Five human rights principles that put people centre stage in water, sanitation and hygiene responses to COVID-19

Posted on WaterAid blog on 1 May 2020 in Equality, inclusion and human rights, re-posted on RWSN blog on 4 May 2020.
Authors: Louisa Gosling, Naomi Carrard, Hannah Neumeyer and Virginia Roaf. 

WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

Empowering and increasing the dignity of marginalised and vulnerable people will help us emerge from the COVID-19 crisis with healthier societies and revitalised opportunities for development and peace. Louisa Gosling, Naomi Carrard, Hannah Neumeyer and Virginia Roaf outline how applying the principles of human rights can save lives now and in the future.

The virus does not discriminate, but its impacts – and our responses – do.

– UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

We are all doing our best to minimise the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Overwhelmingly, the response across the world has been to reduce transmission through distancing, handwashing and strengthening public health systems. We know water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are central to the COVID-19 response. So how can human rights help?

A human rights lens reveals unexpected opportunities as we respond to the current crisis and plan for the future. Applying the human rights principles – equality and non-discrimination, participation, transparency, accountability and sustainability – deepens WASH responses to COVID-19, helping to both protect everyone now and build more equitable and sustainable societies.

What we do now will shape the post-COVID world and our resilience to future threats, whether climate change or other health crises.

Equality and non-discrimination

The risks COVID-19 presents are not borne equally. We are seeing evidence of this all over the world. Older people, people with health problems, people living in inadequate housing (especially those in dense settlements without access to basic services), homeless people, migrant workers, and those who have to go out to work every day to survive or who are fulfilling a necessary if undervalued role such as care work or street cleaning – all are at higher risk of contracting the virus because they are less able to protect themselves with good hygiene and physical distancing. They are also most severely affected by distancing or lockdown provisions, with eked-out livelihoods vanishing or curtailed.

People who cannot afford to pay their water and sanitation bills risk losing essential services. Independent UN human rights experts have called on governments to prohibit disconnections and to extend continuous access to water for people who don’t already have it. Governments are obliged to ensure access to services. They must intervene so that service providers continue to deliver, and do not face financial challenges in doing so. This is no small feat, given the breadth and diversity of public, private and community water and sanitation services providers, but reinforcing the recognition of these basic services as public services is critical for the realisation of human rights.

Sanitation workers perform vital work and yet are especially exposed to COVID-19. They are often discriminated against, working without protection or dignity. Cleaners, care workers and the many women and children who fetch water for themselves and for others are also at risk of being exposed to the virus.

As with many areas of development, women – despite their central role – are often ignored or marginalised in decisions, so their needs and the specific risks they face are not considered. But many organisations are researching and documenting the widespread gendered implications of the pandemic and response measures. Gender justice should be central in the WASH response, and there is a growing imperative for collaboration with women’s organisations and leaders to find ways to do this.

Human rights to water and sanitation (and other rights) demand that our response to COVID-19 addresses these inequalities. They promote and protect the voices of people who are discriminated against, marginalised and vulnerable, and ensure responses to the virus proactively include them.

Collaboration between WASH actors and organisations representing the rights of marginalised groups – including those focused on disability, age, slum dwellers, prisoners, children or women – brings new understanding and action that ensures inclusive water and sanitation services. Innovative solutions are already emerging from such collaboration, making hygiene messaging and handwashing facilities accessible for people with disabilities, and relevant to diverse populations in challenging settings.WaterAid Papua New Guinea giving loud hailers, inks and papers for printing awareness-raising materials, supporting local health authorities in preparedness for COVID-19.

WaterAid Papua New Guinea

WaterAid Papua New Guinea has provided loud hailers, inks and papers for printing awareness-raising materials, supporting local health authorities in preparedness for COVID-19.

Participation

The AIDS and Ebola epidemics taught the importance of engaging with affected communities. Building trust between government and civil society is critical for suitability, effectiveness and sustainability of responses, to ensure the smooth flow of accurate and helpful information and to avoid indirect or unintended harm.

Physical distancing measures are creating more barriers for many and reducing participation and voice, particularly where participatory processes now rely on the internet. There is a proven gender digital divide, exacerbated by poverty. For example, OECD data indicate that, globally, women are 26% less likely than men are to have a smartphone (70% less likely in South Asia and 34% in Africa).

National coordination mechanisms (such as WASH clusters) should include civil society and organisations representing different sections of the population. This can help governments identify vulnerable people and put in place measures that effectively support those who would otherwise be left behind.

