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Published on: 08/01/2015

Statistics experts met recently in New York to discuss ways for countries to better predict how long it will take for everyone to get access to water and sanitation.

The meeting was organised by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. The JMP produces annual national, regional and global estimates of how many people use improved drinking water sources and improved sanitation facilities.

Kristof Bostoen was there to bring in IRC’s experience in developing monitoring platforms for SmarterWASH in Ghana, WASH Info in Bangladesh and for the sustainability index of the Dutch WASH Alliance.

Alternative statistical methods

With more reliable data becoming available more frequently, the JMP has got better at linear projections of coverage estimates. But in practice coverage seldom follows a straight line: in the beginning coverage may increase rapidly while later on it becomes more and more difficult to bridge the “last mile”.

In principle, more complex non-linear methods could produce more reliable predictions, but not all countries may have the capacity to use such methods, Kristof warns. He adds that policy makers like linear projections: they are easy to understand and to communicate.

Data harmonisation

A positive message that emerged from New York, according to Kristof, was the willingness of the JMP to incorporate datasets other than the household surveys typically produced by National Statistics Offices (NSOs). While good, such surveys are usually not carried out every year. Service providers provide more up-to-date statistics. If NSOs and service provider data are harmonised, this would also contribute to better predictions, Kristof concludes.

If you would like to now more about monitoring look out for new IRC book, soon to be published by Practical Action. The title is: From infrastructure to services:trends in monitoring sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services, edited by Ton Schouten and Stef Smits.


At IRC we have strong opinions and we value honest and frank discussion, so you won't be surprised to hear that not all the opinions on this site represent our official policy.

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