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The author on the road in Chadiza District. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

The author on the road in Chadiza District. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Sarah Fry, WASHplus activity manager for the USAID-funded project, SPLASH, which works to ensure that proper WASH facilities and hygiene education exist in schools. As the project nears its end, Sarah describes a surprise visit she took to SPLASH sites in Zambia’s Eastern Province and details a number of positive changes she witnessed, particularly in regards to engagement and ownership around WASH -- both within the schools as well as the broader communities. This post originally appeared here on the WASHplus Blog.

That’s literally, not figuratively, building bridges. Two weeks ago I would not have been able to even understand that question, but today I have a story to share with you. First of all, hello from Zambia. As the WASHplus activity manager for the USAID funded activity called SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene), I have been here since early July working with our team to see this activity to its end on September 30th.

SPLASH began in early 2012, and since then has built over 3,000 school toilets, drilled, equipped or rehabilitated over 400 water points for schools, provided permanent handwashing and drinking water stations, and worked with teachers, the national government and local government to ensure that good hygiene practices and stronger systems for operating and maintaining school WASH facilities are put in place, and will stay in place. These activities have taken place in Zambia’s Eastern Province.

Before SPLASH started, Chief of Party Justin Lupele and I went on a “Road Show” out to the districts, where we introduced SPLASH to the government officials and local committees and started to build ownership and participation. The last three years have been a whirlwind of activity -- construction, training, community mobilizing, monitoring, publicizing, documenting. Justin and I thought that as the project nears its end, it would be good to go on another grand tour to get a solid sense of what has happened, what has changed, and maybe, what does it all mean. The only requirement we set was to not alert any schools that we were coming to visit.

Zambia is a vast, not densely populated country. Visiting schools requires spending a lot of time in vehicles riding on rough and dusty country roads. These distances impressed upon me how much staff and building contractor time and effort it took to reach the schools to carry out SPLASH activities. Bumping along, I had a chance to think and look forward to what we would find. I certainly expected to see positive changes and improvements at SPLASH schools. However, nothing prepared me for the sea of change that unfolded before us as we made our way to about 20 schools, mostly rural, but a few urban ones as well.

A school in Chipata. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

A school in Chipata. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

In 2012, we heard many complaints from schools about how communities were misusing their boreholes and denying any responsibility when they broke down. Now, every school has active WASH committee and pupil WASH Club and all are engaged in some form of joint school-community fundraising for maintenance and repair of the borehole. Handwashing after toilet use and before eating was a nearly universal practice by pupils, a habit acquired even if group handwashing hadn’t been inaugurated yet.

A major achievement was the presence of soap at almost all handwashing stations -- stealing soap is a thing of the past, we were told, because pupils want and like to wash their hands. Through the WASH Clubs peer education, they feel that the stations and the soap belong to them. Going beyond peer education, some WASH Clubs are visiting local health centers and performing hygiene skits and poems for women gathered for pre-natal and under-five clinics. In addition, Teachers were delighted with drinking water stations close to the classrooms because time away from lessons was reduced.

Possibly the biggest change was the universal acceptance of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) as a necessary and welcome part of the school program. Zambia, like many African countries, has taboos, myths and restrictions around menstruation, which is almost never discussed openly. Facilities and support for menstruating girls in schools is nearly absent, causing girls to stay home and miss weeks of lessons during the school year. Girls at SPLASH schools were thrilled with their beautiful washrooms -- shower/toilet structures built to accommodate MHM.

However, no one had anticipated the envy of the boys, who are now demanding their own washrooms to clean up after sports. MHM has entered into the vocabulary and into the culture, to the point where one WASH Committee was holding pad making parties for the girls, but then headed out into the community to distribute them to women in need. The taboos around menstruation seem to have melted away.

While the news from schools is very good -- and we will soon be able to quantify what kind of effect SPLASH had on the schools -- we encountered even more good news during this visit, outcomes that I can only call “unexpected consequences” of WASH in schools, and that frankly, I was unprepared for. The big apparent message is that WASH in schools can lift an entire community up and can bring about changes that were previously not possible.

Classroom before SPLASH in Mambwe District. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

Classroom before SPLASH in Mambwe District. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

Launching SPLASH with School Led Total Sanitation “triggering” shifted social norms in surrounding communities around open defecation practices to such a degree that we heard of headmen ordering all households to build latrines or pay a fine! Over a thousand household latrines have been built as a result.

In one school receiving a water point, a new classroom block was built where previously there was only a thatched shelter. Teachers’ houses have gone up, and a new water source at another school enabled a clinic to be built nearby.

