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Recent WASH & COVID-19 Resources

This page will be updated periodically with news, resources and research related to WASH and COVID-19.

April 3, 2020 Updates


Understanding hygiene promotion in the context of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak: UNICEF guidance note, March 2020. This note provides guidance on which aspects to consider when planning and implementing a hygiene promotion campaign as part of a broader risk communication and community engagement strategy.

Incorporating nudges into COVID-19 communication and prevention strategies. By Julia Rosenbaum, USAID WASHPaLS Project (FHI 360), March 2020. Global Handwashing Partnership Blog, March 2020. Nudges are physical cues that influence people to behave in a certain way, without particular messaging or promotion of any behavior.


Covid-19: why is hand washing so effective? The Guardian, April 1, 2020. With scientists still racing to find treatments for Covid-19, Nicola Davis speaks with Prof Pall Thordarson about why soap is so effective at deactivating Sars-CoV-2 and how this differs from hand sanitizer.


Coronavirus global health emergency. UN Water – This page brings together water and sanitation-related information from UN-Water Members and Partners in the light of the coronavirus global emergency.

COVID-19 resources. Wash’EM – Webinars, guides, videos, etc.

USAID – Publications, newsletters and reports on hygiene, handwashing and other issues related to disease prevention and control.

USAID WASH updates | COVID-19 | Recent WASH research


Updates to

Exploring a Network’s Value. Lessons from Ethiopia. USAID Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership, March 2020. Overall, it was an important finding that the members find a change of perspective a core value of the network. The project is using a systems approach and seeks to achieve a change in stakeholder understanding through the interventions.


The determinants of handwashing behaviour in domestic settings: An integrative systematic review. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, June 2020. This review demonstrates that our understanding of behavioral determinants remains sub-optimal. We found that there are limitations in the way behavioral determinants are conceptualized and measured and that research is biased towards exploring a narrow range of behavioral determinants.

Webinar on reducing the spread of COVID-19 through handwashing promotion. Wash’Em, March 2020. Webinar – FrenchSpanish | Wash’Em COVID-19 Resources |

Handwashing with soap – a life-saving act. World Bank Water Blog, March 2020. Resources are also needed during a pandemic response to ensure that WASH services continue to function.

Coronavirus: what might more hand washing mean in countries with water shortages?. The Conservation, March 30, 2020. In places where a regular, safe water supply doesn’t exist, the risk of infection could multiply.

Current Priority: Coronavirus. Water Environment Federation, March 27, 2020. Currently, there is no evidence that coronavirus survives the disinfection process for drinking water and wastewater. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. The risk of transmission through feces is expected to be low based on data from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses. At this time, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low.

WASH & COVID-19 – Water Currents, March 2020

This special issue contains links to key websites as well as studies and reports that discuss the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)–related aspects of COVID-19. With the release of additional funding, to date USAID has committed up to $100 million in financing from the Emergency Reserve Fund for Contagious Infectious-Disease Outbreaks for 25 countries affected by novel coronavirus (COVID-19) or at high risk of its spread.

The COVID-19 virus is transmitted through two main routes: respiratory and contact. No evidence to date suggests that the virus is present in surface or groundwater sources or transmitted through contaminated drinking water. And no evidence to date suggests that the COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems, either with or without treatment.

The provision of safe WASH conditions is essential to protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 outbreak. Below are some WASH–related infectious disease prevention and control measures. 

  • Ensuring good and consistently applied WASH and waste management practices in communities, homes, schools, marketplaces, and health care facilities will further help to prevent human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
  • Frequent and proper handwashing with soap is one of the most important measures that can be used to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus. WASH activities aiming to respond to COVID-19 should work to enable handwashing by improving services and facilities and using proven behavior change techniques. 
  • Reliable water services in health facilities and households are critical to ensuring both sufficient quantities of safe drinking water and the ability to maintain hygiene (including hand hygiene, laundering, cleaning, and disinfection). 

Read the complete issue.

There’s a Line Drawn Between Clean Water, Climate Change and COVID-19

There’s a Line Drawn Between Clean Water, Climate Change and COVID-19. Engineering for Change, March 23, 2020


World Water Day and the theme this year is water and climate change. Dr. John Matthews, E.D.-AGWA, is a veteran of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP. He noted recently in a webinar that when he attended COP-15 in Copenhagen in 2009, he was only one of a handful of experts talking about water and climate change. Later this year in Glasgow at COP-26, water shall be front and center for most of the climate-change related talks and discussions.

