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.
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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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.
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.
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, 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.