Every single school stocked soap and toilet paper -- a miracle right there -- and consequently local shops were seeing a rise in sales of hygiene products. Some schools have a “one child one bottle” policy, leading local businesses to stock up on drinks to satisfy the demand for bottles.

New classroom block built after SPLASH provided access to a new water source. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

New classroom block built after SPLASH provided access to a new water source. Photo Credit: Sarah Fry of WASHplus, FHI 360

One of the best “unexpected outcome” is the engagement of artisans in building the latrines and washrooms, and who, in the process, have gained marketable skills.

They have found work on road crews (may the work be speeded up!) and other local construction projects and in one case were solicited by a health center next to a school that has decided to build an exact replica of a SPLASH toilet.

Leading the parade of successful new entrepreneurs is the ex-SPLASH artisan who proved so competent that once the latrine construction was done, he was hired to oversee the building of a new bridge. And that’s what WASH in schools and building bridges have in common!

Attending World Water Week? Submit a Blog Post to WASHfunders!

Are you planning to attend World Water Week later this month in Stockholm? WASHfunders is currently accepting blog submissions and is interested in publishing content related to this year’s conference. Whether you’re organizing a workshop, involved with an exhibition, or are interested in covering a plenary, we’d love to feature your blog post describing highlights from the event.

Even if you won’t be attending the conference, we always welcome blog post contributions around critical issues of water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Posts should be about 800 words, written in an accessible style, and may cover a wide range of subjects related to WASH.

To contribute to the WASHfunders blog – around World Water Week or another topic – contact us at washfunders@foundationcenter.org for more information. 

Webinar: Using Data for Learning and Sharing

This August 11th, join WASH Advocates, Global Water Challenge, IRC, and Aquaconsult for the third and final webinar in the 3-part webinar series, What Can Your Data Do For You? Moving Beyond Reporting, which outlines the ways to turn your data into action. 

The webinar, focused on applying data for learning and sharing in the sector, will feature presentations by Brian Banks from Global Water Challenge, Ivan Birungi from the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda, and Nompumelelo Ntshalinthsali from the Department of Water Affairs in Swaziland.

For more information or to register, please click here. To see past webinars in the series, visit the webinar page on sustainableWASH.org.  

Pit Emptying and Marketplace Development: A Mucky Business from Water For People on Vimeo.

Market development in sanitation is, both literally and figuratively, a mucky business. A recent video from Water For People thoughtfully illustrates the different approaches and limitations the organization has experienced in its attempts to establish a city-wide market for pit emptying services in Kampala, Uganda.

After identifying transportation costs as a main constraint to the scaling of the city’s pit emptying sector, Water For People helped to establish Sanitation Solutions Group with the aim of growing the market for this service. The Group leases vehicles and equipment to the best performing businesses already existing in the informal sector and supports pit emptiers in becoming franchisees, helping to professionalize an industry to which few aspire.

Watch the video and share your own insights and lessons learned for market-based solutions in the WASH sector in the comments!

The Water Institute at UNC is now accepting abstracts for their annual conference, which will focus on the theme “WaSH in emergencies and outbreaks”.  The conference, which will take place October 26-30, will explore this theme in the context of this year’s earthquake in Nepal, several cholera outbreaks throughout the work, and other global emergency situations which have resulted in critical WaSH concerns.

Submissions will be accepted through July 31 and selected abstracts will be offered poster presentations at the conference.  

To submit an abstract, use the Submit or Edit an Abstract link, where you will be prompted to log in to or create your user account. There is no limit to the number of submissions you may make, and you may return later to edit previously-created submissions. The Institute asks that abstracts be limited to 500 words or fewer.

WHO, UNICEF Warn of Lack of Progress on Improving Sanitation

The lack of progress on sanitation threatens to undermine the child health benefits from gains in providing access to safe drinking water, a report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization warns.

The report, Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment (90 pages, PDF), found that 2.4 billion people, or one in three on the planet, still lack access to sanitation facilities. At the same time, the gains in access to safe drinking water are substantial, with some 2.6 billion people having gained access since 1990, including 427 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also found that the number of children under the age of 5 who die each day from diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene has been halved over the last fifteen years. Progress on sanitation, however, has been hampered by inadequate investments in behavior-change campaigns, lack of affordable products for the poor, and social norms. While some 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, and 68 percent of the world's population use an improved sanitation facility today, those numbers fall short of Millennium Development Goal targets by nearly 700 million people and 9 percentage points.

