WASHplus Year Five Annual Report, October 2015

WASHplus Year 5 Annual Report.png

In its Year Five Annual Report, WASHplus has stories to tell, results to share, events to celebrate, and studies that add to the evidence base. WASHplus activities serve as the backdrop for many stories: the Zambian school girl who has access to privacy and menstrual supplies when she needs them, the Malian household that can now build an improved latrine on their rocky soil, the mother in Bangladesh who understands the importance of a feces-free environment, the Nepali home breathing cleaner air as it trials an improved cookstove. And perhaps more compelling than the individual stories are the results the project is beginning to record through endline data collection in Kenya and formative research on school enrollment and in Zambia. Providing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure to schools is having a notable impact on enrollment. Community-led total sanitation (CLTS) may be inoculating communities exposed to cholera. Numbers also tell the story of the project’s impact. Look for a snapshot of those figures throughout the report.

The conclusion of field activities in Uganda and Zambia this year provided opportunities to reflect, celebrate accomplishments through end-of-project (EOP) events, and share lessons learned. Several articles were published this year in peer-reviewed journals and others submitted on topics ranging from consumer preferences and willingness to pay for improved cookstoves to habit formation and costing of handwashing. WASHplus also played a key role in preparing the joint document on WASH and nutrition for publication and distribution.

WASHplus’s focus on integrating WASH into other development initiatives enabled the project to get in on the ground floor on subjects that are gaining traction at USAID and globally, such as WASH and nutrition, neglected tropical diseases, and MHM. This integration focus dovetailed nicely with the project’s mandate to serve a technical leadership role, and project staff had many opportunities this year to share its work and lessons from the field on a global stage, strategize with partners on important advocacy issues, inform policy, and develop guidance in multiple countries. Also toward that end, WASHplus launched its first two learning briefs on small doable actions and WASH and nutrition. This series details the variety of approaches WASHplus uses to improve WASH and household air pollution (HAP) across its portfolio of countries.

And finally, it’s been an exciting year for innovation with pilot projects underway in Ethiopia and Bangladesh focusing on sanitation marketing and sand envelopment. These two efforts will add to WASHplus’s body of knowledge on sanitation innovation and aligns closely with USAID’s global interest on the topic. WASHplus is also documenting its fecal sludge management work in Madagascar to tell the next chapter in that story.

Advertisements

Lessons From Zaragoza: Indicators, Integration, And Human Rights For Hygiene Post-2015

Woodburn_Hanna_2014This post, authored by Hanna Woodburn, has been reblogged from the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW) website.

IMG_6641

We are only a few weeks into 2015, but the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing and other actors within the international development community have been anticipating this landmark year for quite some time. Later this year, the Member States of the United Nations will agree upon a new set of global, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals. To learn, collaborate, and strategize, the UN-Water organization convened key water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector actors in Zaragoza, Spain. The gathered experts, including the PPPHW, attended and participated in discussions around what tools and challenges face implementation of the proposed SDG for water (to view this goal, please see Goal 6 on page 12 of this document).

At this conference we learned about the role of various stakeholder groups, such as business, governments, civil society, and academia, in addressing the challenges of implementing a water SDG. We advocated for hygiene where it was absent, and came away with a new appreciation for the role that integration will play in driving forward progress on WASH in the post-2015 era.

As we look toward the remaining months of 2015 and what needs to be accomplished in terms of advocating for a comprehensive WASH goal, complete with targets and indicators for hygiene, it is clear that there are specific areas where the PPPHW and hygiene supporters can be engaged.

First, indicators will be the way forward in advocacy and ensuring that all components of WASH receive their due recognition within the SDGs. Indicators will need to be measurable, actionable, and ambitious. Without an indicator for hygiene we will not know the progress made on this crucial public health intervention.

Second, at the planning, stakeholder, and programmatic levels, integration will become increasingly important to address the myriad and interrelated challenges facing global health and development. WASH does not exist in a silo. The benefits from good hygiene services and behaviors, for example, range from improving health and nutrition to reducing inequities and improving school attendance. As such, broad collaboration will help ensure that the benefits from WASH are fully realized.

Finally, but not least, the human rights approach toward water and sanitation (articulated here), will continue to be used to frame the importance of access to these life-saving services. The key elements of such an approach are equality and nondiscrimination; participation and inclusion; and accountability and the rule of law. Hygiene is, and should be, covered under the umbrella of the human rights approach, but we need to make this association clearer.

