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Friday, 25 March 2016
Sanitation challenge: Turning commitment into reality
Making information flow; strengthening partnerships
Good information on sanitation and hygiene is essential for making the right decisions. Getting the most useful information to flow from those who produce it to the people who use it is the challenge. There are several types of relevant information: there is technical information for practitioners/professionals, there is right to know/public participation information (that includes the rights and responsibilities of citizens under legislation and regulations) and there is user data collected for monitoring purposes. The Internet and e-mail are rapidly increasing access to information throughout the world, even in many poor or remote communities. To complement these new electronic methods for disseminating information, broadcast media and printed materials are still needed to reach the most inaccessible audiences. Traditional approaches to informing people, such as drama competitions and songs, have been used in many settings and have been shown to be effective. Addressing the sanitation and hygiene crisis requires a global strategy that builds partnerships between national governments, external support agencies, NGOs, communities and households and the private sector. Increased sharing of information resources between agencies and organisations through partnerships will help to reduce duplicative efforts, to learn from past mistakes and to consolidate effective approaches. Partnerships are vital for leveraging scarce resources
Getting sanitation and hygiene right
Effective sanitation and hygiene programmes need to combine interventions to change behaviour with the selection of the right technology. Changing behaviour requires culturally sensitive and appropriate health education. People need to understand, in terms meaningful to their lifestyles and existing belief systems, why better health depends on the adoption of hygiene practices such as hand-washing (after defecation, after handling babies’ faeces, and before cooking), on the use of latrines for safe disposal of faeces, and on safe storage and handling of drinking-water and food. Raising awareness of why sanitation and hygiene are important will often increase motivation to change harmful behaviours. Selecting the right sanitation technology is about having effective alternatives and making the right choice for the specific circumstances. Making the right choice of technology requires an assessment of the costs (both for building the facility and for operations and maintenance) and its effectiveness in a specific setting. For example, it is inappropriate to introduce piped sewage if there is no capacity to adequately treat the effluents. The use of conventional sewerage systems in extremely water-short regions may also be unsustainable.
What can we do?
National governments can ensure that hygiene promotion is funded alongside sanitation in a well-balanced programme. This may mean additional central government support for hygiene promotion and sanitation marketing. National governments can also support reviews of technical norms and standards, of planning regulations and of the health impacts associated with different options; fund research into appropriate technologies; and provide incentives for district/local governments to review their own policies and to innovate. Health education, especially concerning sanitation and hygiene, needs to be added to the national school curricula, and effective school sanitation strategies need to be developed.
District/local governments can provide funds for hygiene promotion and sanitation marketing; fund and support local entrepreneurs and public sector agencies that seek to develop new appropriate technologies; review and revise restrictive planning regulations and technical norms; and promote the use of appropriate sanitation facilities.
Communities and civil society can develop their own local technological solutions; make an effort to find ways of working with local technical agencies; be flexible when it comes to balancing local needs (getting the excreta out of the house) with community needs (protecting the communal environment); and participate in hygiene promotion and sanitation marketing campaigns.
Households can adopt good sanitation and hygiene practices; innovate, take action, talk with neighbours about solving local problems; and encourage local political representatives to support locally developed solutions.
Entrepreneurs can invest in research and development; carry out needs assessments and marketing research; find out what people are already using and develop better versions; and develop products and services that comply with national and local legislation and regulations.
International organisations can ensure that external funds for sanitation hardware are bundled with appropriate hygiene promotion and sanitation marketing activities; encourage governments to consider appropriate, cheaper or more effective sanitation technologies; finance local sanitation research; develop guidance and tools for facilitating good practice; disseminate information; and actively endorse the idea of flexible technical norms and standards.
We’re inspired by…
… the PHAST approach PHAST stands for participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation. It is an approach designed to promote hygiene behaviours, sanitation improvements and community management of water and sanitation facilities using specifically developed participatory techniques. The underlying basis for the PHAST approach is that no lasting change in people’s behaviour will occur without understanding and believing. To summarise the approach, specific participatory activities were developed for community groups to discover for themselves the faecal-oral contamination routes of disease. They then analyse their own hygiene behaviours in the light of this information and plan how to block the contamination routes.
Mobilizing financial resources
Improving access to sanitation and changing hygiene behaviours provide large benefits to all members of society that justify the preferential use of financial resources by individuals, households, communities, governments and external agencies to fund sanitation and hygiene interventions. For countries with poor coverage, the focus should be on increasing access. This can be leveraged by steering public funding towards stimulating demand for sanitation and promoting hygienic practices in schools as well as at the household level; financing public and school sanitation services; and delivering targeted subsidies where these can be demonstrated to be effective in increasing access.