"What the data really show is the need to focus on inequalities as the only way to achieve sustainable progress," said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programs.

According to the report, access to adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene is critical in the prevention and treatment of nearly all neglected tropical diseases, which affect more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, causing blindness, disfigurement, permanent disability, and death. The practice of open defecation also is linked to a higher risk of stunting, which affects 161 million children globally. To address the situation, the report calls for disaggregating data so as to better identify target populations; focusing efforts on the hardest to reach, particularly the poor in rural areas; developing technologies and approaches aimed at bringing sustainable sanitation solutions to poor communities at affordable prices; and improving hygiene in homes, schools, and healthcare facilities.

"Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities," said Maria Neira, director of WHO's Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, "the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases."

 "UNICEF, WHO: Lack of Sanitation for 2.4 Billion People Undermining Health Improvements." UNICEF and World Health Organization Press Release 06/30/2015.

Last month marked the released of the UN-Water GLAAS Special report for Africa, an initiative led by WHO in collaboration with the African Ministers’ Council on Water and the African Development Bank. The report, which draws on data gathered from 39 African countries, takes stock on progress made under the Millennium Development Goals and sets the scene for development around WASH under the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Almost 75% of African countries surveyed have recognized the human right to water in their constitutions or legislations and nearly two thirds have recognized the right to sanitation.
  • Internal monitoring results are frequently neither reported nor acted upon, especially in sanitation.
  • Reported government-coordinated expenditure on sanitation and drinking-water ranged from 0.13% to 1.78% of GDP.

For more from our curated collection of WASH-related reports, visit the Recommended Reading section of WASHfunders.org.

This Thursday: USAID Webinar on WASH Sustainability

This Thursday, June 4th, join USAID for the fourth in a series of five webinars to better understand the USAID Water and Development Strategy and how its principles provide the foundation for Agency water programming.

To have lasting impact over time and after USAID’s assistance ends, WASH programs need to factor in sustainability during planning, design, implementation and monitoring. USAID’s Heather Skilling and Rochelle Rainey will host this webinar on the nature of sustainable WASH services; factors of sustainable service; challenges and approaches that can improve programming outcomes by addressing sustainability. 

This webinar will take place on June 4 from 10:00-11:00 am Eastern Time.

Register for the webinar here. Registration for each webinar session is required since space is limited. If you register for the webinar but are not able to attend, kindly cancel your registration before the day of the event so that someone else can register and participate.
If you are unable to join this webinar, a recording of each webinar will be posted shortly after each event here. And look out for the last webinar in the series, on drinking water quality, to be held on June 18.

Ryan Cronk, PhD student researcher at The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Editor’s note: This blog post was authored by Ryan Cronk, PhD student researcher at The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which focuses on producing practical and relevant sector knowledge by linking research with policy and practice. In his post, Ryan describes the development of the WaSH Performance Index, which compares progress on WaSH access and equity across countries, and highlights some insights that the 2015 Index reveals.

What is the WaSH Performance Index?

The WaSH Performance Index is the first index to rank countries based on water and sanitation performance and on implementation of the human right to water and sanitation. It is the first of its kind in that it compares countries of all sizes, water and sanitation coverage, and income levels. By assessing how countries are improving water and sanitation compared to best-in-class countries at similar levels of water and sanitation coverage, the Index provides a fair comparison of progress.

Why a performance index?

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) are essential to human health and development, and water and sanitation are recognized as human rights. Proposed global targets for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for universal access to WaSH and reducing inequalities in access. The forthcoming SDGs provide potential for convergence of human development and human rights policy.

Monitoring approaches to assess progress toward proposed goals have focused on the level of coverage of water and sanitation. New instruments are necessary to monitor and evaluate country performance on WaSH and to ensure progressive realization of the human right to water and sanitation.

Looking at coverage between countries, such as improved water access in the United Kingdom (100%) and Mozambique (49%), does not provide a meaningful comparison. An improved approach is to compare rates of change of coverage. Countries like Mali have been doing well (improving at 4.3% per year) while countries like Colombia have not been improving (-2.4% per year).

The challenge in comparing rates of change is that countries are at different levels of WaSH development. When comparing levels of coverage with rates of change, we tend to see rates increasing at low levels of coverage, plateau at intermediate levels of coverage, and slow as they approach 100% coverage. To compare countries fairly, we must compare country rates of change to best-in-class rates of change at different levels of coverage.