Looking further ahead, making modes of participation and partnership more inclusive could lay foundations for more locally led development beyond the pandemic.

Transparency and access to information

Transparency and access to information are intrinsically linked to participation. If information is not accurate or well-understood by the intended recipients, it has no value. Further, while clear and consistent messaging is important to reinforce behaviour change, it should be tailored to differing contexts. How can people living in informal settlements or remote rural areas respond to ‘wash your hands’ messaging if they don’t have a secure, on-plot supply of water?

To reach the most marginalised people we need to be creative, and to communicate in local languages through a range of channels that are appropriate for the places and people concerned. For example, many countries use radio, such as TanzaniaRwanda and Nepal, where jingles are even broadcast by loud-hailers to communities without FM coverage. Sign language and braille can be used to reach people with hearing or visual impairments.

In Nigeria, local civil society networks and the media are communicating through network members in communities to share information and drive campaigns on improving WASH in healthcare facilities. More ideas can be found in resources such as BBC Media Action’s Guide to community engagement at a distance.

And in South Africa residents in informal settlements are monitoring water and sanitation access during the COVID-19 crisis, sharing the data with city authorities and the media. This initiative has already resulted in improved service delivery and new channels of collaboration with city authorities.A man reads awareness-raising messages through a loud hailer around a community in Bangladesh.WaterAid Bangladesh

A man reads awareness-raising messages through a loud hailer around a community in Bangladesh.

Accountability

Accountability between governments, civil society and development agencies is as critical in a crisis as ever. We are seeing unprecedented funds raised and distributed in response to COVID-19, but how these funds will be used and accounted for is not always clear.

Accountability is essential for minimising corruption and for achieving services that are equitable, sustainable and high quality. This is important both for the emergency procurement and distribution of benefits in the immediate response to COVID-19, and for the long-term sustainability of WASH services.

Unfortunately, accountability mechanisms and relationships in WASH are often weak. Civil society networks must be able to advocate for transparency and accountability in the WASH response to this crisis, to monitor how much of the funding made available for the pandemic is invested with human rights considerations and for the sustainable development of WASH services. There may be more opportunities because the pandemic has raised the profile of WASH, which can create space for WASH actors to contribute to broader accountability initiatives. An example linking WASH to the coalition on peace building and state building in Sierra Leone demonstrates this potential.

Governments are also accountable for the way they are imposing containment measures that limit people’s ability to go out, to work, to fetch water and to use toilets. In many countries we are seeing excessive force used to ensure compliance with lockdown, criminalising people who must leave their home to meet basic needs. This violates human rights and can be detrimental to reducing the spread of the virus if it creates fear and destroys trust between government and communities, as learned from the HIV response. In moments of disaster response the values of open government can come under intense pressure – but can also meaningfully contribute to better outcomes where there is strong cooperation and trust between the authorities and the people.

Sustainability

Poor sustainability and service levels are already a huge barrier to the realisation of people’s rights to water and sanitation, often due to weak systems. These can be strengthened or weakened by the way in which we respond to this pandemic.

Sustainability is a human rights principle – we must not lose progress that has been made. The hope for the post-COVID-19 world – if we use human rights to guide us – is to be in a stronger position than before. This means improved access to water and sanitation for vulnerable and marginalised people; that we more deeply understand how to eliminate inequalities; and that we are more prepared for future health risks and the inevitable impacts of climate change.

How we emerge from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic will have profound and long-lasting impacts on how we all live, work and relate to each other. We are still barely able to imagine the immensity of economic and social change that will emerge.

Human rights put people centre-stage. Empowering and increasing the dignity of people who are currently marginalised and vulnerable will help us emerge from this crisis with healthier societies and revitalised opportunities for development and peace. Human rights principles must guide our responses and will lead us to better, more inclusive, more sustainable results, protecting and saving lives now, and in the future.

Louisa Gosling is WaterAid’s Senior WASH Manager for Accountability and Rights, Naomi Carrard is Research Director at Institute for Sustainable Futures – University of Technology Sydney, Hannah Neumeyer is Head of Human Rights at WASH United and Virginia Roaf is Senior Advisor at Sanitation and Water for All.

This blog is the result of collaboration involving WaterAid, Sanitation and Water for All, Institute for Sustainable Futures – University of Technology Sydney, WASH United, End Water Poverty, Kewasnet, Rural Water Supply Network, Water Youth Network, Hope Spring Water, Simavi and Water Integrity Network.

