Sustainability is meeting the needs of today’s generation without jeopardising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

It is important for development to be sustainable, and it is very important when trying to implement programs to improve health or human development outcomes in areas of poverty, as they are cost effective for the organisation implementing them and they will have a lasting effect on the community.

Answering a question on sustainability

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In order to be sustainable, a program must be affordable for a community. There is no point attempting to implement a school program in South Sudan with the intention of charging $100 a week for tuition – those in poverty (the ones you’re trying to educate) will not be able to afford this, and so won’t be able to access it. Similarly, just because a population group can afford something as a one off payment doesn’t mean they will be able to continue paying for it in the future – think of the cost of maintaining a technology.


Your aim is to provide free, 24h women’s health advice to the women of a group of remote, primitive villages in East Timor. Would it be a good idea to set up a hotline for them to call? No. Why? Because none of them are likely to have phones. Would it be appropriate to pay for an American nurse to live in the community? No. Why? Because the nurse would not speak the same language or have the same cultural knowledge as the women. These are examples of inappropriate measures because they do not fit the community in which they’re being implemented. Appropriate measures take into account language, culture, resources, lifestyle etc to ensure a service has a longstanding effect.


Equity is fairness – to each based on need. A program is considered sustainable if it delivers its service fairly, based on need. This is often referred to as intragenerational equity. Equity in regards to sustainability also encompasses intergenerational equity which holds that something is sustainable if it doesn’t affect the ability of future generations to meet their needs.