We know that WASH is going to be essential to making progress on the SDGs, that there are tools that can help achieve the proposed water goal, but we also know that there is much work to be done in the meantime, particularly around ensuring that hygiene does not fall off the agenda. The PPPHW is committed to continued advocacy around these efforts, and we hope you will join us. Sign up for our email list, learn more about the conference here, and learn what goals, targets, and indicators the WASH sector are supporting here. The challenges are large, but not insurmountable. Overcoming them will both save lives, and ensure a healthier, more productive world Post-2015. Together we can help make this vision become a reality.

About the Global Public Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing: The Global Public-Private Partnership is a coalition of international stakeholders that aims to give families, schools, and communities in developing countries the power to prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections by supporting the universal promotion and practice of proper handwashing with soap at critical times.

Design, Delivery, and Monitoring & Evaluation for Handwashing With Soap Programs

This course is designed by the Center for Global Safe Water at Emory University and the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW) for program implementers, policy makers, teachers, and M&E specialists on the design, delivery and monitoring and evaluation of hand washing with soap (HWWS) programs. The course is geared towards those interested in promoting handwashing with soap among populations in the Global South.

This course will cover concepts including:

  • Community- and school-based HW promotion
  • Marketing and social marketing
  • Private sector approaches
  • Government, NGO and community led-approaches
  • Approaches for low- and middle-income settings

At the end of this course, participants will:

1. Understand the current state of knowledge for HWWS
2. Identify current approaches to hygiene and HWWS promotion
3. Utilize a specific behavioral framework to design a program for HWWS
4. Develop a HWWS behavior change strategy
5. Know the steps of developing a HWWS program
6. Become familiar with the basic tools to monitor and evaluate HWWWS program

The course includes two modules that will help participants learn practical guidance on how to design and implement HWWS behavior change programs that target marginalized groups in communities, schools, health centers and other institutions.

Module 1 covers:

  • The state of knowledge and evidence base for HWWS
  • The key times for to promote HWWS
  • The technologies used for HWWS
  • How HWWS is promoted by different stakeholders
  • Examples of HWWS programs, including current approaches and behavioral frameworks

Module 2 covers:

  • Developing a HWWS behavior change strategy
  • Planning a HWWS program from buy-in to concept and execution
  • Monitoring and evaluating a HWWS program to ensure program sustainability and learning

Click here to download the course curriculum, module 1, module 2and supplemental readings.

Q&A: What have we learned about consumer preferences of cookstoves in Bangladesh?

CROPPED-DerbyElisabethWASHplus Project’s Household Air Pollution Specialist Elisa Derby recently participated in an online Q&A session hosted and facilitated by The World Bank’s Clean Stove Initiative. The Q&A session focused on lessons learned about consumer preferences for improved cookstoves in Bangladesh, through the WASHplus project, and in Indonesia through the World Bank’s Indonesia Clean Stove Initiative. Key findings from the WASHplus consumer preferences study and related excerpts from the Q&A are provided below.

Key Findings: Understanding Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Improved Cookstoves in Bangladesh

Methodology

  • “Trials of Improved Practices” testing user reactions to one of five different improved cookstoves (ICS) in 120 households.
  • Three-day kitchen performance tests (KPT) in 116 study households and 24 control households.

Cooking Practices

  • A major obstacle was that the cooking time was slower using the ICS.
  • Households prefer to cook rice for the whole day all at once in the morning during the three-month winter, rather than throughout the day, as is customary during the rest of the year.

Cookstove Preferences

  • At least two stoves were perceived as preferable to traditional stoves during the trials.
  • None as then produced met all consumer needs, and none met sufficient consumer needs to completely replace traditional stoves.
  • A vast majority believed ICS produced less smoke than their traditional stoves.
  • Participants widely complained of the inability to cook large volumes of food in large pots.
  • The horizontal fuel entry of ICS was not desirable. 

Fuel Saving

  • Homes using four out of the five improved stoves were found to use at least 16 percent to 30 percent less fuel than the control homes over the course of the KPT. 

Willingness to Pay and Decision Making

  • Certain stove features were valued, but the monetary worth of the stove was dramatically undervalued (most estimated them to be 1/2 to 1/4 of their actual calculated value).
  • Householders realized that metal stoves are expensive, but they were not ready to buy them at market price.
  • When given the stove as a gift in one village, almost all participants chose to keep the stove over a market value cash buy-back.

