roberto saltori

roberto saltori

water, sanitation, risk management

Recent Posts

The Strange Case of the 4W and Gap Analysis

The Strange Case of the 4W and Gap Analysis

In virtually every emergency, 4W (or 3W, now even 5W: Who, What, Where, When, for Whom) matrixes are considered the cornerstone of humanitarian reporting. Intense efforts are put into establishing the reporting system as soon as possible. Derivative products, infographs and maps in primary colors, […]

How the infamous liters per capita per day – lpcd – is calculated and why we should always use a double pinch of salt when seeing the numbers in emergency

How the infamous liters per capita per day – lpcd – is calculated and why we should always use a double pinch of salt when seeing the numbers in emergency

Liters per capita – day (lpcd) is a basic indicator in water supply, and, especially in emergency, represents the cornerstone of WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) planning.  In every emergency, very early on UN, NGOs and cluster alike rush to give out estimates of the lpcd […]

WASH atlas for Syria 2017

WASH atlas for Syria 2017

The WASH sector in Syria released the atlas of the assessment 2017, first round. Data has been collected at HH level on a random sample, significant at District level.  This is the link for the download of the file.  Also, the results of the WASH […]

WASH in Emergencies Training

WASH in Emergencies Training

The WASH in Emergencies  Training (WiE)has been developed by UNICEF and UNHCR in collaboration with SBPs. WASH is one of the biggest sector for the deployment of standby personnel to UNICEF operation, requiring diverse skill-sets as well as a familiarity with WASH issues and responses […]

Rehabilitation Of Wells Affected By Saline Intrusion

Rehabilitation Of Wells Affected By Saline Intrusion

    BASIC PRINCIPLES FOR THE REHABILITATION OF TSUNAMI AFFECTED WELLS (UNICEF Sri Lanka, November 2005)  Download the document   o Pumping to clean wells should only be done to remove debris and sludge, and not in the attempt to decrease salinity. o The lesser […]

Rural Water Safety Plans

Rural Water Safety Plans

Water safety Plans has long been considered domain of large centralized utilities. In reality, risk management approaches like this can be lied in all contexts, even decentralized water supply, managed by communities. Here you will find some tips on how to introduce water safety plans […]

Water Safety Plans for Healthy Villages

Water Safety Plans for Healthy Villages

Water Safety Plans is a risk management approach to water safety: the objective is to guarantee, at any given time, appropriate drinking water quality at the point of use. The risk management covers all the water chain, from the catchment to the source. Villages are […]

Meena on Water Quality

Meena on Water Quality

Another “low hanging fruit”. An old video of the series “Meena”, on water quality at household level. This particular one was produced by Sri Lanka office, and it is a little bit difficult to find. Meena is a cartoon character from South Asia. She is […]

India Mk III handpump Installation and operation & maintenance

India Mk III handpump Installation and operation & maintenance

A “forgotten” pearl. This “old” (circa 1995) clip is about the installation of the hand pump India Mark 3. VLOAM (Village Level Operation And Maintenance) is not any longer the most fashionable of the approaches, nevertheless the video is even more actual nowadays, with the […]

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The Strange Case of the 4W and Gap Analysis

The Strange Case of the 4W and Gap Analysis

In virtually every emergency, 4W (or 3W, now even 5W: Who, What, Where, When, for Whom) matrixes are considered the cornerstone of humanitarian reporting. Intense efforts are put into establishing the reporting system as soon as possible. Derivative products, infographs and maps in primary colors, are created and disseminated widely, as a demonstration that the humanitarian coordination machine is functioning, and that the situation is under control.

Research on this product continue, and an additional “W” is added every couple of years. The ambition is not to have a “masterplan: where all information about needs, response, plans, is collected, analyzed, displayed.

Strange destiny for what was born as humble product.

The original 3W matrixes were a simple product whose ambition was simply to understand… well… who is doing what, and where, in a given moment in time, and support the basic function of coordination, to avoid duplications, overlaps and gaps. Despite the ambition, in every emergency, the agencies in the field lament that products derivate from 4W (3.5) are, at best,  “interesting”, when not outright useless.

Fact is – I will argue in this post – regardless the number of Ws and the sophistication of the procedures, the only usefulness of this product still remains the original understanding of who, what, where, in a moment in time. The ambition of using this tool as planning and monitoring is poorly placed. This is a tool monitoring outputs and not outcomes. The gap analysis derivate from the 4W is misleading: and the ever increasing complexity of the reporting procedures simply rises the bar for local NGOs, increase transactional cost, and overall diminish the reliability of the data.

Why? Well, this is somehow not intuitive, so I will try to make a practical example on how things really work.

4W in Quasi-real-land

Once upon the time, in a rural and underdeveloped part of this world, a flood displaced 100 people for two months. 50 people find refuge in a school, and other 50 camped, is some way, in the middle of an empty field.

A multi sector rapid assessment reported that 100 people needed assistance in the two locations. The WASH cluster strategy stated that the package shall include access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. An appeal was issued, asking funds for the full package, for 100 people.
A 3 W matrix was set up. (we will keep it simple with a 3W in this example, but 4 and 5w matrixes have the same issues) Two locations. In one column, the PiN (People in Need). 50 in the first location, 50 in the second. The cluster decided to divide the reporting into three activities.

Location PiN Partner Water Sanitation Hygiene
School 50        
Field 50        

Only 50% of the funds requested become available, and were given to two NGOs. Via cluster, the two NGOs decide to concentrate in different locations.

