Editor’s Note: This post comes from the Water Point Data Exchange, an initiative aimed at creating a standard for water point data collection to allow for better information sharing across organizations working in WASH. The Exchange invites those working in the sector to provide feedback on their draft standard, available here. The public comment period will be open through March 15.
No challenge in eradicating water poverty is as pressing as improving sustainability by ensuring continuous high-quality drinking water service provision. High failure rates in the WASH sector squander scarce financial resources. Further, broken water systems can cause harm to millions of people in the Global South who have invested their own time and resources and come to depend on these systems. Despite knowledge of this issue for decades and increased attention over the past few years, there is still a severe lack of understanding about the true nature of this challenge. Limited available data on water points has stymied efforts to better understand and improve sustainability. Facing these challenges, the water sector is at a pivotal point in history where data can play a vital role in the eradication of water poverty.
The amount of water point data is increasing as more organizations and governments monitor their water point functionality over time. Unfortunately this progress has been accompanied by increasingly numerous unique methods through which data is collected, stored and shared. As a result, new data is creating new “data islands.” These emerging monitoring efforts will have limited impact on improving programming and sustainability as long as the data remains inaccessible on organizational servers, in PDF reports, and in proprietary monitoring systems. Unless these different data sources can be harmonized, the learnings will be small and piecemeal, with the true potential of this information remaining untapped.
The Water Point Data Exchange (WPDx) plans to harness this momentum by working with the water sector to create a standard for water point data sharing. To learn more about efforts to develop a framework for sharing this data, view the webinar, hosted by Global Water Challenge, on February 5:
Based on this standard, WPDx will create an effective central hub for the standard-compliant data and will engage the WASH sector to make full use of this dynamic hub, both for sharing and utilizing data. Ultimately, this initiative will transform a growing body of disconnected data into improved water services for millions.
To make this initiative work, we need your input! The WPDx Working Group is inviting water access experts from around the world to provide feedback on the draft standard, available at https://collaborase.com/wpdx. This public comment period will close March 15, so please share your feedback soon. It will only take a moment, and no registration is required. Click here to review the draft standard and share your feedback now.
Imagine a day in which your access to clean, drinkable water ceased and you could not shower or bathe properly and you had no one to help you. For more than 783 million people around the world, that day was today. In 2015, more than 2.5 billion people will also lack access to basic sanitation in the developing world.
A new initiative led by Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) is aiming to dramatically reduce those numbers, focusing specifically on women -- who often bear the brunt of the impact from lack of access to safe water; and in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa walk up to four hours per day, on average, to carry clean water back to their villages and families.
“As part of DRI’s Global Water Knowledge Campaign, this Initiative builds on more than 20 years of water research and training our scientists have done in West Africa,” said Dr. Stephen Wells, DRI President. “By raising support to provide women throughout these developing countries with access to adequate water sources and access to training we will ensure their family’s well-being and allow them more time to contribute to their villages.”
The DRI Sustainable Water Initiative is a unique, international collaboration with WaterAid, Water for People, and World Vision. Collaboratively, these three world renowned organizations currently have water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs in more than 41 countries. Since 1981, WaterAid has helped 21.2 million people gain access to safe water. In 2013, Water for People raised more than $14 million to support their “Everyone Forever” campaign, providing water and sanitation services in more than 15 countries. Currently, World Vision’s WASH programs reach one million beneficiaries per year.
“The knowledge and experience of these organizations working together (in the WASH sector) will be transformational for the regions being served,” said Charles Creigh, DRI Foundation Chair. “Through a generous challenge-grant investment from two long-time DRI Foundation leaders this global campaign plans to support DRI faculty and students helping to advance our knowledge of water related issues and improve people’s lives and well-being.”
Dr. Braimah Apambire, who will lead the new Initiative and serves as director of DRI’s Center for International Water and Sustainability, explained that funding will go directly to supporting provision of safe drinking water and basic sanitation; creating and implementing WASH education materials for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa; training of WASH staff; applied water research; and ensuring that WASH projects are sustainable and scalable in developing countries.
The impact of unsafe water, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene is felt around the world, with both human health and economic implications, Apambire explained.
In places like sub-Saharan Africa a significant percentage of the population is at risk of dying from preventable illnesses, many of which are linked to WASH issues. More than 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation - that's over 1,400 children per day. Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old in sub-Saharan Africa.
In economic terms, 5.6 billion productive work days are lost every year due to complications arising from water-related diseases and the burden of fetching water.
