Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development

Sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in Central America

Raquel I. Sabogal, Elizabeth Medlin, Gonzalo Aquino, Richard J. Gelting


The American Red Cross and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collaborated on a sustainability evaluation of post-hurricane water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions in Central America. In 2006 and 2009, we revisited six study areas in rural El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to assess sustainability of WASH interventions finalized in 2002, after 1998's Hurricane Mitch. We used surveys to collect data, calculate indicators and identify factors that influence sustainability. Regional sustainability indicator results showed there was a statistically significant decline in access to water. The presence of sanitation facilities had not changed since the beginning of the project; however, maintenance and use of latrines declined but continued to meet the goal of 75% use after 7 years. The hygiene indicator, hand washing, initially declined and then increased. Declines in water access were due to operational problems related to storm events and population changes. Sanitation facilities were still present and sometimes used even though they reached or surpassed their original design life. Changes in hygiene practices appeared related to ongoing hygiene promotion from outside organizations. These results provide useful input for making WASH programs more sustainable and informing future, more in-depth research into factors influencing sustainability.

  • Central America
  • evaluation
  • hygiene promotion
  • sanitation
  • sustainability
  • water
  • Received February 7, 2013.
  • Accepted August 8, 2013.