Armand AGUIDI AMOUSSOU, the coordinator of WASHplus project in Benin was recently interviewed by Rachel Araye KPANOU, Technical Assistant at CWP Benin, for Blue Pages magazine. Here is a brief description of the WASHplus Benin Hygiene Improvement Project followed by the interview with Armand.
About the Benin Hygiene Improvement Project
In Benin, WASHplus is implementing a three-year (2012-2015) behavior change program targeting key hygiene practices that directly affect children under 5, i.e., hand washing with soap and drinking safe water, in select urban poor neighborhoods. The WASHplus peri-urban hygiene improvement program is working on creating urban WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) advocacy and resource leveraging platform, as well as implementing a pilot hygiene improvement activity in two peri-urban neighborhoods.
- Partnering with the Ministry of Health/Direction Nationale de la Santé Publique (Public Health Service), WASHplus designed and carried out a baseline survey of vulnerable peri-urban zones of Cotonou, Abomey Calavi, and Porto Novo. The baseline survey results are being used to underpin a two-year, behavior-focused pilot hygiene improvement activity and to shape advocacy and WASH planning events.
- WASHplus is building a platform with partners such as UNICEF to generate interest in WASH in Cotonou, where little investment in WASH exists, especially in the poorer neighborhoods. The partners intend to seek and create opportunities for convening stakeholders from the government, donor and NGO community, and private sector to address the critical WASH needs of peri-urban Cotonou.
- WASHplus is working through a contracted implementing NGO (ABMS) to carry out social marketing and behavior change communications for improving hand washing and practices related to household drinking water quality in two of the most underserved neighborhoods of Cotonou. The program includes a strong monitoring and evaluation component to assess effectiveness of selected approaches.
The MOH/DNSP will utilize both the baseline methodology and the pilot program experiences to develop its own WASH strategy for urban and peri-urban zones in Benin.
Interview with Armand AGUIDI AMOUSSOU, Coordinator of the WASHplus Benin Hygiene Improvement Project
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Armand AGUIDI AMOUSSOU, environmental lawyer, and the coordinator of the USAID-funded WASHplus program in Benin.
What activities does WASHplus carry out Benin?
For the past few years, WASHplus has implemented programs in various countries that aim to create healthy environments for households and communities by providing high-impact interventions in water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). WASHplus uses proven interventions to reduce diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections: the two main causes of mortality in children under five in the world. WASHplus brings expertise in the integration of WASH in areas such as education, HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and nutrition. WASHplus builds strong partnerships in countries to increase the program’s impact. In addition, WASHplus’ mandate is to promote innovation in the WASH sector. WASHplus is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In 2012, USAID/Benin called upon WASHplus to carry out a hygiene improvement program in the poorest neighborhoods of urban Benin, especially to support other programs already being implemented targeting young children. After field visits the WASHplus team proposed a package of activities whose implementation started in October 2012.
The goal of the program is to reduce vulnerability of inhabitants of peri-urban zones of Cotonou through replicable and sustainable actions specifically targeting key hygiene behaviors shown to reduce diarrheal disease. WASHplus targets poor and underserved households while also involving neighborhood social and business partners.
What are the objectives of the WASHplus Programme?
Objectives of the WASHplus program are to:
- Design and conduct a hygiene improvement program using evidence based interventions, based on the results of a baseline survey and a situational analysis of environmental health and conditions and practices in poor and underserved peri-urban areas;
- Promote hygiene practices scientifically proven to reduce diarrheal diseases and cholera, such as washing hands with soap at critical times, and safe storage and treatment of drinking water;
- Increase the availability of products, technologies and services that enable the adoption of improved hygiene practices;
- Strengthen the technical capacity of local partners in the design, execution and monitoring of hygiene behavior change activities these peri-urban areas.
It is important to note that the geographic area covered by this program includes two representative peri-urban underserved neighborhoods in Cotonou. The intention is to conduct pilot activities that will serve as models for technical services as Ministry of Health Basic Sanitation and Hygiene Service and the Municipality of Cotonou to better serve all urban and peri-urban areas.
What are the achievements that you can share with our readers at this stage of the project?
The main achievements of WASHplus program at this stage are first, obtaining an improved understanding of WASH issues in urban slums of Benin. WASHplus conducted a baseline study to identify the problems of hygiene, sanitation and water, as well as perceptions and knowledge of urban residents, to provide data on these issues. This study is available on the WASHplus website (http://www.washplus.org/countries/benin)
As a follow up, we are working in collaboration with local NGO PSI/ABMS who have conducted a situational analysis on the two pilot neighborhoods, to improve hygiene and support households and local schools and health facilities to adopt more positive health and hygiene behaviors. In addition, we are planning an advocacy event “call to action” with UNICEF to generate interest and possible investments by government and non-governmental actors in WASH improvements in peri-urban areas.
Your wrap-up words?
Finally I want to say that WASHplus is open to partnerships with local public or private entities working in the same sector because we believe that the combined efforts of different organizations will lead to the resolution of WASH-related problems facing our people. For more information on USAID/WASHplus please visit the website: http://www.washplus.org.