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Editor's Note: Nigeria is one of the world’s five biggest contributors to the problem of open defecation, despite ongoing government efforts. In this post, Erin Flynn, Research Manager at WaterAid, looks at the country’s sanitation problem and whether the sanitation ladder will help Nigeria reach its ambitious targets. This post was originally featured on WaterAid's blog. You can find the original post here.

The bottom of the ladder

Felicity runs a successful dress-making business in Nigeria’s Enugu state. She first set foot on the sanitation ladder in 2012, when her village was ‘triggered’, or motivated, through Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). The approach, which helps communities assess their sanitation situation, resulted in her husband building a basic pit latrine for their family home.

Although their building a latrine is considered a success in terms of CLTS, Felicity and her family are embarrassed by this basic structure, and inform visitors that the toilet is not finished, directing them instead to the bush. The water-based toilet the family dreams of would cost too much.

Left: Felicity’s latrine. Right: an example of a modern, aesthetically pleasing toilet to which Felicity and others in Nigeria aspire. Photo Credit: WaterAid/Jeff Chapin

Left: Felicity’s latrine. Right: an example of a modern, aesthetically pleasing toilet to which Felicity and others in Nigeria aspire. Photo Credit: WaterAid/Jeff Chapin

Felicity’s story is not uncommon. Since 2004, the Nigerian Government has used CLTS to move communities up the sanitation ladder, starting, if necessary, from the ‘cat’ method of dig and bury, or a basic pit latrine, moving up to a more expensive and sophisticated toilet. CLTS is a key component of the UK Department for International Development's sanitation, hygiene and water in Nigeria projects (SHAWN 1 & 2 ). Over the years WaterAid has played a significant role in the use and development of CLTS in Nigeria and beyond, including running a three country study in 2009.

Reaching the top

Surprisingly, despite the widespread use of CLTS, robust and reliable evidence in support of it in Nigeria and beyond is still relatively sparse.

WaterAid is continuing to build a body of evidence in Nigeria, through the Sustainable Total Sanitation (STS) project in Ekiti, Enugu and Jigawa states. The data and findings from formative research in 2014 gave valuable insight into common sanitation beliefs, practices and service availability. The findings exposed much about the sanitation aspirations of households in these states, like Felicity’s, who are upwardly mobile and exposed to urban life.

Importantly, the findings showed:

  • Open defecation is not safe or convenient and is difficult for sick and older people… 
    …but households aren’t ashamed to practice open defecation – it is better than starting at the bottom of the ladder, using a poor-quality toilet. A low-quality toilet is an embarrassment for the family. 
  • Like Felicity and her husband, people have a strong desire for an ‘ideal’ water-based toilet – the last rung on the sanitation ladder. Such a toilet is easily cleaned, connected to modern urban life and aesthetically pleasing… 
    …but this is financially out of reach, costing between 44 and 77% of an average family’s annual income.  
  • There is agreement that toilets result in happier and healthier households, thanks partly to approaches like CLTS… 
    …but these benefits are believed to decrease if the toilet is low quality.  
  • Households have a fairly accurate understanding of the costs involved in constructing an ideal toilet (around £260)… 
    …but even when a household can afford a toilet, the process is long and involves several negotiations with different suppliers.
Local business owner, Emeka, with a prototype of the new toilet. Enugu, Nigeria. Photo Credit: WaterAid/Nneka Akwunwa

Local business owner, Emeka, with a prototype of the new toilet. Enugu, Nigeria. Photo Credit: WaterAid/Nneka Akwunwa

Giving households a step up

Nigeria is one of the world’s five biggest contributors to the problem of open defecation, with over 45 million Nigerians currently practising it. This situation is made worse by the country’s declining sanitation coverage – based on current trends, the new Global target of universal coverage will not be reached by 2030.

