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close this bookGlobal Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 Report (UNICEF - WSSCC - WHO, 2000, 90 p.)
close this folder1. The Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1.1 Main findings
View the document1.2 Background and methods
View the document1.3 Limitations of the Assessment 2000

1.3 Limitations of the Assessment 2000

As noted above, access to improved water and sanitation is estimated using technology as an indicator. Definitions of “improved” technologies are thus based on assumptions that certain technologies are better for health than others. These assumptions may not be true in all individual cases. For instance, in some locations an unprotected household well may provide a better supply of water, both in terms of quantity and quality of water, than a household connection which may be subject to intermittence and poor water quality.

In some cases, it is also likely that water supplies from vendors or tanker trucks, or sanitation services by public toilets, may be adequate. However, from a public health perspective, experience suggests that such technologies are typically inferior to “improved” services. The quantities of water distributed through this alternative are likely to be less than 20 litres of water per capita per day.

While household surveys provide the most accurate available data, they suffer from other problems. Definitions of services vary not only between the different types of surveys undertaken, but also over time. It is therefore sometimes difficult to compare surveys undertaken even within the same country. In particular, the Assessment 2000 did not provide standardized definitions of urban and rural, as none could be found that would be consistent with the range of definitions adopted locally. Accordingly, the national classification of urban and rural was accepted.

In many countries, there have been a large number of population - based surveys over the past 10 - 15 years. In others, except for censuses, such surveys have not been conducted at all. Much uncertainty about coverage remains in many countries, and there is a need to refine and develop the monitoring process. The monitoring of access to water supply and sanitation is generally weak at national level and is likely to be even weaker at local level. Reliable coverage figures for individual countries, regions, cities and districts would contribute significantly to national planning and deployment of resources, through bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Although most well-designed household surveys provide breakdowns of national data at subnational level (provinces, districts, etc.), this report has used nationally consolidated data for its regional and global sector analysis. Using national consolidated data can often hide important variations within a country. For example, national consolidated data cannot describe disparities between and within urban areas. There is also a danger that national consolidated data do not represent the conditions of the poorest of the poor, who are often hidden in totals or averages.

The present report refers mainly to water supply and sanitation coverage, as that was the remit of the Assessment 2000. But hygiene is also vitally important to health, and the collection and use of hygiene information will be an important component of future work.

These coverage figures represent only those countries, areas and territories reporting in the Assessment 2000 and those for which household survey data were available. Some regions have higher representation than others within the Assessment 2000. The exercise aimed to employ standardized definitions in all countries; inevitably, however, the definitions are not entirely standardized. Some countries used more stringent definitions of improved water supply and sanitation than others.


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Photography: UNICEF/Noorani