Postcard from Montana


sarah fry thumbnailA postcard from “Sustaining the Blue Planet” Conference 2014, Big Sky, Montana

Montana is not a usual spot for international WASH and development folks to congregate.  Usually it’s Dakar or The Hague.  But here we are from Nigeria, China, Laos, India and many U.S. states, to talk about integrating water and WASH literacy into the classrooms of the world.

The WASH in Schools global community set a challenge for itself this year to attend and present at conferences sponsored by the education sector to highlight WASH as a critical element of quality education.  Integration of WASH and Education has special challenges that stem from different visions.  Education wants children to stay in school and learn; WASH wants to prevent diarrheal disease in small children; and WASH in Schools wants to keep schoolchildren healthy.  The key to effective integration of WASH and Education is to meld the two visions into one shared one that everyone can support:  assuring a clean and safe school environment and healthy habits that keep children in school, able to learn and grow into well-educated, healthy and economically secure adults.

Project WET is a pioneer in this, and their annual conference is heavily attended by education professionals.   Honoring the commitment to be present at education events, the WASHplus project (funded by USAID) sent me to this conference to share our experience from the SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning and Achievement  through Sanitation and Hygiene) project that we are implementing in Zambia and to talk about how we are integrating WASH into the Zambian educational system.  Yesterday our talk described how WASH integration is occurring in two streams, by:

1) creating opportunities to learn (OTL) through WASH (improving educational outcomes) and

2) creating opportunities to learn about WASH (improving life skills and forming hygiene habits).

Usually WASH in Schools makes us think of building nice latrines and tippy taps for hand washing.  In fact, we have found that weaving WASH into the education sector is a complex job that presents many opportunities worth seizing.  The education sector identifies nine “OTL”s of which five are influenced by WASH improvements.  An example of opportunities to learn would be student and teacher attendance, which can be affected by the presence or absence of improved, gender segregated toilets and safe drinking water.  More WASH-related obstacles to learning that present opportunities when fixed are lack of places and means for hygienic managing of menstruation and also hand washing, and schoolyards that are unsafe and unsavory due to nearby open defecation practices.

WASH in Schools also creates opportunities for the pupils, teachers and the nearby community to learn about the importance of using latrines, drinking safe water and practicing hygiene, hopefully leading to lifelong good habits.   SPLASH uses SLTS (school-led total sanitation) to help the school community along the path to becoming WASH friendly.  SPLASH also builds WASH into the official teacher in-service training system where the teachers themselves can develop classroom activities that fold WASH themes into history, language, math, science and other subjects.  This is what most of the participants at this conference are actively doing – finding innovative ways to support teachers to teach the next generation of leaders and managers about water conservation, battling invasive species, engineering challenges and using the latest technologies to solve challenges, just as examples.

The setting here in Montana is breathtaking and our hosts are quick to point out the state’s abundant natural resources and its commitment to preserving them.  One participant took the theme “Sustaining the Blue Planet” to a stratospheric level last night…literally!  Astronaut and conservation advocate Richard Arnold shared his stunning photos and moving video clips taken by himself from the International Space Station, showing us the glory and the fragility of our shared blue home, another thing that educators and WASH practitioners can bond over.

Author: Sarah Fry is a Senior Hygiene and School WASH Advisor with the USAID funded WASHplus Project. She is the WASHplus point person for integration of WASH and Education, manages the USAID-funded SPLASH program in Zambia and an urban hygiene improvement program in Benin.  Sarah has been working in WASH since her Peace Corps days in Benin.  She has a MPH from UNC/Chapel Hill.

WASH, Nutrition and Early Childhood Development: New Evidence and Findings from the Field

On June 25, WASHplus and USAID hosted a webinar on “WASH, Nutrition, and Early Childhood Development: New Evidence and Findings from the Field.

The webinar was moderated by Dr. Helen Petach, an Environmental Health Technical Advisor at the USAID Bureau for Global Health’s Office of Health Infectious Diseases and Nutrition.

Dr. Petach started the webinar off with an overview of the importance of WASH and nutrition for early childhood development. The USAID Water and Development Strategy emphasizes links among WASH, nutrition, and food security. The newly released USAID Multisectoral Nutrition Strategy calls on USAID to increase access to high quality nutrition-sensitive services, including access to WASH.

