiveness of emergency WASH interventions?

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Most emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions are efficacious and consistently reduced both the risk of disease and the risk of transmission; however, program design and beneficiary preferences were important considerations to ensure WASH intervention effectiveness in the specific contexts.

Emergencies – including natural disasters, conflict, and disease outbreaks – are occurring at increasing rates and affecting an increasing number of people. WASH interventions are commonly implemented as part of emergency response activities, yet there is currently little evidence on the efficacy and effectiveness in emergency situations in low and middle-income countries. To address the evidence gaps, a systematic review of of published and grey literature was used to identify and assess 114 evaluations of WASH interventions in emergencies. WASH interventions were separated into 13 categories for analysis with most emergency WASH interventions being efficacious that consistently reduced both the risk of disease and the risk of transmission; however, program design and preferences impacted effectiveness at the beneficiary level. Some of the most commonly implemented emergency WASH interventions were found to be severely under-researched, and further research investigating outcomes and impacts of specific interventions is needed. To address barriers to intervention use by beneficiaries, it is recommended that responders implement efficacious, simple interventions that are appropriately timed, community driven and have linkages between relief and development in collaboration with the recipient communities. In addition, program design and beneficiary preferences are important considerations to ensure WASH intervention effectiveness in the specific emergency response context reached their potential efficacy.

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