To learn more about WASHplus’ consumer preference study, download the brief “What Do Cooks Want? What Will They Pay? A Study of Improved Cookstoves in Bangladesh” and the full report “Understanding Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Improved Cookstoves in Bangladesh.”

Q&A with Elisa Derby: What have we learned about consumer preferences of cookstoves in Bangladesh?

Elisa Derby has worked in the cookstoves sector for over a decade and manages Winrock International’s household energy and health program, with projects and partnerships that reduce fuel use and exposure to cooking-related household air pollution. This work incorporates field-based capacity building, formative research, network building, knowledge dissemination, grants management, and direct implementation activities. She is the household energy and household air pollution specialist for the WASHplus project, and supports WASHplus consumer preferences, needs and willingness to pay research, and other activities designed to support the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves mission and goals.

Q: What do you think was the most unexpected result stemming from your study? And how do you think this finding will likely impact the market (stove manufacturers) and future development initiatives?

A: Our willingness to pay results were the most surprising result from the WASHplus study in Bangladesh. Only one out of 105 study participants given the option to purchase the stoves at market value did so, although of the remaining 15 households given the stoves as gifts and then offered the option of a cash buyout at that same market value, only three chose cash; the other 12 preferred to keep their stove. People valued the stoves when acquisition barriers were removed, indicating a need for better financing options.

Q: The WASHplus study adopted the Trials of Improved Practices (TIPs) methodology. What makes this innovative and could you please explain how this methodology works?

A: The USAID Mission in Bangladesh enlisted WASHplus to help it assess consumer preferences and identify types of stoves that would be a good fit for its cookstove promotion program, as a follow-on activity to a cookstove market assessment already undertaken. Because cooking is such a personal experience and so integral to daily life, there’s no better way to get feedback on a particular stove type than to ask potential consumers to bring the stove into their homes and assess it as they go about their daily routine over a period of weeks. TIPs is an established qualitative methodology in the WASH sector and invites participants to interact with researchers and identify, discuss, and resolve barriers to using the new technologies through semi-structured “elicitation” questions. We gave each household one of five imported ICS models to evaluate, and used both qualitative and quantitative methods to gather data. The latter included monitoring wood and stove usage via KPT and stove use monitoring sensors for both traditional and improved stoves, as well as household air pollution in a subset of homes. We ended the trials with two different perceived value and willingness to pay approaches.

Q: How do you select five imported ICS models?

A: We chose the stove models based on regional availability, performance, and characteristics. All models were produced in China or India; only the Grameen Greenway stove was currently available for purchase in Bangladesh at the time of the study, albeit in small quantities, but others had potential to be manufactured and/or assembled in Bangladesh. They all met a minimum of Tier 2 fuel efficiency according to ISO IWA 11:2012 guidelines (the Tier 0 traditional baseline in Bangladesh is a hand-built, sunken-hole mud stove). Stoves were selected by characteristics (chimney/not, fan/not, portable/not), not by brand, to represent a range of stove types. An added benefit of using imported stoves with which consumers were not familiar was the avoidance of any influence of brand loyalty. Several of the manufacturers have made modifications to their stoves in response to consumer feedback from our study, and are exploring or already pursuing expanding their markets into Bangladesh. 

Q: Is there room for adoption of dedicated devices that would be efficient for specific tasks such as  water boiling or rice cooking? In other words, could the future be towards several types of efficient task-focused devices rather than trying to go for the “mythical” do-it-all-cleanly-and-efficiently-while-customer-friendly stove?

A: As a follow-up activity to the consumer research, we’re now doing customer segmentation and market strategy work in Bangladesh and one recommendation from that research is bundling the improved cookstoves with products like electric rice cookers, as the combination would then be expensive enough to trigger microfinance options, and the products would complement each other nicely, as the rice cooking is the weak point of many of the improved stoves. This is of course only possible for homes that are electrified, one of several customer segments. In my own kitchen I have an oven, stovetop, microwave, toaster, and coffee maker, and have been thinking of investing in a slow-cooker; I’m clearly no believer in a mythical do-it-all technology! 

Q: Is water boiling a main task in Bangladesh? It is an interesting finding in Indonesia. Almost all households only drink boiled water (this a common practice in China, too).

A: Unfortunately (for other health considerations!) boiling water for drinking or bathing is not common practice in Bangladesh.

Q: Bundling products with complementary functions sounds good. But I wonder how many households will invest in such bundle. If bundling products is not targeting poor households, then the households who choose the bundle probably don’t need microfinancing either.

