Changing the way we change the world

Redefining the problem

Improve International shines a light on the reality versus the promises of the U.S.-based international development sector. We believe that uncovering the hidden reasons for failure of water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions is a powerful force for change.

The real water, sanitation and hygiene crisis. Some claim we reached the Millennium Development Goal for water, but still lag on the sanitation goal. Yet millions of people in developing countries still lack access to safe and reliable water and sanitation services.

Improve International believes this is due in part to the international development sector’s focus on providing access to water and sanitation (projects for pumps and pits) instead of facilitating ongoing services (systems focus). This leads to poor planning, myopic implementation and inadequate follow up as systems fail over time. Inaccessible information about these failures perpetuates poor practices.

Improve International sees the real crisis as one of long-term ineffectiveness of approaches. This is because poor implementation actually causes harm to those we are seeking to help. Water and sanitation customers (usually called beneficiaries) rarely have a voice in how interventions are designed, implemented or supported over time. There are no widespread mechanisms to allow for water and sanitation customers in developing countries to provide feedback to development organizations or donors. There are no mechanisms that require nonprofits and donors to continually improve based on evaluation results or customer feedback.

Statistics on water point functionality

This is an ongoing compilation of statistics that shows that poor functionality and failure rates for water systems are still high after decades of development. The cumulative cost of failed water systems in sub-Saharan Africa alone is estimated to be $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion (Chilton, 2014, Triple-S Briefing, 2009). Statistics are organized by region, then alphabetically by country, starting with the most recent statistic. Read more

Statistics on sanitation failures

This is an ongoing compilation of statistics that shows that failure rates for toilets and sanitation promotion campaigns are still high after decades of intervention. They are organized alphabetically by region, then by country, with the statistics starting with the most recent. Read more

How much water is enough?

How much water do you use every day? If you live in the US, you probably don’t think about it much, even if you pay for what you use. Do you know how much water people in developing countries use? A lot less than Americans, for sure. But exactly how much turns out to be quite variable. Read more