The health benefits of point-of-use (POU) water treatment can only be realized through high adherence: correct, consistent, and sustained use. We conducted parallel randomized, longitudinal crossover trials measuring short-term adherence to two single-use flocculant–disinfectant sachets in Pakistan and Zambia. In both trials, adherence declined sharply for both products over the eight week surveillance periods, with overall lower adherence to both products in Zambia. There was no significant difference in adherence between the two products. Estimated median daily production of treated water dropped over the crossover period from 2.5 to 1.4 L person–1 day–1 (46% decline) in Pakistan and from 1.4 to 1.1 L person–1 day–1 (21% decline) in Zambia. The percentage of surveillance points with detectable total chlorine in household drinking water declined from 70% to 49% in Pakistan and rose marginally from 28% to 30% in Zambia. The relatively low and decreasing adherence observed in this study suggests that these products would have provided little protection from waterborne disease risk in these settings. Our findings underscore the challenge of achieving high adherence to POU water treatment, even under conditions of short-term adoption with intensive follow-up.
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