The WaSH Performance Index meets these needs by comparing country performance on increasing access and equity to best-in-class performance at different levels of water and sanitation coverage. The Index provides insight based on already-available water and sanitation data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. It is designed to accommodate new types of data relevant to the SDGs, such as hygiene, water safety, and non-household settings, as they become available.

The WaSH Performance Index answers two policy questions:

  • How quickly are countries improving access to improved water and sanitation relative to best-in-class performance?; and
  • How quickly are countries improving equity in access to improved water and sanitation relative to best-in-class performance?

What are some of the interesting insights from the 2015 WaSH Performance Index?

  • High-performing countries in the 2015 rankings are those that achieved significant improvement in recent years compared to their peers. These include El Salvador, Niger, Egypt, Maldives, and Pakistan. Low-performing countries are those that showed stagnation or decline in recent years compared to their peers, such as the Dominican Republic, the Gambia, Ghana, Samoa, and Timor-Leste.
  • Despite persistently being the region with the lowest water coverage in the world (Figure 1), water access performance among countries in Sub-Saharan Africa varies widely, with both high and low performers (Figure 2). Identifying characteristics of high performing countries and learning from them may enable more rapid progress among countries.
Figure 1. Global water coverage by country (percentage)

Figure 1. Global water coverage by country (percentage)

Figure 2. Country performance in improving water access

Figure 2. Country performance in improving water access

  • Among the most populated countries in the world, Pakistan, China, and Nigeria were top performers (ranked 5, 11, and 18 respectively), while Russia, the Philippines and India were bottom performers (ranked 72, 83, and 92). India’s ranking as a bottom-performer predates the recent launch of the “Clean India Mission” by Prime Minister Modi and suggests his initiative may be even more critical and urgent than originally thought
  • Progress toward equity in sanitation is significantly associated with governance indicators including control of corruption, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, and rule of law. These results suggest the enabling environment for WaSH contributes to progress in sanitation equity.
  • Despite the assumption that countries with higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will perform better in improving access to water and sanitation, GDP was not significantly correlated with performance. This means that even countries with limited resources can make great strides if they have the right programs in place. National governments, NGOs, and aid agencies can direct their resources toward building systems and capacity for action in countries that are lagging, and toward implementation where those capacities are in place and performing.

What’s next for the WaSH Performance Index?

In future versions of the WaSH Performance Index, we plan to explore alternate measures of equity such as wealth quintiles and minority groups. We also plan to address levels of service and other important service characteristics such as water safety and continuity. Finally, we plan to develop Index rankings for hygiene, comparing every country with available data.

Where can I learn more about the Index?

You can read the full report here.

We’ve also posted a recorded webcast presentation about the Index online, including remarks from Ed Cain from the Hilton Foundation and a discussion with Vice Chair of Sanitation and Water for All Catarina de Albuquerque.

We would love to hear your feedback and questions about the Index! Please email Ryan at rcronk@live.unc.edu

The Top 10 Groundbreaking Events to Have on the Radar for Menstrual Hygiene Day

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Danielle Keiser of WASH United, a Berlin-based organization that acts as the Secretariat for Menstrual Hygiene Day. In her post, Danielle provides a round-up of events being organized all over the world to draw attention to this critical development issue. To read more about how May 28 became Menstrual Hygiene Day, read Danielle’s post published last year on the WASHfunders blog.

I know what you’re thinking – ‘there’s a day for THAT?’

Yes, and there should be. Menstrual health and hygiene continues to be among the most challenging areas to address within the development arena. Not only do deep-rooted taboos and myths create the illusion that menstruation is inherently shameful or dirty, but in places such as South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, there is often times a lack of adequate sanitary materials and hygienic conditions (i.e. toilets, clean water and soap) to maintain good menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

As a matter of human rights, poor menstrual hygiene negatively impacts the education, health and economic potential of girls and women. A case study by UNICEF from Burkina Faso revealed that girls often have no safe or private place at school to change their menstrual materials, leading to the estimate that 1 in 10 African girls miss school during their periods. In India, access, affordability and disposal of menstrual materials is a colossal problem: a report by AC Nielsen, “Sanitary Protection: Every Woman's Health Right” revealed that 88% of women use old fabric, rags, or sand to manage their flow.

Recognizing the urgency of these challenges, we at WASH United initiated Menstrual Hygiene Day to encourage policy advocacy and grassroots action around the issue.