Helping to manage and raise awareness for the DRI Sustainable Water Initiative will be Global Impact, a well-known leader in growing global philanthropy. Global Impact works with approximately 450 public and private workplace giving campaigns to generate funding for an alliance of more than 120 international charities. Since 1956, Global Impact has generated more than $1.7 billion to help the world’s most vulnerable people.
“One organization working alone is not enough to make the sustainable difference that is needed in the WASH sector,” said Scott Jackson, President and CEO of Global Impact. “All of these stakeholders working together will help ensure access to clean water, which does more than save a woman’s life – it ensures her future.”
For more information about DRI’s Sustainable Water Initiative visit - https://dri-water.charity.org/
Editor’s Note: This post is authored by Cor Dietvorst, Programme Officer at IRC. In his piece, Cor discusses the monitoring requirements surrounding India’s Swachh Bharat program, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in October 2014 with the aim of ending open defecation in the country by 2019. He compares India’s sanitation monitoring initiative with other large-scale monitoring efforts with which IRC has been involved in Bangladesh and Indonesia. This post originally appeared here on the IRC blog.
According to some media the Indian government has unleashed “toilet police” or “toilet gestapo” into the country.1 In fact, the central government has instructed local officials to take photographs of new toilets to prove that they have not only been constructed but are also being used. If states don’t upload photos by February 2015, the water and sanitation ministry has threatened to withhold funding from a new national sanitation programme.2
Open defecation free by 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission on 2 October 2014. His aim is to attain a 100 percent open defecation free India by 2019. Since the launch, over half a million household toilets have been constructed.3
By implementing “real time monitoring” the government hopes it can correct past mistakes caused by ineffective monitoring and wasted investment in sanitation. The 2011 census revealed that 43% of government funded toilets were either “missing” or non-functional.4 Now the government wants to show that its investments in sanitation are delivering lasting results.
The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is appointing around two dozen additional staff including two joint secretaries and four directors to strengthen the implementation and monitoring of the Swachh Bharat Mission. An Expert Committee for innovative sanitation technologies and a national telephone helpline for rural water supply and sanitation are other new initiatives that will support the Mission.5
Local officials charged with monitoring toilet construction and use need to download an app on a mobile device. The app allows them to upload photos as well as the personal data and geo-coordinates of the beneficiaries to a public website. Progress is slow though: as of 14 January 2015, data of less than half a percent (2,383) of the newly constructed toilets has been recorded. Data collected before 2015 does not include toilet use.
How do other countries carry out large-scale monitoring?
Compared to examples of large-scale sanitation monitoring in Bangladesh and Indonesia, the toilet use indicators collected in India -- is the toilet in use, is it clean and is water available -- are rather limited.
The BRAC WASH programme in Bangladesh uses benchmark indicators developed by IRC for questions like: do all household members use toilets, do they use them at all times, and are there provisions for handwashing and pit emptying.6
In Indonesia IRC has helped design a monitoring system for the SHAW (Sanitation, Hygiene and Water) programme, where every three months 20,000 community volunteers visit more than 300,000 households. For SHAW monitoring is not merely an accountability tool as it is in India, but a way to motivate and encourage people to improve their sanitation facilities and hygiene behaviour.7
India's decision to track toilet use as part of its new monitoring initiative is a major step forward. From its neighbours, India can draw valuable lessons on how to monitor sanitation as a sustainable service that benefits all.
2 Letter to Principal Secretary/Secretaries in charge of Rural Sanitation all States and UTs. Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, 05 Dec 2014
3 Unused rural toilets to face public scrutiny, The Hindu, 01 Jan 2015
4 Tiwari, R. The case of the missing toilets. India Today, 02 Oct 2014. See also: Hueso, A. & Bell, B., 2013. An untold story of policy failure : the Total Sanitation Campaign in India. Water policy ; 15 (6), pp.1001–1017. DOI: 10.2166/wp.2013.032. and Hueso, A., 2014. The untold story of India's sanitation failure, Addendum. Community-Led Total Sanitation.org, 11 Mar 2014
5 Nationwide monitoring of use of toilets will be launched from January, 2015, PIB, 31 Dec 2014
6 IRC - Monitoring at scale in BRAC WASH
7 Baetings, E., 2014. How are you and how is your loo?
The investment by the USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance will fund the installation of more than ten thousand low-cost chlorine dispensers, providing clean water to an additional 3.2 million people by the end of the year. Launched in 2012 and supported by the humanitarian organization Mercy Corps, the alliance has committed $44.5 million over five years to scale up ten proven, cost-effective, and sustainable social ventures working to effect systems-level change in Africa.
In Uganda, just 10 percent of the population has access to piped water, and approximately twenty-three thousand people die of diarrheal diseases annually. Such diseases are among the leading causes of childhood death on the continent.