Water is the connecting link to most everything when it comes to climate change. If we have water in access, we experience floods, not enough causes droughts. There is also the issue of quantity and quality of water and how it contributes to climate change either directly or indirectly.

According to Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, humans need water to survive, as do all the systems we rely on: sanitation, healthcare, education, business and industry. Action plans to tackle climate change need to be integrated across different sectors and coordinated across borders. And they must have one thing in common: safe and sustainable water management.

Financial institutions also need to do their bit by considering the holistic systems based approaches while considering to finance a new project or venture. There have been some breakthroughs in the form of Climate Bonds in China and the new Green Deal in the US but the banks and investments institutions need to do more, according to Mr. Ovink.


The E4C Solutions Library is a living database of products and services that are intended to be accessible and appropriate for those living in poverty. In addition to the Solutions Library, E4C has recently partnered with Siemens USA to offer the Innovate for Impact Design Challenge. Under the challenge you can identify a problem, or opportunity, within SDG2 (zero hunger) and SDG6 (clean water and sanitation).

All the products and services in E4C’s SL, the design challenge with Siemens and all other offerings in the form of webinars and resources aim towards addressing climate change, water and ultimately achieving the UN-SDGs for all by 2030.

Read the complete article.

USAID WASH updates | Research on WASH impacts, health, water quality



Senior Specialist, WASH Governance and Infrastructure – PRO-WASH (Practices, Research and Operations in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is a five-year project led by Save the Children and funded by the USAID Office of Food for Peace (FFP). The Senior Specialist for WASH Governance and Infrastructure has a broad range of experience working across relevant water approaches including IWRM, water governance, water service provisioning, watershed management, and infrastructure.


Forecasts of mortality and economic losses from poor water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa. PLoS One, March 2020. Our simulations suggest that WASH-related mortality will continue to differ markedly across countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In many countries, expected economic growth alone will not be sufficient to eliminate WASH-related mortality or eliminate the economic losses associated with poor access to water and sanitation infrastructure by 2050. In other countries, WASH-related mortality will sharply decline, although the economic losses associated with the time spent collecting water are forecast to persist.

Framing the future for water sector financing. IWA, February 2020. The water sector needs to secure much greater investment, but also to direct this at the most appropriate solutions and to build creditworthy utilities


Changes in historical typhoid transmission across 16 U.S. cities, 1889-1931: Quantifying the impact of investments in water and sewer infrastructures. PLoS NTDs, March 2020. Our findings have important implications for the understanding of typhoid transmission dynamics and potential impact of improvements in water and sanitation infrastructure.

Effect of sanitation improvements on pathogens and microbial source tracking markers in the rural Bangladeshi household environment. Environ. Sci. Technol., March 13, 2020. Incomplete removal of child and animal feces or the compound (versus community-wide) scale of intervention could explain the limited impacts of improved sanitation.

Front-line rural health clinics: Water, sanitation and hygiene access in Ntcheu District (Malawi). Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C, 20 March 2020. This study found that rural village health clinics generally had good coverage of water and sanitation, and better access than reported nationwide in rural households or schools, handwashing facilities are an important gap.

USAID WASH updates | Research on MHM, sanitation, nutrition, health


Menstrual Hygiene Management and Women’s Economic Empowerment: A Review of Existing Evidence. WASHPaLS, 2019. This report presents the findings of the review and describes some of the challenges experienced by working women and provides guidance for future investments.

The State of Women and Water in Cotton Growing Communities in India – One-third of surveyed women in Maharashtra express concerns with the stressful nature of sourcing water.

USAID Launches Bureau for Resilience and Food Security – USAID in the News.


Risk factors for child food contamination in low‐income neighbourhoods of Maputo, Mozambique: An exploratory, cross‐sectional study. Maternal & Child Nutrition, March 12. Risk factors for child food contamination were identified, including type of food, food preparation practices, and hygiene behaviors. Critical control points included cooking/reheating of food and food storage and handling.

