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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!

Hanna Woodburn, Deputy Secretariat Director for the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing

Editor’s Note: This guest blog post is authored by Hanna Woodburn, Deputy Secretariat Director for the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing. In her post, Hanna discusses the importance of incorporating targets and indicators on hygiene, a critical but often overlooked area, into the post-2015 development agenda under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She points out that, while the proposed goal for water under the SDGs is a step in the right direction, there is a need to develop global level indicators that more accurately assess progress on hygiene.

Some of the world’s greatest development challenges have the simplest solutions. If you are reading this blog, you likely know the facts about water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). You probably know that diarrhea and pneumonia are the top killers of children under the age of five, and that WASH can make a big difference in saving these lives. You might be able to cite statistics about how many days of school children miss due to diarrhea (272 million per year, in case you were wondering), or be able to describe the impact that a lack of facilities have on menstruating girls’ education.

However, did you know that you can and should be involved in ensuring that WASH is an integral component of the Post-2015 development agenda?

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established in 2000, represented a major shift in the way in which the global community rallied against some of the world’s greatest economic and development challenges. Many successes born out of the MDGs are hard to ignore. Sources of improved drinking water became available for 2.3 billion people. Major progress was made in the fight against child mortality, with the mortality rate for children under the age of five dropping from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 in 2012. Between 2000 and 2012, primary school enrollment increased from 83 percent to 90 percent in developing regions.

And yet, critical goals remain off-target, particularly that of sanitation. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the global community is currently debating, represent an opportunity to continue the work that began under the MDGs, but the SDGs must also be used to address gaps in the goals, and a major oversight in terms of WASH was the absence of hygiene.

This must not occur again. Hygiene undergirds success in a myriad of areas, including reducing under five mortality, education, nutrition, gender equity, and more. And of course it is an essential counterpart to water and sanitation.

Despite its importance, hygiene is far too often overlooked, as we saw in the MDG era. And, as the 2014 Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) Report found, hygiene is also largely ignored at the country level, with only 19 of the 93 countries surveyed having an approved, funded, implemented, and reviewed national hygiene policy. Likewise, only 18 countries had national hygiene policies in schools and healthcare centers that fulfilled the same requirements.

The GLAAS report confirms that lack of investment in hygiene is a serious barrier to progress in international development, and that there are inequities in access to proper handwashing facilities. Knowing these shortcomings exist, however, is very different than taking action to address them, but with the United Nations’ work on developing global SDGs, the international community faces a valuable juncture wherein water, sanitation, and hygiene can be prioritized.

The proposed Water Goal (Goal 6) is a step in the right direction, and an indicator addressing water, sanitation, and hygiene is included under the goal, presently. However, this is not enough to guarantee that WASH under the SDGs will be adequately measured and prioritized. Rather, water, sanitation, and hygiene must be included as mandatory, global level indicators. These indicators should address not just the availability of the critical hardware and behavioural promotion to encourage their use at the household level, but also at important public locations, such as schools and healthcare centers.

Given the importance of hygiene, the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing has taken a leading role in advocating for hygiene at the global level. We encourage you to download our hygiene advocacy toolkit and join us in our advocacy efforts.

Without proper investment, measurement, and prioritization of WASH, the global community is missing an important opportunity to improve the health and lives of billions of babies, children, and adults around the world. The global community has an opportunity to change this. Everyone, young or old, rich or poor, should have access to these life-saving resources by the year 2030. 

WASH in the Aftermath of the Nepal Earthquake

As efforts shift from rescue to relief in the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Nepal, pledges of aid from individuals, foundations, and others are growing steadily while logistical challenges threaten to delay the response.