Evidence Action's chlorine dispensers are placed at local water sources to enable users to easily add a precise dose of chlorine to their water, making it safe to drink. Dispensers cost approximately 50 cents per user per year at scale, and Evidence Action finances operations through carbon credits it receives because its chlorine dispensers make it unnecessary for people to boil water using fossil fuels.
"USAID and Skoll Foundation Announce Joint Investment in Evidence Action for Clean Water in Uganda." Skoll Foundation Press Release 02/04/2015.
According to the company, women around the world spend a collective two hundred million hours a year collecting clean water for their families. The company’s Buy a Lady a Drink campaign aims to make clean water more accessible and promote awareness of the global water crisis by inviting consumers to purchase limited-edition chalices inspired by traditional handcrafted objects from three of the developing countries where Water.org operates, including textiles from India, baskets from Ethiopia, and pottery from Honduras. Proceeds from the campaign will help support the nonprofit organization.
In addition, Stella Artois and Water.org have enlisted a number of creative artists to produce films and photography for the campaign. They include Grammy Award-nominated directors Frederick Scott and Nicholas Jack Davies and photographer Chris Ozer, who traveled to India to film and photograph real stories of women who have been affected by the water crisis.
"Water.org’s current success shows we can make a difference in solving the water crisis," said Stella Artois global vice president Debora Koyama. "As a key ingredient in our beers, water is a natural resource Stella Artois aims to protect and preserve."
"Stella Artois and Water.org, With the Support of Co-Founders Matt Damon and Gary White, Launch “Buy a Lady a Drink” to Help Stop Women’s Journeys to Collect Water in the Developing World." Stella Artois Press Release 01/22/2015.
Learn how you can support coordinated data-driven decision making in the WASH sector. Join the Water Point Data Exchange for their webinar on the ongoing sector-wide efforts to support the sharing of water point data across diverse stakeholders in WASH.
The one hour webinar will take place next Thursday, February 5 at 11 AM ET. Click on the flyer below to learn more and register for the event.
Editor's Note: This guest blog post was authored by Shauna Curry, CEO of the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). In her post, Shauna highlights the capacity gap that exists in the WASH sector due to a shortage in skills and the scarcity of local water and sanitation professionals. She describes the central focus that CAWST has placed on human resources and capacity building for WASH and suggests a number of ways in which funders in the sector can work to narrow this gap.
Two recent reports by the International Water Association and UN-Water draw attention to a WASH capacity gap crisis.
These reports mark a major step forward to illustrate what many in the WASH sector have experienced first-hand: a shortage in the skills and number of local WASH sector workers undermines the success and sustainability of WASH interventions and stands in the way of universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
The first of the two reports was released in late September by the International Water Association, "An Avoidable Crisis: WASH Human Resource Capacity Gaps in 15 Developing Economies". More recently, the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report was released.
Millions of WASH practitioners are needed
The IWA report notes that the Millennium Development Goals sparked spending on WASH infrastructure, technological innovation and institutional reform. But human knowledge and skills have been left behind.
"This investment has not been accompanied by the necessary focus on the size, competencies and enabling environment for the human resource base needed to design, construct, operate and maintain such services" the report says.
The IWA study found that 787,200 trained water and sanitation professionals are needed, in 10 of the countries studied, to reach universal coverage. That sampling suggests that across the developing world, there is a shortage of skilled WASH practitioners that numbers well into the millions.
Beneath the capacity gap is a funding gap
Meanwhile, the latest GLAAS report illuminates the funding shortfall in addressing the WASH capacity gap, with less than one per cent of WASH aid commitments in 2012 directed at education and training.
We cannot expect to narrow the WASH capacity gap unless we address the funding gap. The lack of in-country expertise is a direct outcome of the chronic under-funding of WASH skills training.
Capacity-focused interventions drive action and innovation
Over the past 13 years, CAWST has exclusively focused on building the capacity of the WASH sector. We have seen first-hand the direct and immediate impact of providing WASH capacity-building services to over 800 WASH organizations in 68 countries. We have also seen a wide-spread multiplier effect of this strategy, as 3.3 million people have been trained by other organizations using our education and training materials.
Capacity development is a powerful tool to enable entrepreneurship – in the sense of taking initiative to respond to local needs and conditions. Providing practical knowledge and skills that project implementers and decision-makers can apply immediately increases WASH project quality and sustainability by developing the ability, confidence and motivation of practitioners to start, strengthen and grow projects. Such practical knowledge and skills can range from basic technical skills in point-of-use water treatment approaches and technologies, to hand pump repair, as well as softer skills such as building effective facilitation skills and WASH education program development.
