Supporting the last mile without affecting sustainability

Supporting the last mile without affecting sustainability

During the SSH4A learning event on "Universal access and use of sanitation and hygiene services, what works?" from 2 to 5 May in Indonesia, we shared and discussed across countries the different ways that universal access and use can be achieved and practical tools that can be adopted to support the “last mile” without impacting sustainability.

The event started with introductions from participants from Indonesia, Cambodia, Bhutan, Nepal, Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Australia, United States, and The Netherlands, sharing each country’s status on improved rural sanitation. Here we saw that Australia is at 99% and they too have a “last mile” without access to improved sanitation.

The learning event was divided into three blocks:

  1. Introduction to universal access and understanding the last mile;

  2. Tools for universal access; and

  3. Responding at scale.

Antoinette Kome from SNV first took us through the global agendas on sanitation, starting with the ambitious targets that had been set at the 1977 UN Water Conference up to the SDGs today that focus on universal access by 2030. We saw that the “last mile” challenge for universal access is typically the final 10% or less of a population, and that to achieve universal access it is important to identify who these people are and what their barriers to access are.

Josh Garn from Emory University then shared the aggregated results of the annual household monitoring survey conducted by SNV as part of its Sustainable Sanitation & Hygiene for All (SSH4A) programme in over ten countries in Asia and Africa. Progress from 2014 to 2016 showed an average increase in access to sanitation of 33%, with factors for change varying with country contexts. The results also showed improvement across the two lowest wealth quintiles, households having people with disabilities, and households with the elderly.

Next, the participants reflected in their country groups who the “last mile” was in their respective countries, existing evidences on the characteristics and needs of the last mile, and any actions taking place. The poor and landless were the most frequently cited vulnerable population segments, but others included female-headed households, people with disabilities, elderly, nomads, migrants, people living in geographically challenging area (flooding, remoteness), people doing shifting agriculture, slum dwellers, and the “stubborn people” with an unchanging mind-set. Intra-family challenges were also highlighted where some members of the family cannot use a toilet for cultural reasons. Looking at the evidences, however, in all countries monitoring systems at the national level were typically lacking or limited in disaggregating sanitation access data for vulnerable groups. Also, although many countries have an identification mechanism for social welfare schemes, these were not linked to identification or monitoring for sanitation access. Actions taking place across the countries included advocacy to local governments to address the last mile, developing suitable technological options, developing pro-poor strategies and support mechanisms, developing guidelines for smart subsidies, stakeholder coordination, and micro-credit facilities.

We then learnt of the experiences of Indonesia in going “Towards Universal Access by 2019”. Mr. Aldy Mandikanto from the National Planning Agency  showed that currently Indonesia has 67.2% improved sanitation, 9.2% basic sanitation, and 23.6% no access, and aims to achieve universal access with 85% improved sanitation and 15% basic sanitation by 2019. The strategy to achieve this goal consists of coordination, financial allocation, and advocacy. Although water and sanitation is a decentralised function of local governments, the national government has set a policy and provided leadership through national WASH conferences and city sanitation summits. The national government has also found innovative financing mechanisms such as using a “special allocation grant” to encourage local governments to apply for national funding for sanitation, and a religious decree has been passed that religious contributions (zakat) can be used for supporting WASH activities. Advocacy to local governments to prioritise funding for WASH has led to an increase from <1% of annual budget allocated for WASH to as high as 10% allocation. The National Planning Agency is also focusing on knowledge management to share success stories amongst different provinces and districts that can accelerate progress. From the cities' perspective, a unique platform is the Region-City Alliance for Better Sanitation which was an alliance for horizontal learning started by 12 cities that has now spread to include 465 cities.

In preparation of our field visits, Mr. Agus Setyo Widado from the Lampung Provincial Health Office gave a presentation on the national STBM programme (community-based total sanitation). The STBM programme is based on five pillars of WASH – open defecation free (ODF), solid waste, liquid waste, handwashing with soap, and drinking water. The communities themselves prioritize which area they want to focus on. After achieving universal access to sanitation, the village achieves ODF status; and after achieving all 5 pillars, the village achieves STBM status.

Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, read up on the related Dgroup discussion that took place in the run-up to this learning event.