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Defining and identifying low-income communities in the context of urban WASH programmes

Themes: Evaluation Planning WASH

For any donor, international agency or WASH-implementing organisation, the question of where—in what country, city or community—to focus resource is central to fulfilling their mandate. Organisations dedicated to poverty alleviation and the provision of basic services are likely to focus on what are judged to be the poorest urban and rural areas, choosing to invest their time and resources in low-income communities regarded as having a high incidence of poverty. But how are these judgements made? How is poverty defined and measured, and what other factors must be considered before deciding where to intervene? This Discussion Paper, authored by Partnerships in Practice, explores the many factors involved in determining where WASH organisations focus their interventions. It outlines how such decisions will inevitably be influenced by the organisation’s understanding of poverty, their overarching mandate and the priorities of their local partners. The Paper begins with a theoretical analysis of the definition of urban poverty, before detailing poverty assessment tools and the various ways in which poverty is currently measured. The Paper then examines how organisations such as WSUP choose specific low-income communities in which to work, and how that process could be improved.