Rural WASH is inadequate in many developing countries, especially those affected by fragility, conflict and violence, with important implications for human welfare. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the setting of this study, 70% percent of the population is rural, and many live in areas that have experienced protracted instability and outright violent conflict. In addition, children under-5 mortality rates are remarkably high, only 31% of rural Congolese nationals have access to an improved water source, and only 29% use improved sanitation facilities.
Against this backdrop, in 2008 the Government of the DRC launched a national program known as the Support to National Healthy Villages and Schools (in French Villages et Ecoles Assainis, VEA), a water and sanitation program financed by DFID and implemented by UNICEF and the Government of DRC’s Ministries of Public Health, and Primary, Secondary, and Professional Education. The VEA’s main objectives are to support communities’ improved access to water, hygiene and sanitation services and practices through the construction of water and sanitation infrastructure in villages and schools, local community involvement, and a village certification mechanism.
Through a cluster-level randomized controlled trial, this study aims to evaluate the causal impact of the VEA program across 332 rural villages in the DRC. The study design involves experimentally varying the provision of the VEA program to a set of villages, to examine the causal impacts on water access, infrastructure development, availability of sanitation services, knowledge of hygiene practices, and child health. This study will present robust evidence to improve policy decisions pertaining to WASH policies and programs in the DRC and beyond.