Dr. Petach also introduced the WASH, Nutrition, and Food Security Community of Practice, hosted by USAID. She encouraged attendees to join the Community. Members of this Community can participate in discussion around integrated programming; access articles, announcements, recent studies, datasets, recent research and program results.

Jenny Orgle, Program Director for the Nutrition at the Center Program at CARE USA, talked about “Addressing Environmental Enteropathy in CARE’s Nutrition at the Center Program.”

Maureen Black, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, discussed “New Evidence Linking Nutrition and Early Child Development” and its connection to WASH.

Watch the webinar or download presentation slides.


CLTS Triggering and Local Adaptations in Mali


In Mali WASHplus uses community-led total sanitation (CLTS) “plus” to spur construction of improved latrines with hand washing stations in 18 communes within three health districts in the Mopti Region. The plus component includes training local masons in advance of triggering to assist households to construct latrines through the promotion of low-cost yet robust latrine models that can withstand the rocky, high water table, or sandy conditions found in participating communities. CLTS triggering is now complete in all 180 communities in the region, resulting in 4,930 public commitments to build latrines. By late March, monitoring visits in 30 of these villages recorded 945 new latrines constructed and 557 rehabilitated, more than 95 percent of which now include hand washing stations. Local masons have begun to cut large sheets of rock into latrine slabs, which fit the Joint Monitoring Programme definition of a hygienic sanitation platform. Latrines are being constructed without the use of cement or any other nonlocal building material. Other local adaptations observed include a machinist’s design of a clever hand washing station made of iron rebar that has separate pedestals for a water dispenser and a washbowl to catch the rinse water.

Uganda–Assessing Opportunities for WASH Integration


WASHplus staff accompanied STAR-SW, a USAID implementing partner, during an HIV Quarterly Pediatric Campaign Day at a district hospital in Kanungu District to observe and then discuss specific options for integrating WASH into HIV and nutrition programming. During Campaign Days, HIV-affected families are invited for family health and nutrition counseling as well as refills of HIV medications. Families come early and spend the day, receiving tea and lunch. The day culminates with a health education session. Various opportunities were identified for WASH integration in formal and informal settings. The current lack of hand washing stations/supplies means that lunch and tea provide a prime opportunity to demonstrate tippy taps, model proper hand washing, and later follow-up with a hands-on session on “how to make a tippy tap” while families wait for their turn with clinicians. WASHplus proposed training volunteer peer educators to deliver short, interactive sessions (like the tippy tap sessions) throughout the day in addition to their health education session to take advantage of the captive audience awaiting their turn for services.

Its not just a day, its a menstravaganza!

On Wednesday June 4, the WASHplus project celebrated Menstrual Hygiene Day at FHI 360 with a special screening of award winning documentary Menstrual Man. The event was sponsored by WASHplus/USAID, CARE, Save the Children, Plan International, WASH Advocates, and FHI 360. Over 100 people came together to celebrate the menstravaganza.

We kicked the menstravaganza off with opening remarks from Sarah Fry, WASH in Schools Technical Advisor for WASHplus. Sarah introduced the partners and sponsors who made the menstravaganza happen.

Sarah also spoke briefly but  passionately about the importance of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) for keeping girls in school during their menses. MHM is an important component of the SPLASH project which Sarah works on. SPLASH which stands for Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene, recently developed a toolkit “Menstrual Hygiene Management Mini-Toolbox for Teachers and Schools in Zambia” designed to help classroom and guidance teachers in Zambian primary schools who are carrying out menstrual hygiene management (MHM) programs or activities in their school.  SPLASH is offering various kinds of support to teachers to help set up MHM programs and facilities to help keep girls and female teachers in school in Zambia.

We topped the evening off with inspiring discussion and dialogue for the integration of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) into global and national policies, programs and projects. Attendees shared stories and learned from others about opportunities to integrate MHM into school, HIV, disability, emergency and workplace settings. We heard about about how to get started and how to “keep it going”… and saw a range of menstrual hygiene products and programs.

Next, we watched the funny, uplifting, inspiring film “Menstrual Man” – about one man’s personal odyssey to make affordable sanitary pads for poor women and girls in India. Inspired by Menstrual Man,viewers posted messages on a word wall, telling us why menstruation matters to them! Attendees also pledged to support and celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day not just on May 28 each year, but every day by advocating for improved menstrual hygiene management for girls and women everywhere.

See photos and videos from the menstravaganza below:

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MHM toolbox


Check out the Menstrual Man trailer below.

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