A: For better or worse, there are many segments of “poor” in Bangladesh, and the poorest of the poor don’t usually have electricity, so the rice cooker bundling is a moot point for them anyway. Fortunately, we won’t have to just speculate how/whether this will work, as the WASHplus research findings and market strategies are directly feeding into the USAID’s Catalyzing Clean Energy in Bangladesh program, so they’ll be able to report back to us how/whether this has worked in the next couple years.

Q: Was the finding regarding “unwillingness of customers to chop wood” reported to stove manufacturers/designers (e.g., the tech. people)? What is their reaction to this issue? This is major in my mind, as it goes directly towards adoption and actual use … because the trend in adoption overall is towards devices that make life easier and (possibly more pleasurable), not that do good only if you follow a certain set of rules. And there may be some unintended consequences on the social side of this increase need for chopped wood.

A: Yes, all of our findings were shared with manufacturers. Fuel processing is always an especially challenging factor. We know that we get the most complete combustion and therefore cleanest burn from fuel with high surface/mass ratios, but of course any user would rather just throw a big log in the fire, not have to chop up the fuel or continuously feed it. I know many in our sector have high hopes for a fuel processing service solution—wherein entrepreneurs can make a living processing wood, or selling processed wood to users who then get a cleaner burn. I wish I had the answer!

Q: Based on the study, what do you think is the biggest challenge/barrier in promoting ICS in countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia? Was the lesson learnt from your study applicable for other developing nations as well?

A: I think the biggest challenge in our sector, regardless of where cookstoves are promoted, is that we don’t have biomass solutions that both burn cleanly (read: meets WHO air quality guidelines) and that users like to use and prefer over their traditional stove 100% of the time. So we see a LOT of stove stacking, and the benefits of ICS are watered down at best and completely negated at worst. But it’s entirely rational—if you spend 5-7 hours/day cooking, of course you’d rather do it on the easy-to-use stove than the “allegedly better but annoying to actually use” option, even though the latter may provide health benefits down the road. Everyone loves cooking on LPG (and I posit in most cases would do so almost exclusively were it not for cost), and I firmly believe that universal clean fuel access should be our end goal, but we need many really good biomass solutions in the meantime that cooks will use consistently, correctly, and exclusively, and we’re just not there yet. I’m grateful for the R&D funding that’s been brought to the table in recent years to support that work.

Q: I would be interested in hearing from the Bangladesh experience about distribution channels that were used to reach users in remote areas, in particular women. For example, there is an organization called Solar Sisters that is operating in several African countries, which trains and hires women entrepreneurs from the community to market and sell stoves. It seems like an interesting approach. What good steps and strategies were used to reach the end user beyond broad marketing?

A: As the WASHplus Bangladesh activity was a research study involving imported ICS not currently available in Bangladesh, we did not rely on any distribution channels, rather we selected the 120 participant households and brought them the stoves ourselves. Previous ICS promotion supported by the Government of Bangladesh has relied primarily on sanitation shops and NGOs for distribution. I expect that the USAID Catalyzing Clean Energy in Bangladesh project (which will be the implementation follow-on to the WASHplus research) will expand their distribution networks, and the Solar Sisters model may be a good fit—I’ll pass on the suggestion!

Q: Could you please share some key lessons learnt from your project, or essential take-aways, especially on those topics that have not yet been discussed in the above thread? Anything that might be helpful for future project development and design, social marketing, awareness campaign is warmly welcomed.

A: Some important take-aways from our research in Bangladesh is the need for larger and higher fire-power stoves for Bangladesh, and given the prevalence of mixed fuel use we also recommended the development of a mixed-fuel stove. Happily, several of the manufacturers we worked with have come out with larger/higher fire-power versions of their stoves to better meet Bangladeshi needs. Prakti has received Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves funding specifically to develop a mixed-fuel stove for Bangladesh, which is already in prototype stage. Finally, I would say our findings underscore the need I think we all recognize for consumer-centered design, to really meet consumer needs while still achieving emissions reductions and efficiency goals.