When knowledge and skills reside locally, people take action in innovative ways, and train and mentor others.
Training isn't enough
Training activities are often seen as secondary, rather than being a core strategy to achieve results. Complicating the matter, the limited ability to evaluate the quality and impact of training has obscured the ineffectiveness of many WASH training efforts.
Over the past decade we have learnt that combining training with ongoing technical and implementation support, along with subsidies for organizations that can’t afford it, provides an "on-the-job" practical approach to capacity building. Ongoing technical support can be anything from a phone call, Skype conversation or email to discuss technology options and implementation hurdles, to a multi-day onsite visit to improve project monitoring, among other forms of support.
Providing ongoing coaching, mentoring and professional development supports implementers as needed at each stage of their development and helps them overcome challenges.
Capacity development must be measured at the outcome level, consistently year after year
Designing effective training and education programs is difficult. Evaluating their impact is even harder, which may be one of the reasons funders shy away from supporting this much needed arena. CAWST suggests measuring what people do with the training, not how many people are trained.
In recent studies undertaken by CAWST, Cambridge and Cranfield of over 100 WASH capacity building organizations, only 1/3 reported capacity building results. For those who report, the majority of the results are at the output level, rather than at the outcome level. CAWST’s key performance metric is "number of people with safe water" (vs "number of people trained"). This metric keeps CAWST focused on ensuring that knowledge and skills reside locally, and that our capacity development activities result in action.
We must also recognize that the impact of building capacity often goes well beyond short term outcomes as people are empowered, take their skills to the next project and pass on their knowledge to others.
Funders can lead the way
WASH funders have the potential to be game-changers in narrowing the capacity gap. As we’ve seen with the sanitation sector, which has received renewed focus and increased funding in recent years, WASH funders can build similar momentum to take on the capacity gap.
What can funders do to close the gap?
- Digest and understand the data. The "capacity gap" can seem harder to define and address than infrastructure, but the growing body of evidence is showing that the WASH capacity gap will continue to hamper WASH progress until we tackle it head-on.
- Focus on skills and knowledge, alongside infrastructure, that will increase local capability to identify, implement and sustain WASH solutions that are appropriate to the local context.
- See the WASH capacity gap as an area where funders can lead, and do so proudly.
- Look for and replicate capacity development approaches that create enabling environments for entrepreneurship, innovation and sustained impact at the scale needed.
The IWA and GLAAS reports draw attention to the large capacity gap and are a call to action to address the need. They illustrate the crisis, but also provide strategic recommendations for our sector. Without a focus on knowledge and skills, WASH infrastructure and service delivery will fail.
Launched as part of last month’s celebrations for World Toilet Day, the Toilet Board Coalition is a business-led initiative that aims to develop commercially scalable solutions in response to the global sanitation crisis.
Initiated by Unilever in 2012, the Toilet Board Coalition brings together a number of businesses, government agencies, and other WASH organizations. In addition to Unilever, Coalition members from the business sector include Kimberly Clark, LIXIL, and Firmenich, as well as other funders and NGOs such as Stone Family Foundation, WaterAid, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme.
The Toilet Board Coalition brings together the technologies, expertise, and resources of its diverse membership to identify, develop, and scale market-based solutions in sanitation.
One pilot business model already supported by the Coalition is the Clean Team project, based in Ghana. The project, which is run by WSUP and uses toilets designed by Unilever, offers fee-based waste removal services that provide households with a cheap and clean alternative to public toilets while supporting the supply-side structure through the employment of sales and maintenance staff.
“Toilet Board Coalition develops initiatives to fight the sanitation crisis.” Unilever Press Release 11/19/2014.
Tim Smedley. “World Toilet Day: business steps in to tackle open defecation with affordable toilets.” Guardian 11/19/2014.
Global efforts to provide improved water and sanitation for all are gaining momentum, but serious gaps in funding continue to hamper progress, according to a new report from the World Health Organization on behalf of UN-Water.
The UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS 2014), published biannually, presents data from 94 countries and 23 external support agencies. It offers a comprehensive analysis of strengths and challenges in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) provision within and across countries.
“Water and sanitation are essential to human health. Political commitment to ensure universal access to these vital services is at an all-time high,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director of the WHO Department of Public Health and the Environment. “International aid for the sector is on the rise. But we continue to see major financial gaps at the country level, particularly in rural areas.”
Strengthened political commitment
Two thirds of the 94 countries surveyed recognized drinking-water and sanitation as a universal human right in national legislation. More than 80% reported having national policies in place for drinking-water and sanitation, and more than 75% have policies for hygiene.
