This study examines the patterns, trends, and factors associated with functional community water points in rural Ethiopia and identifies potential areas of improvement in terms of practitioner response to functionality and functionality monitoring. It was part of an integrated WaSH and nutrition program implemented by UNICEF Ethiopia and the Government of Ethiopia. Cross-sectional surveys were conducted to collect WaSH-related data in communities and WaSH committees from four community-based nutrition (CBN) program groupings in Ethiopia. In all areas, CBN was implemented, but only in less than half of the areas, a WaSH intervention was implemented. Seventy-three representative kebeles, comprising 30 intervention and 43 control communities, were surveyed. Two structured surveys were conducted. The ‘community survey’ addressed community water points and their functionality and the main areas for improvement needed. The ‘WaSH committee survey’ investigated technical and management aspects of water points and their functionality. Data were analyzed using bivariate regression to identify community characteristics and management practices associated with functionality of water points and explore opportunities to improve water point functionality and monitoring. In the communities, 65% of water points were functional. Eighty percent of communities had a WaSH committee. The WaSH committee members reported that the most used water point types were protected dug wells and boreholes, and that 80% of their water points were functional. India Mark II pumps were more likely to be functional and communities with longer established WaSH committees had higher water point functionality. Communities suggested that the key factors for water point sustainability were improving water quality and water pressure, reducing water collection time, and speeding up repair times. Taking community leaders’ ‘priority lists’ into consideration offers sustainable opportunities for demand-driven, adaptive and targeted design and implementation of rural water supply programs, which, if they include the grassroots level as key informants and actors of change, can succeed. Interventions should integrate the ‘voice’ of the community, the WaSH committees, and other stakeholders and thereby facilitate transdisciplinary approaches at different stages of program management (planning, monitoring, and evaluation). This would help closing the knowledge to action gap and improve policy, programming, practice, and service delivery.
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