WASHplus Year Five Annual Report, October 2015

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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.

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Voices from Bangladesh: Reflections on SACOSAN VI

Reblogged from PPPHW blog.

julia rosenbaumBy Julia Rosenbaum, Senior Behavior Change Advisor USAID/WASHplus Project

I recently attended the 6th South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN VI), held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Given the clear ties between sanitation and hygiene, I was asked to provide commentary on the prevalence and discussion around hygiene at SACOSAN. A commentary on hygiene, however, first begs the question, “What is hygiene?”, as it means many things to many sacosanpeople. To some, hygiene pertains exclusively to handwashing with soap. To others, it includes food hygiene and treatment and safe storage of household water. To others, still, it means any “software” or promotional aspect of within water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) generally, such as behavior change. It is fair to generalize that hygiene was comprehensively defined at SACOSAN including the “software” side of WASH, specifically regarding sanitation, handwashing, and menstrual hygiene management.

A major theme throughout the conference was a renewed call for representation and inclusion through the human right to sanitation. This was true in terms of hygiene, too.

Representation and inclusion were perhaps best represented in a session that highlighted a new publication and spotlighted issues facing women, adolescent girls, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and those in the sanitation workforce. Leave No One Behind, a stunning new publication of Freshwater Action Network South Asia and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, seeks to give voice to those too often neglected and excluded from both political processes and access to sanitation and hygiene services. The objective of the publication and the initiative is to assure inclusion and representation, considered essential to achieving the newly agreed upon Sustainable Development Goals.

The session corresponding with the Leave No One Behind report illuminated the tremendous obstacles and humiliation suffered by these individuals and the corresponding consequences—including indignities, poorer health, and safety concerns. Yet, despite the many conversations about access, what was most poignant to me was the overall inaccessibility of the conference center despite efforts to find a more accessible venue. Clearly, in many contexts, access needs to be better ensured and not merely discussed. While the focus of this session was to highlight the “voices” of those featured in the report, there was a striking absence of positive examples and best practices that have been refined over the past decade and do provide access to many who might otherwise be left behind. Showcasing ways that access can be achieved—for instance, displays of simple latrine and handwashing station modifications to allow access to the differently abled, the elderly, the deaf, blind, and mute—or outlining inclusion strategies and approaches gaining prominence could have prompted session participants to not merely discuss the need for inclusion but also inspired action.

While I wish that the accessibility issues faced by participants had been addressed, there were many highlights of the conference. It was heartening to see participants spontaneously organize a special side session on menstrual hygiene management (MHM), as it was not prominently included in the program. Facilitated by WaterAid and featuring a wide range of panelists including government officials, global leaders, and community representatives, this lively session filled a gap and helped to prioritize menstrual hygiene management in the SACOSAN declaration and commitments.

The meeting’s hygiene promotion session was coordinated by the Afghani Delegation. The four technical papers that comprised this session—including one co-authored by USAID/WASHplus—comprehensively defined hygiene promotion. As a result, there was a large focus on sanitation best practice and innovation, such as improving sanitation and hygiene (mostly handwashing) practices in geographically-challenged areas, fostering strategies to improve sanitation coverage and developing approaches to improving sanitation practice (i.e., latrine use) and consistent and correct handwashing with soap. A forth session focused on MHM, and boldly shared the failures attributed to not thoroughly consulting with school girls and administration, as well as successes.

Hygiene was also prominent in a plenary session chaired by BBC Media Action (formerly BBC World Service Trust). Via a provocative video presentation, behavior change specialist Dr. Val Curtis with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, highlighted three elements—surprise, revaluation, and performance—as fundamental and effective at improving WASH. This video was followed by prominent national journalists who discussed how to get the public to engage in topics considered unpleasant and often taboo by capturing audience attention and greater media visibility.

The linkages between sanitation and hygiene are clear, and it is encouraging that hygiene was featured prominently in the meeting’s Declaration and Commitments where every mention of sanitation included “… and hygiene”. I am hopeful that the calls for representation and inclusion of the vulnerable and underserved that were made during SACOSAN will lead to a truly enabling environment, and that we will learn from our oversights and collaborate going forward to improve access to sanitation and hygiene for all.

Ethiopia: Replicating Market-Based Sanitation

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WASHplus has engaged iDE to continue laying the groundwork for at-scale, market-based sanitation in rural Ethiopia. This work is funded through the WASHplus innovation grants mechanism offered to WASH resource partners last year. Through the grant, iDE will engage in a suite of activities aimed at 1) continuing to develop and refine the design of latrine products (pit liner and slab) as well as the business model for sales and delivery of the products, and 2) developing sales training and marketing materials for sales agents and manufacturers. WASHplus and iDE view Ethiopia as an ideal setting to replicate iDE’s groundbreaking approach to market-based sanitation implemented in Cambodia.