Exchanging ideas on sanitation - Blog #1

Exchanging ideas on sanitation - Blog #1

Nadira Khawaja, WASH Sector Leader in Nepal, shares some key highlights from the Asia Regional Learning Event where participants from seven countries (Cambodia, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam, Uganda, and Kenya) and global guests (IRC, SNV) have come together to share experiences regarding sustainable sanitation services.

The learning event kicked off with a warm welcome from HE Try Meng, Secretary of State of the Cambodian Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), and Mr Erik van Waveren, Country Director of SNV Cambodia. Mr Van Waveren highlighted the importance of sanitation and the need for systemic change and inclusive, market-based, and government led actions in Cambodia. HE Try Meng discussed the country’s National Strategy for Rural WASH (2014-2025) and the National Action Plan (2014-2018) as a roadmap to achieve interim targets of 60% for access to WASH services. He appreciated that SNV’s Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) programme is well aligned with national priorities and contributes to strengthening the existing government structures, working with line agencies responsible for sanitation and hygiene.

Antoinette Kome, Global Sector Coordinator for WASH with SNV, then introduced the objective of the learning event: bringing together practitioners from various countries to deepen their understanding of sector issues and promote the exchange of ideas. To look at the bigger picture of sustainable sanitation and hygiene service delivery, including defining pathways and strategies and the role of local government towards sustainable sanitation behaviour. The workshop on day 1 focused on 4 things:

  1. Thinking beyond the finish line

  2. Institutional framework for sustainable sanitation service delivery

  3. Detailing new roles and responsibilities in sanitation service delivery

  4. Country group sessions

Antoinette summarised some discussions from the online practitioner's discussion (D-group): In post-ODF, what changes and what remains; and what are the practical barriers in sustaining behaviours? In the last 5-10 years, the mode of working in sanitation and hygiene has changed significantly. Key changes include sanitation and hygiene as collective issues, dedicated programmes, multi-stakeholder collaboration, clear goals and monitoring, area wide coverage (versus e.g. model villages), zero subsidy, and investing in various technologies. The D-group discussions stated that further changes needed to occur in technology for challenging areas, faecal sludge management, hygiene promotion, institutionalising pro-poor support, better quality of supply side interventions. However, as sector practitioners we are all well aware of this so we need to ask ourselves that if we know what needs to change, why are we not able to do it?

A list of barriers was identified, which included a lack of physical supplies for adequate, affordable, reliable and durable facilities and services to construct safe and hygienic toilets and empty pits when needed; finance to invest in upgrading safe and hygienic toilets or water supplies; space in poor settlements and peri-urban contexts, adequate technical designs, etc. So if we remove the "lack", we have already found the solution! The question then is that if we know the solutions, how come we do not implement these - has sanitation (ODF) become the victim of its own success? Antoinette emphasized that ODF must be seen as the first milestone in achieving sustainable sanitation and hygiene service delivery. And roles and responsibilities, especially of governments (local bodies, line agencies) would evolve with new milestones. For any country however, it is a challenge to balance achieving depth (progression up the ladder of milestones) and scale (nation-wide coverage of the milestones). As part of a group exercise, each country developed their vision and mappet out milestones for getting there.

Mr. Chreay Pom, Director of the Department of Rural Health Care of the MRD, held a presentation on the rural sanitation and hygiene sector in Cambodia. He explained that in 1998, Cambodia only had 10% sanitation coverage, which increased to 24% by 2010 through a subsidy approach. The government then adopted a no-subsidy approach and in a short five years the access to sanitation doubled to 48%. He also explained the five objectives of the national strategy: develop mechanisms to enable sustainable provision of rural WASH services; increase financing for provision of WASH services; promote and increase sustainable rural water supply services; sanitation services; and sustained behaviour change in relation to water supply and sanitation. The national action plan was drafted through a comprehensive stakeholder consultation process to define targets, indicators, and budgets to achieve 60% of the national targets by 2018. Notably, he explained that they were also exploring financing for sanitation through resource sharing for joint objectives such as nutrition and health. He further reflected on how sanitation marketing had been important in responding to the demand created for sanitation; however, there was the need to go beyond the ‘low hanging fruits’ and find strategies for reaching the remoter areas.

At the end of the first day, participants prepared for the next day's field visits to four rural locations at different stages of sanitation coverage.