Photo by Ric Francis for CRS

Ex-Post Evaluation: Millennium Water Alliance - Ethiopia Program (MWA-EP)

A Queue for Water in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Annette Fay

The Millennium Water Alliance-Ethiopia Program (MWA-EP), implemented in 24 rural woredas (districts) between 2004 and 2009, built and rehabilitated water points and trained community-level water, sanitation, and hygiene committees to manage each of the WPs. The activity also conducted hygiene and sanitation education and supported the construction of household (both improved and unimproved) and public latrines.

What We Did

The evaluation team looked at the Millennium Water Alliance-Ethiopia Program (MWA-EP), implemented between 2004–2009. MWA-EP aimed to increase water and sanitation access, decrease water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)–related illnesses, promote integrated water resource management, and develop a partnership model for service delivery.  

How We Did It

The evaluation team sought to understand whether the increased access to water and sanitation attributed to the MWA-EP intervention proved to be sustainable almost a decade later, and why. They used a mixed-methods approach to data collection, conducting 64 interviews, observations of 13 water points and 15 latrines, water quality tests at 10 water points, and collection of secondary data from government entities and NGOs.

What We Learned

MWA-EP improved water access, at least in the short term. However, only five of the 13 visited water points were functioning fully at the time of their visit.  

  • WASH committees (WASHCOs) struggled to effectively manage and raise the money necessary to maintain and repair the water points in their community.
  • In some places it remains unclear who is in charge of water-point management, repair, and water quality testing—WASHCOs, local government, or NGOs? Perhaps this is why few if any water points are tested regularly for water quality; seven out of the 10 tested came back positive for E. coli contamination.
  • Mechanical issues observed at the water points affected functionality and reliability more than seasonal variations in water flow.

Most households that had built a latrine during the project continued to rebuild their latrines as necessary (when they become full or are damaged) after the end of the activity.

  • Despite owners’ claims to always use their facilities, five out of 15 latrines observed showed no signs of use, and health extension workers noted significant challenges in convincing people to change their behaviors. 
  • People indicated that they washed their hands regularly, yet none of the latrines observed had handwashing stations.

These and other findings underscore the difficulty in maintaining community water points, as well as the limitations of earlier, simpler behavior change approaches like those used in the MWA-EP activity.

Next Steps

Increasing rural access to safe water sources and the adoption of healthy sanitation and hygiene habits remain critical issues throughout the developing world. Yet the sustainability of donor activities designed to improve access is not always a given. Community water point management is difficult to sustain effectively, and new approaches may be necessary to increase access to water services in rural areas over the long term.

About The Ex-Post Evaluation Series

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The USAID Water Office is conducting a series of independent ex-post evaluations of the Agency’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) activities to inform future USAID investments in the sector and to better understand the long-term impact and sustainability of its interventions several years after projects close.

This evaluation series will help USAID understand whether and how its activity results have been sustained. All activities included in the series must have been closed for a minimum of three years and could not be recipients of Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance or Food for Peace funding. Preference is given to USAID missions that are at a point in their design cycle to incorporate learnings into upcoming WASH programs.

This evaluation series builds upon USAID and Rotary International’s WASH Sustainability Index Tool, a framework to assess a WASH activity’s likelihood to be sustainable according to the following factors: availability of finance for sanitation; local capacity for construction and maintenance of latrines; the influence of social norms; and governance.