This strengthened political commitment at national levels is reflected in global discussions around the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Universal and equitable access to water, sanitation and hygiene have been proposed as global targets by the Member State working group tasked with developing the SDGs.
“Now is the time to act,” says Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water and Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization. “We may not know yet what the post-2015 sustainable development agenda will look like. But we do know that water and sanitation must be clear priorities if we are to create a future that allows everyone to live healthy, prosperous and dignified lives.”
Increased aid, better targeting of resources
International aid for water and sanitation is on the rise: According to the report, financial commitments for WASH increased by 30% between 2010 and 2012—from US $8.3 billion to $10.9 billion.
Aid commitments are increasingly targeted to underserved regions, notably sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and South-eastern Asia. GLAAS 2014 also highlights the strengthened targeting of WASH resources for the poor: more than 75% of countries reported having specific measures in their national plans to provide water and sanitation for low-income populations.
“For our partners, especially at country level, GLAAS is key for achieving sound, evidence-based decision-making,” says President John Agyekum Kufuor, Chair of Sanitation and Water for All. “The report guides governments in knowing where progress in WASH is being made and where more resources need to be allocated.”
Still major gaps
Despite these gains, 2.5 billion men, women and children around the world lack access to basic sanitation services. About 1 billion people continue to practice open defecation. An additional 748 million people do not have ready access to an improved source of drinking-water. And hundreds of millions of people live without clean water and soap to wash their hands, facilitating the spread of diarrhoeal disease, the second leading cause of death among children under five.
Many other water-borne diseases, such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis, are prone to explosive outbreaks. Poor sanitation and hygiene can also lead to debilitating diseases affecting scores of people in the developing world, like intestinal worms, blinding trachoma and schistosomiasis.
The report cites a number of key challenges, including:
- Insufficient financing: Though international aid for the WASH sector has increased, national funding needs continue to outweigh available resources. Eighty per cent (80%) of countries reported that current levels of financing are insufficient to meet their targets for drinking-water and sanitation.
- Funding gap in rural areas: While a vast majority of people who lack access to basic sanitation live in rural areas, the bulk of financing continues to benefit urban residents. Expenditures for rural sanitation comprise less than 10% of total WASH financing.
- Weak national capacity to execute WASH plans: Despite strong political support for universal access to water and sanitation, fewer than one-third of the countries surveyed for this report have national WASH plans that are being fully implemented, funded and regularly reviewed.
- Critical gaps in monitoring: Reliable data is vital to identify gaps in access to WASH services and inform policy decisions. Though many countries have WASH monitoring frameworks in place, a majority reported inconsistent or fragmented gathering of data and weak capacity for analysis.
- Neglect for WASH in schools, health facilities: Water and sanitation services in schools can ensure that children, especially girls, stay in school and learn lifelong hygiene habits. In health clinics, WASH services ensure the privacy and safety of patients, particularly expectant mothers during delivery, and are essential to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks. Yet, GLAAS data indicates that less than 30% of surveyed countries have national WASH plans for institutional settings that were being fully implemented, funded and regularly reviewed.
The GLAAS report and related press materials (press release, fact sheet and frequently asked questions) are available online here.
See a related blog post by John Oldfield, CEO of WASH Advocates, here.
“UN reveals major gaps in water and sanitation – especially in rural areas.” World Health Organization, UN-Water Press Release 11/19/2014.
We’re pleased to share that a recently released report from New Philanthropy Capital recognized WASHfunders.org as a top innovation in global philanthropy. The report, 10 Innovations in Global Philanthropy, praises the information on funding flows available through WASHfunders’ mapping tool and notes that the site reflects the broader push for open data in the philanthropic sector.
WASHfunders was also selected as the ‘Experts’ Top Pick’ among the innovations featured within the report, with Cath Tillotson of Scorpio Partnership commenting that, “If you define innovation as doing something differently, bigger or better, WASHfunders ticks all the boxes.”
WASHfunders and other innovations featured in the report will be discussed on a webinar to be held Wednesday, November 12th. Registration information and additional details are available here.
NPC’s report has been covered widely in philanthropic circles. Additional coverage includes an interview with WASHfunders’ lead, Seema Shah, on Philanthropy Age, a write up on Pro Bono Australia, and a mention on Health Affairs. In August, our Twitter feed was also cited as a top ten Twitter influencer in water and development by the Guardian.
We’re honored to receive the recognition and understand that the value of WASHfunders ultimately depends on our engagement with -- and usefulness to -- those working in the WASH sector! To contribute case studies, suggest recommended reading for the Knowledge Center, or submit a guest blog, contact us as email@example.com.