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Household water treatment (HWTS) methods, such as boiling or chlorination, have long been recommended in emergencies. While there is increasing evidence of HWTS efficacy in the development context, effectiveness in the acute emergency context has not been rigorously assessed. We investigated HWTS effectiveness in response to four acute emergencies by surveying 1521 targeted households and testing stored water for free chlorine residual and fecal indicators. We defined "effective use" as the percentage of the targeted population with contaminated household water who used the HWTS method to improve stored drinking water microbiological quality to internationally accepted levels.

Chlorine-based methods were distributed in all four emergencies and filters in one emergency. Effective use ranged widely, from 0-67.5%, with only one pre-existing chlorine program in Haiti and unpromoted boiling use in Indonesia reaching >20%. More successful programs provided an effective HWTS method, with the necessary supplies and training provided, to households with contaminated water who were familiar with the method before the emergency. HWTS can be effective at reducing the risk of unsafe drinking water in the acute emergency context. Additionally, by focusing on whether interventions actually improve drinking water quality in vulnerable households, "effective use" provides an important program evaluation metric.

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daniele.lantagne@tufts.edu