Scaling the sanitation ladder decreases exposure to various illnesses including diarrheal disease, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma. In rural Zambia, community-led total sanitation (CLTS) has been deployed to help Zambians scale the sanitation ladder. Analysis of monthly routine surveillance data of village-level sanitation coverage of 13,688 villages shows that villages moved up the sanitation ladder following CLTS intervention with more than one third of villages achieving 100% coverage of adequate sanitation. Villages also moved down the sanitation ladder – approximately half of those achieving 100% coverage of adequate sanitation also dropped from that coverage at some point during monitoring. Larger villages were less likely to achieve 100% coverage, and more likely to drop if they did achieve 100% coverage. Drops were more likely to occur during the wet season. Of those villages dropping from 100% coverage, more than half rebounded to 100% coverage. The adequate latrine components most likely to drop off from 100% coverage were handwashing stations and lids to cover holes, both key components in preventing disease transmission. These results have implications for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming – sustained support may be required to ensure villages move up the sanitation ladder and stay there.

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