Progressing inclusive WASH outcomes for people with disabilities in Nepal

Person with disability uses handpump in Ramnagar municipality

SNV mid-term review uncovers pivotal improvements in inclusive WASH programming for people with disabilities in Nepal.

Over the years, SNV in Nepal has been taking deliberate steps to understand the WASH experiences of people with disabilities. In 2019 SNV partnered with CBM Australia to develop inclusive and disability-responsive WASH programming. A recent mid-term review, supported by the Government of Australia’s Water for Women Fund, found that the project was successful in strengthening WASH engagement and collaboration between people with disabilities, households and local governments.

Expanding networks of people with disabilities

SNV in Nepal involved us to form the Rural Municipality level DPO and Ward level DPO networks, to increase people with disabilities familiarity with WASH.’ Representative of Sarlahi District DPO

SNV’s partnerships with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) helped to revive district DPO formations, and expand their connection and outreach to other people with disabilities in their respective areas. The project increased DPO WASH knowledge and related government policy and processes. This, in turn, led to the meaningful engagement of DPOs in promoting and scaling up WASH activities for people with disabilities. DPO representatives were involved in conducting household visits to promote sanitation and hygiene practices, distribution of soap during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they supported in drawing up flood assessments and response systems for affected households with members with disabilities.

Institutionalising disability inclusion in WASH Coordination Committees

In Nepal, WASH Coordination Committees (WASH-CCs) are government-recognised coordination and decision-making mechanisms. Members of WASH-CCs plan, coordinate, and monitor WASH activities within their municipalities. Since the project began, there has been a consistent representation of people with disabilities in the WASH-CCs of districts and rural municipalities, as well as in wards. By embedding the practice of diversity in representation and leadership in WASH-CCs, there is increased awareness about the WASH challenges faced by people with disabilities. This awareness is turning into policies, actual investments, and interventions.

‘I am happy to be part of the coordination committee, and I have been recommending for local government to engage in real data collection about people with disabilities, and then plan the upcoming programme to address the needs and requirements of people with disabilities.’ Representative of Dailekh RM DPO

Ajay Shah, focal person for HCF in front of a disability friendly toilet in Parsa

Ajay Shah, focal person for health care facilities in front of the Parsa HCF

Strengthening inclusive and equitable planning within Rural Municipalities

Previously, we had little knowledge about the particular needs of people with disabilities when it comes to WASH. However, the Disability Inclusive Development training, the inclusive WASH assessment, and several activities organised by the project sensitised us and motivated us to include them [people with disabilities and women] in the WASH-CC at the rural municipality and ward levels.’ RM and WASH-CC Chair

SNV engagement with local government representatives in rural municipalities (RMs) heightened the commitment to involve and respond to the needs of people with disabilities in WASH programming.

There is now increased prioritisation of people with disabilities amongst RMs, in budget allocation and planning. Disability helpdesks had been set up in most RMs in Dailekh and Sarlahi. The disability helpdesks offer a dedicated space for communities, specifically people with disabilities and household members, to visit and access municipality information or services.

Person with disability uses handpump in Ramnagar municipality
Woman with disability in upgraded waterpoint

Increasing access to WASH for people with disabilities

DPO representatives and caregivers reported increased awareness in sanitation and hygiene. This resulted in changing attitudes and treatment of people with disabilities from family members. Caregivers reported changes in their households and increased attention to the WASH needs of members with disabilities. The project’s strategy of implementing diverse types of hygiene messaging was effective in improving the quality of care and WASH services.

‘Nowadays, people are talking with people with disability with respect. Family members are more responsible in looking after people with disabilities. A few years ago, people with disabilities were considered as curse in their family. Today people with disabilities are supported by their household members; in those works that they cannot do themselves. Family members are more loving and they take pride in help people with disabilities.’ Caregiver, Sarlahi

The project’s mid-term review affirmed the positive work being carried out in support of DPOs and people with disabilities engagement in WASH, and in strengthening government’s capacity to develop and implement disability-inclusive WASH programmes.

Building on these achievements, the project will continue to, (i) lift up the capacities of partners to carry out their implementation work, (ii) to strengthen equitable programming to reach people with disabilities faced with the greatest challenges and difficulties, and (iii) to identify opportunities in national WASH forums to share learning and further institutionalise disability inclusion.

Contributors: Teresa Lee and Sunetra Lala, with inputs from the WfW Nepal Team

Photos: SNV Nepal

For more information, please contact Sunetra Lala, WASH Sector Leader - SNV in Nepal.