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Water, Water Everywhere, but Not a [Safe] Drop to Drink! Achieving Household Point-of-Use Water Treatment in Amazonian Peru

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The USAID-funded Healthy Communities and Municipalities (HCM) Project, implemented by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), helps families and communities in seven Amazonian regions incorporate preventative health behaviors into their lives. During the initial phase of the HCM Project, communities carried out a participatory process to identify their own priorities for improvement, and access to safe water was consistently identified as one of the top three needs. MSH partnered with the USAID Hygiene Improvement Project (HIP) to develop a program to generate behavior change at the household level that would lead to point-of-use water treatment through chlorination, solar disinfection, or boiling. A pilot was carried out in the CurimanĂ¡ District of the Ucayali Region of Peru and then scaled up to six additional regions.

Research was conducted to test the water quality from the various water sources in the communities and within households. All the water sources were found to be contaminated at levels dangerous for consumption. Using this data and the data from additional behavioral research, water treatment protocols were designed, an intervention planned, and training and user materials developed. Master trainers, who were members of local neighborhood councils, district level government, and health post staff, received intensive training to increase their competencies as behavior change agents regarding water, sanitation, and hygiene behaviors and to ensure sustainability beyond the project lifespan.

Success of the intervention was evidenced by a significant positive shift, from 49.9 percent to 60 percent, in the key indicator of number of children under the age of two who are consuming safe water, which was measured between the second semester of 2007 and the first semester of 2008.

Keywords: IEC; Point-of-use treatment; SODIS; behavior change; boiling; community outreach; disinfection; household chlorination; materials development; training

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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