Successive Nigerian governments have made attempts to improve the country’s sanitation practices. In August this year, Ebonyi State Government made it illegal to defecate in the open (creation of such a law is also in progress in Yobe State) and Akwa Ibom State Government declared a “war against indiscriminate disposal of waste”. It is unclear what the implications of such laws will be in Nigeria; however, a recent study by WaterAid on the Asian Tigers highlighted the importance of political leadership, and changes in public health and hygiene policies, for resolving the issue.

Sanitation marketing

Building on the insights we have gained about household aspirations and purchasing hurdles, the STS project is supporting local businesses to develop and sell high-quality, affordable and desirable toilets. Through the formative research and iterative testing of prototypes with businesses we have developed a new water-based toilet costing an estimated £85.

WaterAid have also supported the improvement of marketing and sales models to remove some of the purchasing burdens from households. Although not new to the sector, this market-based approach will be new to Nigeria. Delivered alongside CLTS and social marketing messages which reflect the pride and status associated with owning and using a good-quality toilet, we expect the approach to lead to increased toilet coverage and use.

Under the STS, sanitation marketing and CLTS will be rigorously evaluated to help us understand how effective each approach is, both independently and combined. Although the study’s final results are not expected until 2016, it’s already clear that, in order to reverse the current trend and accelerate progress towards 2030 targets, Nigeria will need to rapidly introduce complimentary sanitation approaches that respond to the large-scale problem at hand.

The new approaches must respond to the aspirations of households, significantly reduce the cost and complexity of purchasing a hygienic (and desirable!) toilet and ensure financial mechanisms are available for the poorest. With these approaches in place, maybe Nigeria won’t need a ladder to reach it's ambitious sanitation targets after all.

A Glimmer of Hope in Austin, Texas, has announced a $7 million grant from the IKEA Foundation in support of a five-year anti-poverty initiative in Ethiopia.

The grant will support the organization's efforts to provide clean water, education, health care, and microfinance opportunities in a rural Ethiopian community of seventy thousand people. The initiative is expected to play a significant role, particularly for women and children, in advancing poverty-reduction efforts in the East African country.

"We are very impressed by the integrated community development model that Glimmer has developed over the past fifteen years," said IKEA Foundation CEO Per Heggenes. "Through our partnership, we expect great impact and better opportunities for thousands of children, while helping communities become stronger and better able to overcome the harsh conditions of rural life."

Source: "IKEA Foundation Awards $7 Million to a Glimmer of Hope." A Glimmer of Hope Press Release 10/21/2015.

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.

Muna Wehbe, CEO of the Stars Foundation

Editor’s Note: This guest blog was authored by Muna Wehbe, CEO of the UK-based Stars Foundation. In the piece, Muna describes the foundation’s Impact Awards, a cornerstone of its programming, and explains why the award categories were expanded this year to recognize local organizations that have made an impact on the lives of children through interventions in WASH.

 At the Stars Foundation, we have spent the last 12 years identifying and investing in exceptional organizations working to improve the lives of disadvantaged children. Since 2007, we have focused our energy on the annual Impact Awards – a program that recognizes and rewards outstanding local organizations operating in the countries with the highest rates of under-five mortality.

Initially, we only accepted applications from local charities in Africa, but gradually expanded to the Middle East and Asia-Pacific by 2010. Winners were awarded for both their effective management and impact on the lives of children in one of three categories: Health, Education or Protection.

Using this model, we have established relationships with some of the best local organizations in the developing world; organizations that are embedded in their communities, responding to local needs with innovative and effective development programs that, admittedly, are always more integrated than the reductive category headlines above would have you believe.

This was certainly true for Restless Development Nepal and Action for Integrated Sustainable Development Association (AISDA) in Ethiopia. While they were ostensibly awarded for their impacts in education and health respectively, a large proportion of their development interventions involved water — improving access to it, and raising awareness of the hygiene and sanitation issues that surround it.

This is symptomatic of many of our local partners.

The connections between health, education and water are undeniable. And after a comprehensive strategic review last year, in which we interrogated our proxy measure for need — UNICEF’s under-five mortality index (PDF) — it was clear how crucial improving water, sanitation and hygiene is to child survival, and to effecting lasting impact at scale. Unsafe or inaccessible water and poor sanitation and hygiene contribute significantly to the number of preventable child deaths each year.

