WaSH Index


Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) are critical to health, development, and human rights yet billions worldwide lack adequate services. Over the past fifteen years, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were successful and inspirational in communicating the global water and sanitation crisis to the public using the simple improved/unimproved metric. However, it is widely recognized that current WaSH monitoring is not sufficient since it needs to capture the many dimensions beyond improved. Dimensions such as service type, safety, quantity, accessibility, continuity, and equity – in both household and non-household settings (e.g. schools, health care facilities, workplaces) – are critical to securing WaSH for human health and well-being.
These dimensions are articulated in proposals on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets and indicators for the post-2015 period. However, while the proposed SDG targets and indicators capture a more complex reality for WaSH, there is a need to clearly communicate the many dimensions of adequate WaSH services with the simplicity of the MDGs. The Water Institute Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) team proposes the development of a WaSH performance index built with national level data that fairly compares country performance and complements existing WaSH reporting mechanisms.


The purpose of the WaSH performance index is to synthesize the dimensions of WaSH into a single score
for each country in order to: inform decisions of policy makers, planners, and donors; assess national
progress; and rank countries by performance to understand how to make best use of available


frontier analysisSince countries are at different development stages with different coverage levels, it is difficult to compare and rank countries meaningfully. Using frontier analysis (Figure 1), historical rates of change are used to determine best performance (i.e. the maximum frontier) by level of coverage.

We can then compare countries today to the best performer at each level of coverage, irrespective of time. At present, two benchmarked rates for household water and two for household sanitation can be calculated: the rates of change in improvement in access to adequate services and the rate of change in improvements in equity. Using frontier analysis to benchmark country performance was a concept developed by Water Institute researcher, Jeanne Luh.


wash index tableThe benchmarked rates can be combined to calculate a WaSH performance index (Figure 2). The country scores for the WaSH index are the average of each benchmarked rate (as shown in the boxes).
We liaised with JMP and others on hygiene and non-household settings and sufficient data to calculate other benchmarked rates will become available over the next several years. We have designed the index such that these new data can be brought in as it becomes available. The index complements JMP, GLAAS, and other WaSH reporting mechanisms by comparing country performance, reflects progressive realization of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, allows for fair comparison between countries, identifies opportunities to increase performance, allows planners and policy makers to drill down into the underlying index components, and informs policy development. The WaSH index follows best practice for index construction, builds upon and addresses post-2015 priorities by incorporating access to adequate services, levels of service, and equity, and can communicate the complexities of WaSH through a single country score.

For more information on the WaSH Performance Index please contact Kaida Liang at kliang@email.unc.edu.