The two NGOs make a in depth assessment: NGO1 finds out that the school has sufficient toilets, but no water supply. NGO2 finds that the empty field is close to a spring. NGO1 decides to provide water via trucking for two months, and make two distributions of hygiene kits, one each month. There are no funds left for sanitation, but the sanitation is present. NGO2 will construct temporary toilets, distribute hygiene kits monthly. No money for the improvement of the spring is available, but a water kit, including water purification tablets and jerrycans will be added to the first distribution.
The first month, the 3W will look like this:

Location PiN Partner Water Sanitation Hygiene
School 50 NGO1 50 0 50
Field 50 NGO2 50 50 50

 

The initial count of beneficiaries is 250. Preoccupied, the IM conceives a smart deconfliction system built-in in the reporting of the 3W that will not report twice the same activities in the same location, for the same people. After deconfliction, the count now is 100.

Due to the high number of occupants, the school toilets soon fill up, and people start defecating in the open. NGO 1 has no money for the desludging, but construct two emergency VIP (Ventilated, Improved, Pit latrines) toilets in the playground of the school. The local population is used to p flush toilets, and the VIP toilets quickly become dirty and unusable. 25 people moved back home, but 30 new people arrived in the school NGO1 provided hygiene kits for the new arrivals.

In the camp, in the meantime, people do not use the chlorine tablets because are giving bad taste to water. The project manager is left for R&R, and the replacement forgets to report to the cluster.
The next month, this is the new report:

Location PiN Partner Water Sanitation Hygiene
School 50 NGO1 50 50 75
Field 50 NGO2 0 0 0

 

In the school, 30 people are new, but as 25 went home, so the “real” PiN is now 55. For what the 3W PiN is concerned, change will happen on an annual base, for the new appeal.

NGO1 reported new activity in sanitation (for 50 people) and distributed hygiene kits to bot exiting and entering population. NGO2 did not report this month. The deconfliction system works well in avoid double-counting same activity for the same people, but people moved, and sanitation in school is a new activity. Total reported beneficiaries is now 180 The IM of the WASH cluster will report that only 50% of the partners contributed to the 3W therefore the report is incomplete.

A periodic report is issued for the Sitrep (situation Report), with information from the 3W:

Total Funds received: 50%. Achievement: 180%. Footnote lamenting incomplete reporting.

This is absolutely typical. How embarrassing. 

An assessment in the field, based on observations of open defecation, and unused chlorine tablets, concluded that 50 people in the school live in an environment with open defecation, and there is no handwashing going on. In the field, people drink unsafe water from the spring, and there are no signs of handwashing either. In conclusion: achievement on outcomes (effectiveness): around 33%. water (1/3 of the package in the school) and sanitation (1/3 of the package) in the field. Number of the beneficiaries (for 1/3 of the package) =130 (100+30). Number of people in need (for the 2/3 of the package) =105 (100-25+30).

So the summary report would be:
Funds received: 50%. Achievement: 33%. Beneficiaries: 130 (100% of PiN2). Residual people in need: 105 (100% of PiN3)

Confused? You should be. In the real world, things are even much more complex (more agencies will work in the same location and the same beneficiaries might relocate more than once, especially in conflict) but the dynamics often are quite similar.
Experience is that not only the numbers provided by the 3/4/5W matrixes are often unreliable: but, more importantly, they are of no use to help understanding the challenges and bottlenecks in the response.

Methods for deconfliction are always very complex and laborious and their effectiveness vary place by place, and month by month. But even in presence of a theoretically perfect deconfliction system, the concept of counting “reached” against “PiN”(which PiN?) is incorrect, and it is not what the WASH sector needs.

4W (3,5) matrixes are useful to track the reach of partners, not needs or coverage

Working in Wonderland

Let us assume that in an emergency in Wonderland PiNs were calculated against every activity of every cluster, and kept up to date periodically. Always in this wonderland, all partners are reporting to 6W (who, what, where, when, for whom, why) matrixes providing 100%, fully accurate information, and no double counting of beneficiaries can ever happen. There is also full agreement between the clusters and the host government about the population movements.

Still, in Wonderland, the 6W matrix, like any other high frequency reporting system ( i.e. the H ) will capture outputs “dressed” as outcomes (i.e.the reporting agency will count the toilets constructed, and multiply the number by 20 ( 30, 50, whatever) and not if they are effectively used. Moreover, as the 4W (3,5) are cumulative, a toilet out of order (or abandoned because of movement of population) will continue to add up indefinitely.

In other words, it seems obvious that once we know what “needs to be done” and we know” what has been done” calculating the difference is easy, and thi swill be the gap. Not really, because “what need to be done” is i.e. ” people washing hands” and the activity ” hygiene promotion message” does not necessarily succeed in changing people behaviors.  QUALITY, EFFECTIVENESS, are not captured by the 4W, but often the gaps are exactly there. 

Different tools for different purposes

The “original sin” of 4W (3,5) matrixes is that they will never tell us anything about the real effectiveness of the response, ad noting about gaps. In other words, in the best possible case, 4W (3,5) matrices can aim at capturing efficiency (activities vs. plan) and not effectiveness ( activities vs. results, or outcomes).

Gap analysis should made at outcome level” while the 3(4,5) W matrixes capture output level data “dressed” as outcomes.

Outcomes are about behaviors, therefore will need a tool (i.e. KAP -Knowledge, Attitude, practices- or Action reviews, etc. ) different from agency reporting, and on a lower frequency ( six-12 months).

The WASH cluster routinely lament low funding levels, reports over 100% results, and advocate for additional WASH activities, as gaps, in our sector, are often quite evident.

The job of cluster and agencies alike is to provide an “effective” response. The 4W (3,5) will provide a monthly update on activities going on. The expectation of 4W (3,5) being used as gap analysis tool is misleading, and put a burden on the coordinators and managers, that need to devolve scarce resources to “feed the beast” and, at the same time, trying to find a way to actually monitor the response.