An immediate priority for the WASH sector is to provide access to water, while longer term recovery will involve building infrastructure for safe water and sanitation. For those interested in supporting WASH-related relief and recovery efforts, we’ve pulled together some resources:

  • The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing has compiled a list of documents for WASH practitioners in Nepal responding to the earthquake, such as the World Health Organization’s Rapid Needs Assessment tool.
  • The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) is producing regular situation reports that provide an update on the humanitarian response in Nepal. According to UN OCHA, the earthquake has left 4.2 million people in need of WASH services.
  • WASHfunders’ funding map pulls together foundation grants data, reporting on bilateral and multilateral funding, as well as social and economic indicators. A quick look at grants data in Nepal shows that a number of WASH organizations are already working on the ground in the country, including WaterAid, Splash, ANSAB, and the Environment & Public Health Organization, among others.

And if you’re interested in learning more about foundation engagement in disasters more generally, read the 2014 report produced by Foundation Center and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy.

John Sauer, Senior Technical Advisor for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at Population Services International (PSI)

Editor’s Note: This guest blog post was authored by John Sauer, Senior Technical Advisor for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at Population Services International (PSI). In his piece, John lauds the growing appreciation among WASH practitioners for market-based, holistic approaches to challenges in the sector, but also notes that this enthusiasm has been slow to translate into action. He lists several reasons for this sluggish adoption and describes what PSI is doing to apply the principles of market development to its projects on the ground.

With the excitement and buzz of World Water Day behind us I’m left both inspired and concerned. I’m inspired because there is a growing understanding by WASH professionals that it will take market development and systemic change to truly solve the problem. These methods look overall at what is working and not working in terms of WASH services for populations at risk across value chains and within the market system, and then, based on that analysis, develop targeted interventions with pro-poor innovations to make markets work. What is also exciting is the impact that adopting and implementing these approaches might have on the development sector in general.

What is concerning is that I still only see a handful of WASH projects and organizations fully focused on market development and systemic change. In other words there is a lot of talk but no action. Why?

I think there are a few reasons that I hope will change quickly for the sake of WASH and for development overall.

1)    WASH players are still learning how to do market development

While there have been some great thought pieces written recently about why market development approaches to WASH are critical to success, very few projects are modeling and testing these approaches. We need more players involved with market development approaches. We need more UN agencies, donors, foundations and governments asking for and demanding market development approaches to WASH programs. NGOs and other players should do market development systematically, learn from implementation (through state-of-the-art monitoring and evaluation), and share their findings with the WASH sector, as well as the wider community of practice. These findings should include real examples of what works and what doesn’t.

Fortunately for the WASH sector this energy for exploring market development comes at a time when the wider market development community (traditionally in the agriculture sector) is actively compiling and publishing practitioner resources. The market development community is also trying to get wider adoption from the health sector, in particular WASH.

2)    Funders are still learning how to fund market development

Funders need evidence to drive their funding decisions (rightfully so), and market development work in WASH is in its early days. But we also know that traditional programming focused only on the number of boreholes installed or toilets constructed does not yield transformative change and is often unsustainable. And market development is also a field with some serious discipline and evidence-based thinking behind it (driven by DCED, BEAM Exchange and others). Donors looking to increase their impact should seriously consider funding new market development approaches, so long as those approaches have a rigorous evaluation process tied to them.

3)    Market Development ≠ Marketing

Make no mistake; marketing is an important part of market development. Market development, though, is much wider and looks at understanding the total market as it is now and its potential for sustainable growth. It includes but goes beyond enterprise level support, as market failures will be at other levels too, especially in sanitation.

As for action, I’ve just joined PSI as Senior Technical Advisor for its WASH program and a primary driver for my move here was my new employers’ commitment to market development approaches in health.  Recently, PSI has been adopting market development work into WASH, and sanitation particularly, and plans to continue to expand this work globally.

One of the programs I’m most excited about is a market development program we’ve just launched with USAID funding in West Africa (Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, and Ghana) to improve sanitation and fecal sludge management services for a projected one million people. The program, called Sanitation Service Delivery, involves partners PATH and WSUP, and will support interventions based on a market landscape and analysis in product and service design, business model development, government partnerships, and demand- and supply-side financing. There is also a strong component focused on shared learning that starts with this blog and that will continue in a variety of channels.

So learn with us and follow our progress as we build the evidence that market-based solutions in WASH work. In doing so, we hope to prompt those who are still skeptical to action as well. 

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