Disability-inclusive sanitation: a plausible reality for Kaurena rural municipality in Nepal

People at conference

With 99% of households now having access to basic sanitation, Nepal provides a remarkable success story for SDG 6.2. Government leadership, getting the approach “right”, and dedicated efforts of a range of stakeholders have all contributed to this achievement. But does this mean that the work is done?

Not at all. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are challenging all of us to revisit our narrative and ask ourselves “who have been left behind” within these successes. Understanding the specific needs and capabilities of groups – specifically those in the fringes of development – has now become central to the global development agenda.

On World Water Day 2019, Harishova Gurung, SNV in Nepal’s BCC and GESI Advisor presented preliminary findings of formative research conducted in Sarlahi district of Nepal, to national government and non-government WASH sector stakeholders. The research was facilitated by CBM Australia and implemented in partnership with the Disabilities People Organisation of Sarlahi and Kaurena Rural Municipality. Supported by the Water for Women Fund of the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SNV's programme on gender and socially inclusive rural water supply services, seeks to understand the barriers (and enablers) to WASH access for people with disability, and their coping strategies.

I defecate near the pond so that it is easy to wash with one hand, and there is no need to carry water. - Woman with disability, Sarlahi district

My family does not make arrangements for drinking water for me when they are not at home. - Woman with disability, Sarlahi district

Harishova Gurung shares preliminary findings of formative research

Harishova Gurung shares preliminary findings of formative research

Participants receive insight into what it means to be left behind

Participants receive insight into what it means to be left behind

The team’s research found that the most obvious form of challenge is physical access. However, beyond access – feelings of dependence and neglect by family members and community were the hardest to bear. Many people with disability feel that their needs are being ignored. Their invisibility is structurally compounded by lack of access to information and limited resource allocation [1].

In the health sector, there is no policy or direction to support people with disability, and no systematic resource allocation. - Government representative, Sarlahi district

Some recommendations from Harishova’s presentation:

  • Local government’s commitment to inclusive development must translate in increased allocation of resources to leave no one behind

  • Promote disability-inclusive WASH facilities (easily accessible pathway to toilets and water sources, clean and drained surroundings, usable wells/pumps/toilets, private bathing spaces with water and soap, etc.)

  • Launch disability-inclusive communication campaigns to raise awareness of local government, family members, community, people with disability, etc.

  • Facilitate conversations about equal opportunities in hygiene within families, and find solutions that support independence

  • Systematise referrals to rehabilitation and medical services for people with severe disabilities

  • Encourage development of self-help groups for caregivers (through Disabled People’s Organisations, DPOs)

  • Promote DPO involvement in activities, including decision making spaces, and strengthen their capacity to engage in inter-sectoral dialogues

In the process of conducting the research, the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other members of Kaurena Rural Municipality joined hands with the DPO of Sarlahi to understand the difficulties of potentially disadvantaged people in their community. This first step is a promising commitment to “leave no one behind”!

Written by: Anjani Abella and Nadira Khawaja, based on Harishova Gurung's presentation, 22 March 2019

Notes: More on the subject of inclusive development for people with disability from the blog titled, 'Beyond accessibility to inclusion for all' by Gabrielle Halcrow, with input from CBM Australia's Asahel Bush.

Photos: SNV in Nepal