News.Dec 22, 2022

SIWI publication receives Best of UNICEF Research 2022 award

The research has been fundamental in several countries to develop a response framework for water, sanitation and hygiene in the face of COVID-19.

SIWI’s publication COVID-19 water, sanitation, and hygiene response: Review of measures and initiatives adopted by governments, regulators, utilities, and other stakeholders in 84 countries received the ‘gold’ award, the highest form of UNICEF recognition on 14th December 2022. The award was presented by the Global Office of Research and Foresight, Innocenti, at the Best of UNICEF research 2022 competition.

The study makes some of the most important contributions to enhance prevention, mitigation and recovery from COVID-19 and future pandemics. It was initiated by the UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office (LACRO) and conducted in partnership with SIWI.

What makes the study award winning?

From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, frequent handwashing with soap was identified as one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection. “But for many throughout the world, this simple step involved practical difficulties. With a quarter of the global population relying on water collected from off-premises sources, a lockdown situation meant that water for handwashing was in limited supply.” explained Antoine Delepiere, one of SIWI’s co-authors of the study.

Governments worldwide swiftly implemented measures aimed at securing continued access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for all, although these measures differed between countries. Due to unfamiliar circumstances of a global pandemic, decision-makers and WASH sector stakeholders needed an understanding of how their peers in other countries were addressing the crisis.

“With a quarter of the global population relying on water collected from off-premises sources, a lockdown situation meant that water for handwashing was in limited supply.”

Antoine Delepiere, Senior Programme Manager, SIWI

SIWI’s co-author Ricard Gene said that “The study made a difference in the sense that it was a response to this urgent need.” UNICEF LACRO’s WASH team began a process with SIWI in March 2020 to collate information about the measures being taken by 26 countries in the region. The measures were categorized using an analytical framework, based on whether they were designed to support service users, including households and institutions or service providers.

Process and impact

Once information was collected in March the results were published in a series of technical notes in three different languages. The notes were disseminated and discussed by the sector network WASHLAC, led by UNICEF WASH LACRO via successive webinars and on a dedicated website. The information collation exercise was then repeated in other regions, helping monitor how countries’ responses changed as the pandemic evolved. In total, it was applied in 84 countries across the world.

The study was also fundamental in some countries to develop the response framework, by showing the response areas in most need of policy attention.

This research also led to another study titled Socio-economic effects of COVID-19 on water, sanitation and hygiene: A comprehensive review.

About the award

For the past 10 years, the Best of UNICEF Research annual competition, run by UNICEF Innocenti, has invited UNICEF colleagues around the world to submit their latest and best research for children. The aim is to promote research best practices, in order to identify where they may be scaled up, and to award quality submissions with high potential for impact on policies and programmes that benefit children.