But our Awards program did not reflect that.

So, in recognition of its enormous impact on child survival, Stars will be awarding its first two Impact Awards in the WASH category this year, no longer conflating it with health or education.

Marketing to, assessing and awarding in a new category has not been without its challenges.

In every category of the Impact Awards, we remain fairly agnostic about the specific interventions themselves, and instead focus on the overall impact the organization is having on the lives of children, as well as evaluate its management and governance practices. 

And while we’re thrilled with the results of the 2013 Awards, we recognize additional adjustments to the process may be needed as the level of technical expertise associated with assessing interventions in the WASH sector seem to be even more pronounced than in other categories.

We cannot reveal the names of the inaugural Stars Impact Award winners in WASH just yet (they will be announced at a ceremony in mid-December and we’ll post the winners here as well). But we can disclose that, unsurprisingly, local organizations working to improve the lives of children do not ever focus on just one development issue in isolation. Rather, they employ a range of projects and interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of their communities’ most vulnerable members.

That is the strength of local organizations. And we’re delighted that adapting our award strategy accordingly with the addition of the WASH category means we can now support even more of them.

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has announced a search for a senior program officer for its International Program/Safe Water Initiative. The person selected for this position will provide leadership in international grantmaking activities and projects and will have primary responsibility for the Foundation’s Safe Water initiative. This person is a key member of the international program team and reports to the director, International Programs. 

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation works to improve the well-being of the ultra poor in targeted developing countries by supporting sustainable access to safe water. The Foundation focuses its grantmaking on the rural poor in regions of Africa, Mexico, and India with low water access and high incidence of water-related diseases. Over the past two decades the Foundation has delivered more than $90 million in grant funds to provide more than 2 million people with WASH services in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and water-stressed regions of India and Mexico. 

Candidate requirements include: 

  • graduate degree in public health, public policy, social welfare, or a related field;
  • demonstrated expertise and work experience in international water-related issues at program, research, and public policy levels;
  • familiarity with water, sanitation, and hygiene policy at global, federal, state, and local levels;
  • experience in strategic planning and implementation, and in coordinating public/private efforts for long-term, systemic social impact; and
  • a minimum of 10 years of relevant experience in grantmaking and/or program development/management.  

A passion for, and a commitment to, the Foundation's mission and international program priority areas are essential. Candidates must be legally authorized to work in the United States.  

A complete job description can be found here. Interested applicants should send a resume, cover letter, and salary information by email to martha@marthamontagbrown.com

Jack Sim, Founder of the World Toilet Organization

Founder of the World Toilet Organization Jack Sim says that on the African continent there has been some progress in terms of the community-led total sanitation approach. Credit: Meropa Communications

Editor’s Note: This guest blog was authored by Fatima Asmal-Motala for the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency. Fatima interviews Jack Sim, the founder of the World Toilet Organization (WTO), about the state of sanitation in Africa and the strategies needed to improve upon it. A version of this post originally appeared here. 

When the founder of the World Toilet Organization, Jack Sim, turned 40, he literally began counting how many more days he had to live and felt a sense of urgency to do meaningful things with the remainder of his life.

“Can you imagine a person coming into this world and spending his life only helping himself? When this person dies, his life has had no meaning, so why did he bother coming here?” he asks.

A successful businessman, Sim turned his attention to an area which he felt was severely neglected.

“The toilet was completely neglected in Singapore (his home country). I realised it was the same all over the world. People felt very embarrassed. Now I’ve broken the taboo and legitimised the subject through 12 years of effective advocacy. I am proud to say I have broken the taboo surrounding the subject of sanitation.”

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Why is good sanitation so important?

To grow a country, you need healthy people. You’d rather prevent people from being sick than cure them once they’re sick. Toilets are the cheapest preventative medicine in the world.

