Resources | VOL. 15, ISSUE 89, March-April 2015

Subsidies Can Improve Sanitation, Shows Study

With poor sanitation estimated to cause 280,000 deaths per year worldwide, improving sanitation is a key policy goal in many developing countries. Yet governments and major development institutions disagree over how to address the problem. A new study released in Science in April, 2015 found that in Bangladesh, a community-motivation model that has been used in over 60 countries to increase use of hygienic latrines had no effect. Yet latrine coverage expanded substantially when that model was combined with subsidies for hygienic latrines targeted to the poor. The study, led by Raymond Guiteras of University of Maryland and James Levinsohn and Mushfiq Mobarak of Yale University, and implemented by Innovations for Poverty Action, tested three different approaches that are commonly used in the development sector for increasing the use of hygienic latrines. Reducing open defecation, which is still practiced by 15 per cent of the world’s population, is a key policy goal for this sector. The study was undertaken in northwest Bangladesh, in an area where 50 per cent of the population had access to a hygienic latrine before the study began. Researchers randomly assigned 380 neighbourhood communities, to one of four groups. Villages either received a community motivation programme, subsidy vouchers with the community motivation programme, information and technical support, or none of the above. By comparing outcomes in latrine coverage, investment in hygienic...

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