Here is a list of the top 10 events expected to make some noise and break the silence on Menstrual Hygiene Day:

10. Dar Es Salaam, TanzaniaHedhi Salama (Safe Menstruation) Campaign

Kasole Secrets will organize an advocacy event including a voluntary walk from the ministry of education to the celebration grounds with the Deputy Minister of Education as the special guest of honor. A press conference will be held on May 21.

9. Caen, France – Journee de L’hygiene et de la Menstruation

On Saturday May 30, Collectif Hygie will organize a day brimming with various activities intended to promote a better relationship with menstruation including yoga lessons that introduce postures to relieve discomfort during periods and a round-table panel on the theme ‘ending the hesitation around menstruation’ (featuring a gynecologist, medics, an artist, an osteopath specialized in gynecology, and community members).

8. Kampala, Uganda – Celebration and Advocacy Walk

MH Day will kick off with an advocacy walk organized by AfriPads in the center of Kampala to raise awareness about MHM. The walk will end at the Parliament of Uganda where all participants will sign the MHM Charter with a press conference soon thereafter. There will also be an exhibition, a seminar about MHM, a 'creative corner' where people can share poems and creative expressions about MHM, and an MHM tent where people can make bracelets. There will also be performances later in the day by various Ugandan artists.

7. Bristol, UKTalk.Period Celebrates in Bristol

This day-long event organized by no more taboo and Grace & Green comprises of a menstrual hygiene exhibition, sustainability workshops, and a teen debate. In the evening, there will be a screening of Menstrual Man and a lively discussion about menstrual waste, homelessness and periods, and the taxation of feminine hygiene products.

6. New York City, USA – Why Menstruation Matters in Sustainable Development

Organized by over 10 partners in the New York area, this interactive workshop will explore a variety of cross-cutting issues inextricably linked to menstrual hygiene in New York and around the world, including the advancement of education, the assurance of health, the strengthening of the economy, environmental protection, and the realization of human rights. International speakers include Stand4Education in South Sudan, NFCC International in Nepal, Huru International in Kenya, and the Museum of Sex in NYC. Participants working in development, journalists covering development issues, and individuals with a passion about these topics are all welcome.

5. Various districts, Pakistan – High-level advocacy meetings and MHM awareness creation

Members of IRSP, KRDO and SDS will meet with government bodies and NGOs working with children and human rights in Mardan, Peshawar, and Khairpur to ensure that menstrual hygiene becomes a priority in all future WASH and development projects. The goals of the meetings are to highlight the impact of poor MHM and how it affects Pakistani society as a whole as well as to develop an action plan among donors, state policy makers, women’s and children’s rights activists, and the health and education sectors.

4. Dhaka, Bangladesh – Dhaka Celebrates Menstrual Hygiene Day 2015

Youth’s Voice Foundation will be organizing an event where over 300 students, NGOs, and local celebrities will come together for an interactive workshop intended to bring the taboo topic of menstrual hygiene out of the dark and into the spotlight. The workshop will include short film screenings and a game-based MHM training as well as breakout sessions on how to make reusable pads. Click here for more information.

3. Various counties, Kenya – Ending the Hesitation Around Menstruation

The Ministry of Health and other key stakeholders will join together for a national event in Kwale County organized by WASH United. The event is focused on opening up the discussion about taboos and challenges related to MHM that girls and women in different settings face. Additionally, in collaboration with the Cabinet Secretary of Health, there will be an event in Muranga where sanitary pads will be distributed to 500 girls. In partnership with Soroptomist International, WASH United will also be implementing MHM interventions with schools and women’s prisons in Kakamega, Nairobi, and Kisumu counties.

2. Washington DC, USA – The Voices of Why Menstruation Matters

More than 20 organizations including WASH Plus & WASH Advocates will host an exciting learning and advocacy event on menstrual hygiene. Through dynamic speakers, voices of girls from around the world, and exhibitions of solutions, the event will shine light on the important link between access to menstrual hygiene management and water, sanitation, and hygiene, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and the realization of fundamental human rights. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in direct advocacy for the inclusion of menstrual hygiene in global policies on sustainable development and girls’ education and will leave the event empowered to continue advocacy for menstrual hygiene in their own communities and spheres of influence.

1. New Delhi, India – National Workshop to Ignite Action for MHM under the Swacch Bharat Mission

In coordination with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS), WASH United, UNICEF, Water Aid, and other Indian partners, will be presenting and unpacking the soon-to-be released official MHM guidelines to State-level officials from MDWS and other relevant ministries. The event is designed to share learnings and best practices from different states and put the gears into motion for a government-mandated MHM action plan for each state.

Raise awareness in your own city or town!

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