Proper sanitation, together with hand washing with soap, will reduce illness by 50 to 80 percent. A lot of illness — diarrhoea, worms and other diseases — are basically due to the spread of pathogens from the feces, transmission paths through the fingers, the feet, the flies and the fluid. If you can break this, people can be healthy.

We need covered toilets which flies cannot reach, people cannot step on, and rain cannot wash away and spread, as well as a place to wash the hands. To achieve this we need education — why is a toilet good for you — to make it a trend rather than a prescription. If it’s fashion, people will follow.

Toilets also need owners. Without an owner it will become dysfunctional very quickly. If someone buys a toilet, he feels he owns it. If he doesn’t own it, a sense of ownership has to be cultivated. People have to be trained as cleaners and as security personnel.

If you have no toilets, you get unhappy, unhealthy people — as a result of which you have low productivity, and low income. You then have to incur expenditure due to illnesses and this can break subsistence survival, creating a poverty cycle, which becomes a political problem. Good sanitation can prevent all these time bombs.

What progress has been made on the African continent in terms of sanitation?

The good news is that Africa is currently experiencing one of its most peaceful periods in recent history. Because of that, its economic growth is on average faster than even the Asian growth rate. When people have a little bit more money, they have higher expectations. So the demand for toilets is easier to create.

On the African continent there has been some progress in terms of the community-led total sanitation approach which triggers people to dig their own holes, thereby encouraging them to have their own rudimentary toilets.

Through this approach, people realise the need for a proper toilet quickly. They start by digging a hole and going to a fixed place to defecate. This is already a big change of behaviour — they suddenly feel disciplined; they feel the need to be private, to protect their neighbours.

So the first phase is just to go to a fixed place, and to cover the hole. It’s very rudimentary, but it’s better than being outside, where women can get molested.

In the second phase, people are encouraged to buy toilets, which cost between 50 to 100 dollars. Once they own them, jealousy and comparisons set in — and nobody likes to be looked down upon.

How high is that “demand” currently in Africa?

What we need to do is to move the toilet to a higher level on the list of personal priorities — as high as the cell phone. For most people on the continent, the priority has been a television set, then a cell phone, but not a toilet. What we need to do is to make it fashionable to own a toilet — to convey the message that if you don’t have a toilet, you’re living in an animal state. People don’t want to be classed as living in an animal state.

What about the supply side — how easy is it for an individual to access a toilet?

We have to make toilets available either by the government, or affordable for people to buy, with on-site treatment, safe sanitation, and maintenance cleaners who are also professionally trained as technicians. And we also have to provide education for the community to care for their toilets so they can continue to enjoy using them. In other words, on the supply side, the effort requires a combination of people, the government and the private sector.

What about South Africa? Has any progress been made here?

A little bit. But the growth of informal settlements is creating a lot of difficulties, not just in terms of provision of toilets, but also where to put them. You can’t put a permanent structure on illegal land. Yet people need toilets. There needs to be some legal policy reform that allows a permanent toilet.

Why should it be mobile? Sometimes a mobile toilet is too far away to comfortably access. Also people are practising open defecation — so there’s a habit change barrier. They may ask, why should they use toilets which are not well-maintained, which are dirty and smelly and full and which can’t even be used?

The government is also not fast enough in terms of provision, but I think they are interested in speeding up the programme because they know that you can’t have a nation of sick people.

How is the World Toilet Organization involved in improving sanitation in Africa? 

We have partnered with Unilever to launch an academy. We are going to go to schools and encourage children to start using toilets earlier; when they use toilets at school, they’ll promote usage at home.

Supply of toilets on the African continent has not caught up with demand. This academy will train people to manufacture toilets in very small factories, thereby creating businessmen who are making affordable products at a profit, selling to their own communities.

What happens is that sanitation now goes beyond health and hygiene. When a woman has an income, she has more power at home; she can use her money wisely for the family; she has a bigger say when talking to her mother-in-law and husband.

So we’re creating gender equality and sustainability. We did very well in Cambodia. In three years 24,000 toilets were manufactured, generating 48,000 dollars for sales agents. We look forward to the day every person everywhere has access to a clean safe toilet at any time they need to go.