The other take-away from our work in Bangladesh that we haven’t gotten into on this thread is the issue of quality control and durability. By way of background, Bangladesh has a long history of improved stove promotion over the decades, primarily focusing on variations of one type of artisanal clay (and more recently cement) chimney stove, generally called the Bondhu Chula, of which there are an estimated 500,000 still in use. We performed controlled cooking tests on both the imported and (expertly constructed) Bondhu Chula stoves, and they all demonstrated significant efficiency gains over the traditional stove. All of the chimney stoves were very successful in venting the smoke out of the kitchen. But in the field we saw a LOT of very smoky Bondhu Chulas. This is likely in part due to varying quality control prevalent with artisanal production. That said, even expertly constructed Bondhu Chulas depend on the user to keep the stove well-maintained.

The challenge with any chimney stove is that when not cleaned regularly, they can redirect all the smoke (maybe just as much as the traditional stove generates) back into the cooking area. In Bangladesh there isn’t a culture of chimney cleaning, and given that the Bondhu Chula has a cement chimney that must be cleaned from the top (unlike metal chimneys that you can clean just by banging on the side), and many homes have thatched roofs, this kind of cleaning can be next to impossible. So field testing for chimney stoves over time is really critical, especially in Bangladesh.

Laying the framework for water and sanitation sustainability

RM1

WASHplus\FHI360 and CARE/Zambia are implementing a 4-year USAID-funded initiative targeting primary schools in the Eastern Province called SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene).  Working alongside local government ministries, this project aims to bring clean drinking water, child and gender-friendly latrines, hand washing stations and hygiene education to rural schools across four districts of the Eastern Province of Zambia.

As a WASH consultant over the summer, my primary task was to work with the SPLASH staff to develop tools for the operation and maintenance of implemented infrastructure. Sustaining water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) resources at these schools after the life of this project, is a key component of this initiative. My time in Zambia has been split between working out of the SPLASH offices in Lusaka and Chipata, with school visits sprinkled throughout the span of two months. Working with the FHI360/CARE staff and officials from the Ministry of Education has been a unique and enjoyable learning experience.

Effective monitoring is one of the biggest challenges in the water and sanitation sector, with over 40% of infrastructure failing within five years of implementation. Crucial to infrastructure sustainability is developing a mechanism for school and district level officials to routinely monitor and report on the functionality of water points and latrines constructed during the project. Using a tool called TextIt, I developed a mobile-based survey through which schools can directly relate information about the functionality of WASH infrastructure. Using any cell phone that sends text messages, rural communities can access this service, allowing for timely, accurate and transparent monitoring of services. Once this data is reported, it is automatically analyzed using a tool called Water Point Mapperwhich produces a map displaying the various infrastructure across the area of operation, and up-to-date information about each WASH facility.

Phone WaterPoint Mapper Screenshot

The use of mobile-based reporting bypasses paper-based surveys conducted periodically by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Local Government and Housing. Conducting paper-based surveys is an expensive and time-intensive process, requiring staff to travel to rural communities, over roads that are often impassible during the rainy season. On the other hand, mobile-based surveys can be initiated at the instance of infrastructure failure and significantly reduces human error. However, the use of mobile phones to access these services requires communities to bear the cost of sending text messages. These costs are considerably lower than the cost of transportation and salaries of surveyors and data entry staff. Moreover, cell phone credit can be transferred from the accounts of government ministries directly to these communities, so as not to pass the cost onto the users. There is also potential for private sector partnerships with cell service provides within Zambia.

Once the map of WASH infrasructure is generated, it will be accessible to staff at government ministries, project implementing organizations, funding agencies and members of community WASH committees. Engagement of all these stakeholders is vital for the sustainability of infrastructure and services. Working in unison, they will be able to report and address any issues that may arise with the implemented water system, latrines, handwashing stations, menstrual hygiene facilities and drinking water points. These tools will also aid organizations to efficiently allocate resources, recognize trends in performance and service levels and have a visual, easy-to-understand representation of project progress. The use of WASH mapping all allow monitoring organizations to easily detect points of failure in service delivery and generate user-friendly reports for funders and partners. Through this structure of reciprocal monitoring where communities can directly communicate with the project implementer, communities are encouraged to take ownership of their water and sanitation resources, and play an active stake in operation and maintenance.

During my last week at SPLASH, I presented these WASH monitoring tools to representatives from USAID, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Local Government and Housing, FHI360, CARE and other NGOs working in this sector in Zambia. The various entities called for adoption of these monitoring tools and increased cooperation for WASH sustainability. In the coming months, SPLASH will implement these tools in conjunction with the Ministry of Education in the schools in the Eastern Province where SPLASH is currently working.

