Articles | Volume 17, issue 9
Research article
05 Sep 2013
Research article |  | 05 Sep 2013

Bayesian networks modelling in support to cross-cutting analysis of water supply and sanitation in developing countries

C. Dondeynaz, J. López Puga, and C. Carmona Moreno

Abstract. Despite the efforts made towards the Millennium Development Goals targets during the last decade, improved access to water supply or basic sanitation still remains unavailable for millions of people across the world. This paper proposes a set of models that use 25 key variables and country profiles from the WatSan4Dev data set involving water supply and sanitation (Dondeynaz et al., 2012). This paper suggests the use of Bayesian network modelling methods because they are more easily adapted to deal with non-normal distributions, and integrate a qualitative approach for data analysis. They also offer the advantage of integrating preliminary knowledge into the probabilistic models. The statistical performance of the proposed models ranges between 20 and 5% error rates, which are very satisfactory taking into account the strong heterogeneity of variables. Probabilistic scenarios run from the models allow an assessment of the relationships between human development, external support, governance aspects, economic activities and water supply and sanitation (WSS) access.

According to models proposed in this paper, gaining a strong poverty reduction will require the WSS access to reach 75–76% through: (1) the management of ongoing urbanisation processes to avoid slums development; and (2) the improvement of health care, for instance for children.

Improving governance, such as institutional efficiency, capacities to make and apply rules, or control of corruption is positively associated with WSS sustainable development. The first condition for an increment of the HDP (human development and poverty) remains of course an improvement of the economic conditions with higher household incomes.

Moreover, a significant country commitment to the environment, associated with civil society freedom of expression constitutes a favourable setting for sustainable WSS services delivery. Intensive agriculture using irrigation practises also appears as a mean for sustainable WSS thanks to multi-uses and complementarities. With a WSS sector organised at national level, irrigation practices can support the structuring and efficiency of the agriculture sector. It may then induce rural development in areas where WSS access often is set back compared to urban areas1. External financial support, called Official Development Assistance (ODA CI), plays a role in WSS improvement but comes last in the sensitivity analyses of models. An overall 47% of the Official Development Assistance goes first to poor countries, and is associated to governance aspects: (1) political stability and (2) country commitment to the environment and civil society degree of freedom. These governance aspects constitute a good framework for aid implementation in recipient countries.

Modelling is run with the five groups of countries as defined in Dondeynaz et al. (2012). Models for profile 4 (essential external support) and profile 5 (primary material consumption) are specifically detailed and analysed in this paper. For countries in profile 4, fighting against water scarcity and progressing desertification should be the priority. However, for countries in profile 5, efforts should first concentrate on consolidation of political stability while supporting diversification of the economic activities. Nevertheless, for both profiles, reduction of poverty should remain the first priority as previously indicated.

1 JMP statistics, 2004, last access: 22 July 2013.