African Ministers' Council on Water

The African Ministers' Council on Water, an initiative of the African Union, has announced a three-year, $2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build its capacity for sanitation policy development, monitoring and evaluation coverage, and WASH-related advocacy across the continent.

Awarded through the foundation's global development program, the grant will be used to provide training and technical assistance in four countries working to develop and adopt effective sanitation and hygiene policies and plans; organize the fourth AfricaSan conference as a mechanism for tracking progress, refining targets, and enabling peer support and advocacy for implementation of the 2008 eThekwini Declaration and AfricaSan Action Plan; and help countries fulfill their obligations to report to the AU.

"We face tremendous challenges of diminishing access to clean water and safe sanitation," said AMCOW executive secretary Bai Mass Taal. "AMCOW is committed to working with partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce this scourge and improve access to safe sanitation, thereby achieving our overall goal of decreasing poverty and disease in the continent."

Source: “African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) Gets US$2 Million Grant to Improve Sanitation Coverage in Africa.” African Ministers' Council on Water Press Release 12/18/12.

School girl from Jogimara, Nepal, washing her hands at a Restless Development Nepal water supply. (2011 Asia-Pacific Health Award Winner) Credit: Kristian Buus

School girl from Jogimara, Nepal, washing her hands at a Restless Development Nepal water supply. (2011 Asia-Pacific Health Award Winner) Credit: Kristian Buus

Editor’s Note: The STARS Foundation is a London-based organization that provides grants to nonprofits working with disadvantaged children. The Foundation is now accepting applications for their 2013 Impact Awards, including their new WASH category, which recognizes the impact that WASH solutions can have on improving the well-being of children.     

The STARS Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of the 2013 STARS Impact Awards recognizing outstanding organizations that achieve excellence in the provision of services to disadvantaged children.

In response to a growing demand for flexible funding, STARS invites NGOs to apply for up to 16 Impact Awards and, for the first time, has added a new category — Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) — due to the impact that improvements in this area can have on child survival and well-being.

Organizations working with children in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, or the Pacific are invited to apply.

The main Impact Award will be given to four winners per region — one in each of the following categories: Health, Education, Protection, and WASH. Winners will each receive $100,000 of unrestricted funding together with a bespoke package of consultancy, PR, and media support. Each organization will also benefit from the opportunity to work together with STARS for up to one year to promote their plans to other donors and seek to raise additional funding.

In addition to these main Impact Awards, smaller awards of different sizes will be made at the discretion of STARS’ board of trustees.

To find information regarding the application process, the eligibility criteria, and to apply online, please visit the Foundation's web site.

The closing date for applications is 1PM GMT Monday, November 12, 2012.

Coca-Cola Commits $3.5 Million to United States Water Partnership

The Coca-Cola Company has announced a $3.5 million commitment to the United States Water Partnership, a public-private partnership launched on World Water Day 2012 by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Announced at the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil, the partnership is designed to unite American expertise, knowledge, and resources and mobilize those assets to address global water challenges, with a focus on the developing world. Awarded through the company's Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), the funding will support water access programs in countries with the most significant needs, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Somaliland. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola will contribute $3 million toward a wide range of sustainable water access activities in those countries, including efforts to expand water access in informal urban settlements and in hospitals and promote multiple uses of water that empower women.

The remaining $500,000 will support USWP's efforts to transfer additional resources to African countries characterized as high-need in terms of access to clean water and sanitation. USWP also will make learnings from the RAIN initiative available to the global water sector.

"Access to safe water is essential for our company and our world," said Coca-Cola chief sustainability officer Bea Perez. "The sustainability of water resources is a top priority at the Coca-Cola Company. We are honored to support the USWP while being a catalyst for sustainable water access solutions in Africa."

Source: “The Coca-Cola Company Commits $3.5 Million to U.S. Water Partnership.” Coca-Cola Company Press Release 6/21/12.

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