RM3

Working with the SPLASH team in Zambia has been an incredibly fulfilling experience and has solidified my passion for working in the WASH sector. I have learned a lot about the challenges that organizations face in sustaining implemented infrastructure, and strategies used to overcome these challenges. Working with SPLASH has allowed me the opportunity to innovate and create novel technologies to ensure WASH sustainability. I am excited to see how these tools are implemented in the field over the coming months and whether they are effective over the coming years.

While not in office or the field, I have had the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of Zambia at its many wildlife reserves. From visiting elephant orphanages, helicopter rides over the Victoria Falls, and bungee jumping, my time here in Zambia has been exhilarating to say the least.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of USAID or the U.S. Government.

WASHplus Benin Hygiene Improvement Project Featured in Local Magazine

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

Armand

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.

 

Reflections from the Colorado WASH Symposium

annis photo

By Jonathan Annis

I recently attended the Colorado Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Symposium, hosted by the  University of Colorado Boulder. The two-day regional gathering, intended primarily for  students, faculty and local WASH professionals within greater Denver WASH community,  attracted 130 attendees. A closely knit and cross-disciplinary group of graduate students  did a fantastic job planning and hosting the event.

For those who aren’t aware – this included me before arriving on campus – the Colorado WASH community is thriving. The Denver area is home to a blend of international NGO’s like Water for People and iDE as well as local non-profit groups with a regional or country focus like El Porvenir. Add to the mix the energy created by a dynamic group of graduate students and academics engaged in the international WASH sector and the stage was set for an engaging discussion.

I had two main takeaways from the event:

The first is the need to capitalize on opportunities that exist for academics and WASH practitioners to collaborate more closely to use project generated data for learning. Few international NGOs undertake systematic evaluations or empirical studies to understand and document their work. We rarely build enough time and resources into the project cycle to study, learn and most importantly adapt activities in response to the findings this type of iterative process would reveal. There are some notable exceptions to this trend, but most implementers – and the donors who fund them – are reluctant to commit resources to conducting formal research when faced with the pressure of maximizing their reach and measuring their progress in terms of numbers of persons served.

What are the implications for projects like mine, WASHplus?

Well, we could start by reemphasizing metrics and a commitment to long-term monitoring. Ned Breslin, the CEO of Water For People, pioneered the “Everyone Forever” slogan coupled with the commitment to monitor service delivery for 10 years in every community they serve. They have set the bar high. Time will tell if they are able to deliver on their promise and galvanize others to follow suit. Some of the participants suggested re-evaluating current incentive structures, for both donors and implementing organizations that stress first time access to services, thereby deemphasizing post-project service delivery monitoring. Indeed, too often a project’s preoccupation is on extending ‘access’ to the woman fetching water from the river, failing to see that she likely walked past at least one abandoned ‘improved’ water point to get to the riverbank.

That leads me to the second reflection from the conference: the role of NGOs in supporting WASH services.

The question has been floated recently if NGOs big and small are doing more harm than good in their traditional role as WASH service providers. The notion is that these organizations crowd-out the private sector or create dependence on transitory service delivery mechanisms rather than supporting government to be the duty bearer. I understand this argument and agree with it in some contexts. Nonetheless, most of the small NGOs represented at CU are clearly filling in a gap where traditional service mechanisms continue to fail.

While collectively the world has reportedly achieved the MDG for water supply a few years early, there remains striking disparities between continents and within countries themselves. Many of the NGOs based in Colorado are supporting projects that engage decentralized government structures in an attempt to connect communities into national policies and legal frameworks. These organizations are providing support in areas where government sponsored outreach is nonexistent or failing to deliver its mandate, a situation that is still common in many countries.

The notable examples of government-driven service delivery models in Uganda and Ghana are still islands of success, and progress in these contexts is due in large part to stable governance and political will not yet commonplace in all nations. NGOs and the bi-lateral donor funding that finance much of their work, while relatively insignificant when compared to public investments in the sector, remain an important lifeline in areas where government led initiatives are stretched thin. NGOs aren’t going away any time soon.

The question is how these organizations can align their mandates to support and concur with national policies until their services are no longer needed. As we turn our attention to the post-2015 targets aiming at universal coverage, we may find that NGOs have a niche role to play after all, especially in countries where the current MDGs remain unmet and there is little political will or public resources to do so.

About the Author: Jonathan Annis is a sanitation and innovation specialist with the USAID-funded WASHplus project. His views do not necessarily represent those of WASHplus, USAID or the U.S. government.