A Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experiences and Well-Being of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Actors During the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic Open Access

Anderson, Colleen (Spring 2022)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/00000118n?locale=en


COVID-19 is impacting the mental health of individuals. The mental health impacts and side effects of the ongoing pandemic are already apparent in the general population. Initiatives have already started to address the psychological impacts felt across society, and more specifically in frontline workers. There has been limited research to identify mental health impacts among other workers engaged in COVID-19 response, like those in development, to ensure their well-being. More specifically, individuals working in the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector have been designing and implementing hygiene related interventions, which is a critical role in prevention and adherence to COVID-19 protocols and recommendations. Yet, the specific impact COVID-19 is having on WASH sector actors is unknown. The aim of this study was to explore the personal experiences and well-being of WASH actors around the globe as they have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

           From October 2020 to August 2021, in depth interviews over Zoom were conducted with 26 WASH actors working in 13 different countries to better understand and explore their lived experiences and well-being during the ongoing pandemic.

           Participants experienced both negative and positive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, they perceived COVID-19 protocols, such as isolation and quarantine measures, as a source of anxiety, but also reported feeling increased connection and purpose as a positive side effect of the pandemic. Factors such as previous job roles, personality traits, family, staying active, and adopting new hobbies influenced the personal perception of how COVID-19 impacted their lives.

           Findings of this study provide context surrounding the personal impacts experienced during the ongoing pandemic by WASH actors. Findings highlighted that both positive and negative impacts have occurred during the ongoing pandemic. Lessons learned can be used to support the well-being of actors in the WASH sector, and may also inform the development sector at large.

Table of Contents

Acronym List

Chapter 1: Literature Review

Abstract 1

Onset of COVID-19 1

COVID-19 in Low- and Middle-Income Countries 2

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and COVID Prevention 4

Water and Handwashing 5

Mask Wearing 6

Quarantine and Isolation 6

Impact of the Pandemic 7

Mental and Emotional Health 7

Healthcare Workers 9

Elderly 11

College Students 12

WASH Actors 13

Impacts of Prior Emergencies, Disasters, Pandemics on Mental Health 13


Ebola 15

Swine Flu 16

Natural Disasters 16

Conclusion 17

Chapter 2: Introduction 18

Chapter 3: Materials and Methods 20

Study Design 20

Participants Eligibility and Recruitment 20

Data Collection and Management 21

Data Analysis 22

Ethics 23

Chapter 4: Results 24

Negative Mental Health Impacts 24

Isolation/Loneliness 24

Anger/Frustration 25

Fear 26

Burnout 27

Positive Mental Health Impacts 28

Connectedness 28

Purpose 28

Factors Influencing COVID-19 Personal Impacts 29

Previous Job Roles 29

Personality 29

Family 30

Staying Active 31

New Hobbies 31

Chapter 5: Discussion 32

Chapter 6: Public Health Implications 35

References 36

About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files