How water impacts early childhood nutrition: An integrated water and nutrition framework. World Bank Water Blog, March 2020. In collaboration with the teams focusing on Agriculture and Health issues at the Bank, the Water team developed an integrated water and nutrition framework to aid in understanding the various ways that water impacts early child nutrition.


Assessing the Impact and Equity of an Integrated Rural Sanitation Approach: A Longitudinal Evaluation in 11 Sub-Saharan Africa and Asian Countries. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, March 2020. We estimate that 4.8 million people gained access to basic sanitation in these areas during the project period. Most countries also demonstrated movement up the sanitation ladder, in addition to increases in handwashing stations and safe disposal of child feces. Results from this study revealed a successful model of rural sanitation service delivery.

This Women’s Day, we need to talk about toilet taxes. ICTD, March 2020.  They found that female traders paid up to 18 times more for their daily use of toilets than they paid in market taxes – equivalent to 20% of their daily income.

Humanitarian WASH – Q&A with Travis Yates of Tufts University

Many thanks to Travis Yatestravis.yates@tufts.edufor sharing some of his insights and experiences in humanitarian WASH. 

Can you give us a brief introduction of yourself and current position?

My name is Travis Yates and I’m a post-doc at Tufts University working with Dr. Daniele Lantagne. Before my time at Tufts, I spent four years in Afghanistan with a couple international NGOs and another six months in Lebanon setting up the response for Syrian refugee influx of 2012 and 2013. After that, I received a fellowship in Water Diplomacy and started my PhD working with Dr. Lantagne on the evidence around humanitarian WASH.

I completed a couple of systematic reviews of WASH in emergencies and have been working with Dr. Lantagne ever since. My most recent work has been with the Global WASH Cluster to gather lessons learned around WASH coordination during a humanitarian response. Assessing the evidence and [potential] impact of coordination across different contexts is quite a challenge.

We have also been working on a resource center with the Global WASH Cluster to maintain key documents that WASH responders would find useful. It is not every WASH document, but focused on: lessons learned, research, or tool kits for humanitarian WASH:

How did you get into working with humanitarian WASH programs specifically?

I applied to an internship program with an international NGO while I was in my final year at university. A six-month commitment abroad seemed like a great opportunity to use my freshly learned engineering skills to help others, not to mention a bit of an adventure.

I was stationed in Afghanistan and had good exposure to writing proposals, organizing workshops, and working with a diverse team. I loved it and came back for a couple more years. I liked the challenges and serving communities in need. I’ve had a few different positions in my international experience but I focused on WASH mostly because of my background with civil engineering.

That focus continued in graduate school, first in applied fluid mechanics then toward public health in the environmental health program at Tufts. Overall, it has been a good balance between engineering and health that I think we see in WASH programming.

Where do you see the humanitarian WASH field headed in the next 5–10 years?

Evidence and Data. I could be biased, but it seems that there is a big push toward more evidence in humanitarian work, and consequently we need more data. Donors and responding organizations want to knowwhat works and what doesn’t.

With more people in need, we need to make sure projects are truly making an impact. Unfortunately, any responder would tell you that getting the data in an emergency to support evidence is just really hard. Timing and logistics are challenges, available resources and ethics considerations are difficult too.

It’s also important to note that this isn’t collecting data for the sake of more data. It needs to be specific and targeted. We have been doing WASH projects for a long time and we have a good grasp on many aspects; however, gaps remain – which is why I think some of the gap exercises and reviews are important for the entire sector.

More specifically, I see cash and vouchers playing a bigger role in the humanitarian response – especially in some of the chronic and protracted contexts which we are seeing more of. I also think expectations around program quality will progress. Tufts has a small role working with Oxfam and Solidarités to help define WASH quality and beneficiary accountability. It is certainly something we need to be working toward and I’m glad to be in that conversation.

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges ahead for humanitarian WASH?

Transitioning to Development and Funding. Going from an emergency to development is a big transition and I don’t think we have many good examples of that consistently working well. Bringing in local government and national organizations will be a key component to success, but there is a lot of variability between contexts.

And then, I think funding will be an issue simply because we have more people in need for longer times. Already many contexts are underfunded, but there is also increasing impacts with climate change and multiple large-scale conflicts around the world. We have to get more efficient with our projects because the basic needs beneficiaries will still be there.