Reporting back from the 37th WEDC Conference in Hanoi- Day 3

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Affordable sanitation technology

The HappyTap was presented as an aspirational handwashing device that is being commercialised for rural households in Vietnam using the private sector to manufacture, distribute and activate household demand. Participants made an interesting point on how a technology can promote hygiene habits - what is in the design of the product to promote handwashing with soap (rather than just rinsing with water) or handwashing for a certain amount of time for instance. How user perceptions affect use of sanitation technologies was also the subject of a presentation from South Africa: technology is only a 1/5th of what sanitation is and so user perceptions are critical to operation (misuse/non-use) and lack of proper maintenance that determine sustainability of existing facilities and implications of sanitation backlogs in South Africa.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Health has a manual of 12 types of design of Hygienic Latrine in rural areas of Viet Nam – the cost ranges from USD $37 to $195. The potential to further reduce the cost of the hygienic latrine, using local materials for construction, waste saving flush devices, mass production of latrine components was presented in order to enable more people to gain access. In plenary the comparison was made to the latrine options available when CLTS launched in Bangladesh, where a $1 latrine was promoted to enable people to get onto the sanitation ladder. In this session, findings were reported from a randomised control trial in Kampala under the Urban Affordable Clean Toilets (U-ACT) project: vouchers given to allow house owners to purchase at VIP at different price levels and with different payback options were randomly offered to tenants and house owners. There is little doubt that providing the option of extended payback periods and targeting household investment in non-sewered sanitation systems makes sense. People are able and willing to pay then take up increases in slums.

Assessing impact

A large scale impact assessment of the Bangladesh Sanitation, Hygiene Education and Water Supply in Bangladesh (SHEWA-B) programmes was presented. When it was launched in 2007, SHEWA-B was one of the largest WASH programmes ever attempted in a developing country and reached 21.4 million people by end of 2014. SHEWA-B attempted an innovative 3-pronged monitoring system that incorporated external (3rd party) process monitoring, participatory community-based monitoring and a comprehensive health impact study to gauge how programme outputs are influencing hygiene behaviour change and the incidence of diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections children under 5. The experience with SHEWA-B shows potential for impact studies in programme to help build the global WASH evidence base on sanitation and hygiene at scale.

Equity and Inclusion: In great part thanks to WEDC, as a sector we know much more now about the underreported needs of people excluded from services – such as people with a disability, something TABs “Temporarily Able-Bodied’ rarely consider. With examples from their implementation of CLTS in several districts, Plan Indonesia presented their work on disability inclusion in WASH – what has been achieved and how can this help other practitioners. Based on the realisation that people with a disability are often unable to access regular sanitation and hygiene facilities even though there is a willingness to improve their own hygiene practices, Plan Indonesia have been working with government partners and sanitation marketing entrepreneurs for the provisions of designs that meet the needs of people with disabilities.

Sanitation at scale

Recent sanitation campaigns in the district of Churu and Bikaner in Rajasthan have shown the potential for scaling rural sanitation. In these districts, local government has adopted a system approach with 3 key elements – 1) creating a strong enabling environment capable of sustaining service delivery at scale 2) generating demand for sanitation and hygiene by households ad communities and 3) increasing the supply of sanitation. As this and other approaches have recognised, leadership (natural leaders, commune leaders, elected representatives, district government and community consultants) are important to achieving rapid and cost-effective total sanitation.  WaterShed is implementing a proof-of-concept project at districts level in rural Cambodia for local leaders who have motivated their communities to make transformational change in sanitation coverage. This is a cyclical programme of conferencing and coaching/mentoring with a combination of output-based financial and non-financial incentives. It is recognised that with the right enabling environment and opportunity, people can develop their leadership capacities and do more with less. On the theme of the enabling environment, Vietnam has made progress in increasing access to improved sanitation in rural areas but there is still a challenge in reaching inaccessible and poorest communities with limited resources. The WASH BAT (bottleneck analysis tool) was presented as a tool for supporting provincial line departments for scaling up rural sanitation in Vietnam based on a collective analysis of the subsector (policy, planning, finance, equity and capacity development and so forth). In Vietnam the WASH BAT has facilitated a participatory process for collective learning and helped define a course of actions to eliminate identified bottlenecks – these activities that are being internalised by the line ministry in the national action plan.

Closing ceremony

This year the WEDC conference was attended by nearly 500 delegates from over 30 countries. We had over 130 presentations and 25 side events. In the closing plenary, we reflected on some of the momentum and awareness gained during the conference on sustainable water and sanitation services for all, such as: violence, menstrual and peri-menopause hygiene, exchanges about CLTS, children’s faeces, relationships between open defecation and nutrition. Robert Chambers reminded us that we know more about the importance of sanitation now than we did 3 years ago; as well as informing us in the work we do, this should also ignite the passion for what we do. As well as knowing more about the issue, we were also reminded that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel but might need to reinvent our networks. We look forward to seeing the fruits of the conversation next year at the 2015 WEDC Conference.

Side Event

The CLTS Knowledge Hub at IDS, the CLTS Foundation and WSSCC convened a session entitled ‘Reflection on CLTS with Kamal Kar and the way forward’. Practitioners and organisations from India, Afghanistan, Philippines and elsewhere shared their work on CLTS and commented on common issues, including: sustainability, moving up the sanitation ladder (and attention to what happens post-ODF i.e. ODF+), certification for the quality of facilitators, the enabling environment and equity in access for the poorer, weaker and less able people. The focus of the session was on looking forward, particularly with an eye to the proposed post-2015 target on eliminating the practice of open defecation. Participants recognised that ODF will take centre stage in the coming years representing a huge opportunity for progress. It was concluded that approaches to CLTS should be adjusted accordingly with a particular emphasis on the core values.

Sue Cavill is an independent WASH consultant.

Date: 29 September 2014
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