Universal access to sanitation & hygiene services

March 2017

News

By 2030, the world has committed to achieving access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations. While mainstream sanitation and hygiene approaches are making progress, achieving this equitably and reaching 'the last mile' amidst rapidly changing socio-economic conditions and growing inequalities has proven one of the stickiest problems of this decade. In a new Dgroup discussion that ran from 30 March to 20 April 2017, we discussed what works in universal access and which groups are still to be adequately or equitably reached by current service delivery models, particularly in areas where sanitation coverage is increasing.

This discussion brought together government partners, practitioners and researchers to exchange ideas and deepen our understanding about current sector experience and evidence across the breadth of possible approaches – from tailoring gender and social inclusive strategies to targeting financial mechanisms and incentives. It engaged participants in reflecting on the pathways of services increasing access and use for all, which mechanisms can work at which stage and what could be possible alternatives for doing things differently.

Within SNV's Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) programme, for example, analysis of annual household survey data by Emory University across 11 countries in 2016 highlighted that while the sanitation and hygiene approach was successful in increasing access and usage of improved latrines - including amongst the poorest quintile, overall some demographic groups were less likely to have access than others. These groups were households with low socio-economic status, female headed households, and people living with disabilities.

While an approach to introduce a sanitation technology or practice may reach a peak uptake for the majority and become mainstream, after a period there will be a final group, ‘the last mile’, who may be the last to adopt for a range of reasons. These can relate to motivations and ability, reach and remoteness, social connections, livelihoods and power. It can include socially excluded groups, individuals within households or individual households. The last to adopt are also often the least able to take the risks associated with the new technology or practice such as investing in a latrine.

As the Leave No-One Behind consultation led by FANSA and WSSCC in 2015 reminded us through making visible the sanitation hopes and aspirations of thousands of women, adolescent girls, elderly, disabled people, sanitation workers and transgender people across the 8 SACOSAN countries of South Asia, ensuring voices are heard is an important step. It also sort to increase the recognition and understanding of the last mile in different contexts and raise the challenge that business as usual approaches can fail to place the unreached, first. 

Read up on what was said in the Dgroup discussion on what works in universal access for all:

Also check out professor Juliet Willetts' blog on planning ahead for the last mile.

Read the proceedings of our Learning Event on Rural Sanitation: “Universal access and use of sanitation and hygiene services, what works?” here.

Do you want to share your thoughts? Join our Dgroup discussions. The discussion is for all people interested in improving the reach, sustainability and equitable outcomes of rural sanitation and hygiene programming across Asia and Africa. We especially invite people from local and national governments that are currently working in the sector, but there are also professionals from development organizations and knowledge partners.

Expert

Antoinette Kome

Global Sector Coordinator - WASH