Lessons Learned Research: WASH Sector | COVID-19 Situational Analysis

Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Syria
December 9, 2021
Situational Analysis

Executive Summary

Since its beginning, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought noticeable challenges in implementing and evaluating emergency projects on a global scale. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is one of the sectors that have been affected by a multitude of these challenges. Through this research, the author gathers and assesses some of the experiences and solutions concerning the issues raised by the COVID-19 crisis. For this purpose, the researcher put together a set of case studies from six countries where parts of the populations were already in need of humanitarian assistance prior the COVID-19 pandemic. The six countries in question are: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Syria. These six countries represent how the humanitarian context has been affected in different world regions.

In order to assess the quantity and quality of the collected data, this research relied on multiple reports prepared during the COVID-19 crisis, such as need assessments, evaluations, program monitoring documents, situation analysis reports, etc. In addition, a significant part of the literature was available within the DEEP platform, which allowed to dictate the quality and quantity of the reports prepared during 2020.

After collecting all the information available through the literature review and the key informant interviews (KIIs), the analysis has revealed common challenges and different solutions put in place by WASH actors to gather the information needed. Based on this, the primary purpose of this research is to share the lessons learned for data collection in the WASH sector during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Global WASH Cluster and the WASH Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Group have shared information on the challenges, solutions, and mitigation measures regarding data collection during the past year. For this purpose, the process of interviews in the selected countries aimed at program coordinators, leaders, co-coordinators, information management officers of the WASH cluster/coordination groups, and key people within the WASH sector from some of the leading International NGOs. In several instances, the questionnaires have been forwarded to suboffices of the WASH organizations. This research tried to get a broad sample of people working within the WASH sector in different humanitarian contexts to have a wide range of information available. The various interviews have provided important information regarding the various humanitarian crises/contexts and the target populations needing water, sanitation, and hygiene services. It also shed light on how the data was collected over the past year.

The literature review and KIIs showed that the pandemic has dramatically affected data availability, reducing it dramatically since the early days of the breakout. This could be explained by the series of difficulties and restrictions imposed by governments, local authorities, community leaders, and even, on occasions, by the target populations. The rigidity in the budget for assessments and evaluations was another critical factor to consider, as the cost to collect data has increased for many reasons, mostly related to COVID-19 restrictions. These issues have affected humanitarian organizations and government entities related to water sanitation, making it difficult for the latter to provide essential information to the different WASH actors.
To ensure the collection of information, WASH actors have put in place different mitigation measures and systems, such as satellite images, the community's perception focus, the use of alternative collection methods, interviews via telephone and online applications, and the simplification of data collection forms (assuming a reduction of the quality), among others.

Efforts from WASH actors within the frame of the six countries studied are remarkable. Even when data quality and localization were significantly reduced, finding all the challenges and difficulties, the knowledge gathered about the WASH situation of the people in need was impressive. The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought opportunities to improve the data collection systems of the WASH sector.
It has produced innovative ways of dealing with the situation at hand, for instance, through the use of technology such as satellite imagery or the use of PREMISE, improving coordination with other humanitarian sectors (health, education, etc.), and even with a different approach collecting on a daily or weekly bases the perception of the community using the Perception Community Tracker.

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