Project SWAN (Safe Water and Nutrition) enables local communities to create and maintain a safe and sustainable water supply using existing community assets.

Globally, nearly 700 million people lack access to water that is safe to drink or with which to cook. This lack of safe water – combined with poor food preparation, child feeding, and sanitation practices – is a leading cause of waterborne and foodborne diarrheal diseases, which are estimated to cause nearly 2 billion child deaths each year.

Improving water quality alone helps, but not ensures, communities are able to maintain sustainable, safe water supplies and reduce their risk of undernutrition and death. There are many variables to consider: water treatment facility design; procedures for removing contaminants; inability to maintain, repair, and staff water treatment facilities; and lack of public awareness of the importance of clean water, safe food preparation, and good sanitation.

In 2001, ILSI Japan and its partner National Institute of Health, Vietnam, launched Project SWAN (Safe Water and Nutrition) with the specific goal to enable local communities to use existing community assets to create and maintain a safe and sustainable water supply.

Project SWAN is a collaborative, multisecor effort among engineers; disease and nutrition experts; educators; and communications experts. These diverse partners work together through Project SWAN to improve recognition of the importance of drinking water, food hygiene and nutrition, andsanitation at the household level; optimize operation of existing water treatment facilities; and critically, establish effective management systems that can be sustained by the community.

Project SWAN, Phase 1

Water quality was monitored in study sites selected in the Red River Delta region of Vietnam for a period of one year (2001 – 2002) during which time it was found concentrations of ammonia; arsenic; iron; and E.coli were higher than the Vietnamese Drinking Water Hygienic Standards recommended. ILSI Japan and its partners conducted a series of experiments to confirm water quality could be improved to meet standards by improving the operation of existing water treatment facilities. A community needs survey was administered which confirmed local residents knew little about the benefits of safe drinking water, food hygiene, or the important role of properly run water treatment facilities.

These preliminary investigations led to additional funding from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and, in 2005, a 3-year grassroots technical assistance and an education and outreach project was launched in three communities involving 2,500 households.

By the project’s completion in 2008, water quality was improved; the quantity of water delivered was increased; and prevalence of childhood diarrhea and related underweight had decreased.

Project SWAN Phase 2

These outcomes encouraged those involved with Project SWAN to extend coverage to a wider segment of the population. Thus, in 2010, a second phase of Project SWAN was implemented in 16 additional communities in the region around Hanoi, involving more than 100,000 people.

Project SWAN Indonesia

In 2015, ILSI Japan together with ILSI Southeast Asia Region, engaged several partners in Indonesia on the possibility to conduct a pilot Project SWAN program in a rural district of the country. These partners include the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre for Food and Nutrition, the Yasmina Foundation, and local engineering consultants.

Project SWAN team members found many of the same circumstances they had seen in Vietnam 15 years earlier: inadequate treatment facilities and treatment procedures and low public awareness of the importance of safe water; food hygiene; nutrition; and sanitation.

ILSI Japan and ILSI Southeast Asia hope to begin full implementation of Project SWAN in a test location in Indonesia in 2016.


Takanashi, et al., Survey of food-hygiene practices at home and childhood diarrhea in Hanoi, Viet Nam, J Health Popul Nutr 2009 Oct; 27(5):602-611

Takanashi, Safe Water Supply – A Community Approach in Vietnam with Project SWAN 5th Asian Conference on Food & Nutrition Safety “Science-based Solutions – Sustainable Actions”, 6 November, 2008, Cebu, Philippines, Oral presentation

Jimba, Bottom up facilitation to improve water management in Vietnam, Community Development Journal, London, United Kingdom, September 2009, Oral presentation

Takanashi, et al., Improved food selection of mothers on complementary feeding practice in Vietnam, 41st Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH) Conference, 3-6 December, 2009, Taipei, Taiwan, Poster presentation

CERWASS, 2006, National Target Program for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation

MOH/UNICEF, 2011, Study on the correlation between sanitation, household water supply, mother’s hygiene behaviours for children under 5 and the status of child nutrition in Vietnam

Khan et al., Reduction in childhood malnutrition in Vietnam from 1990 to 2004. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2007,16: 274–278