Initially, governments started with the overarching objective of providing universal access to WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) services. During the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) period 2000–2015, there was increased motivation to understand requirements of different sectors of the population in order to ensure universal, equitable access.
This article reports findings of a systematic review looking at three questions: what segments of the population have been addressed in WASH policies, and programme and projects? How do the population segments vary between sectors and regions? What barriers, strategies, and benefits for providing WASH services have been identified for different population segments?
Methods and approach
Populations can be segmented using two broad paradigms: Physiological Characterization Framework (PCF), which classifies the population on the basis of the life cycle; and Sociological Characterization Framework (SCF), classifying the population on the basis of caste, ethnicity, income, location, and occupation. Policy documents and programme and project (P&P) documents pertaining to the WASH sector were synthesized.
At a policy level, SCF is used more widely than PCF. In the context of PCF, women were the focus of a relatively large number of policies. Adequacy, environmental, and attitudinal barriers were those most commonly identified across both PCF and SCF segments in WASH policies and P&Ps. In PCF, beneficiary participation and information, education, and communication (IEC) strategies were the more commonly adopted strategies, whereas project management, financing, and provision of services were more frequently adopted for SCF. Availability was the most common benefit identified across PCF and SCF in terms of policy and also P&P.
WASH policies can create an enabling framework by specifically mentioning the different PCF segments in order to facilitate adoption and percolation of the life-course approach in P&Ps. Incorporating this approach within the current SCF paradigm can help achieve inclusiveness. Greater effort is required to understand barriers faced by PCF segments and to devise strategies to overcome them. Policy-makers should expand the spectrum of benefits to all categories within PCF in WASH policies.