Authors: Louisa Gosling, Naomi Carrard, Hannah Neumeyer and Virginia Roaf. 

Putting equality, inclusion and rights at the centre of a COVID-19 water, sanitation and hygiene response

This is a guest blog by Priya Nath (RWSN Theme Leader) and Louisa Gosling (RWSN Chair). It is reposted from the WaterAid blog with thanks. The original post is available here.

The poorest and least powerful sections of all societies are likely to be worst affected in crises, but we can work to alleviate inequalities through our response. Priya Nath and Louisa Gosling highlight how our emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic can mitigate new and existing vulnerabilities among people affected.

Handwashing with soap is the first line of defence in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet inequalities abound in access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), services, and following the advice to wash your hands with soap regularly is not as easy for some as it may sound.

Years of experience and evidence show that income, economic context and landlessness; age, disability and health status; geographical location; and ethnicity, race, religion and gender all play huge roles in determining whether individuals, households and communities have appropriate, available, affordable and accessible WASH. At WaterAid, we have committed to tackling inequalities in all aspects of WASH access.

The way we approach the current extraordinary global health crisis can be no different. Tackling new and existing inequalities must be central to our emergency response to coronavirus. During the global COVID-19 pandemic, life-saving clean water for hygiene, safe sanitation and basic healthcare is more critical than ever. And delivering equitable, empowering WASH responses for all is fundamental.

In our support of COVID-19 responses through WASH we are both drawing on what we already know and learning new ways to reach the most marginalised and the most burdened.

What we already know about tackling inequalities in WASH and emergency contexts

1. Gender inequality is exacerbated in health emergencies and economic crises, so must be tackled in all response efforts

As schools close and families head into lockdown, domestic chores and caring responsibilities increase greatly. At the same time, increased calls for washing hands, as well as for cleaning and sanitising, multiply the need for water. Because of gender divisions of labour, it is women and girls who will have to collect this extra water, perform more labour and do more caring for people who become sick.

For the 29% of people who do not have water inside their home, the additional long journeys to water sources caused by increased demand for water will mean more chances of contact with others at waterpoints or kiosks. And for many it will mean spending more of their already scarce resources on buying water at an unaffordable cost.

Women queue up to collect water from the common water source in Anna Nagar Basti, Hyderabad, India.

WaterAid/ Ronny Sen
Women queue up to collect water from the common water source in Anna Nagar Basti, Hyderabad, India.

Meanwhile, an estimated 70% of the global health and social care workforce are women. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, these frontline workers face increased pressure and exposure to the virus, often with little personal protective equipment. This in the context of two out of every five healthcare facilities globally lacking handwashing facilities, and 55% in least developed countries lacking basic water supplies.

Health crises also increase risks of violence and harassment of frontline health workers, particularly women nurses. Amid the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, the World Health Organization documented attacks on more than 300 healthcare facilities in 2019, leaving six workers and patients dead and 70 wounded.

During times of enforced isolation and closure of many public facilities, women and girls’ ability to manage menstruation can be compromised in communities and households. Finding a clean and private space to change and wash while remaining indoors for much of the time with their family, and accessing menstrual materials and water, can be difficult.

Finally, isolation measures, the inability to access previous social support systems and increases in financial and other stresses are increasing the risks of violence against women everywhere (download report PDF). Although not directly connected to WASH, this has implications for women’s ability to access essential services, and must be factored into our response, to ensure people’s safety and security when accessing WASH and other services.

You can read more about the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in this article published in The Lancet.

2. Marginalised people become even more vulnerable during a crisis

People with chronic health issues, such as HIV, or other health conditions are dealing with increased fear of acquiring COVID-19, while often already experiencing social stigma and exclusion based on their health status. In an environment where misconceptions around HIV transmission or general discrimination might already prevent them from using communal WASH facilities, crises have the potential to exacerbate the situation, making handwashing and maintaining treatments even harder. Additionally they face the real risk of disruption to essential life-saving services, and concerns over whether they will be able to access treatment for COVID-19 on an equal basis to others.

More than a billion people globally live with disabilities, the rates higher in low-income countries and among those living in poverty or belonging to ethnic minorities. Once again, the health and social inequalities they already face are intensified in crises. For someone with a physical impairment, accessing clean water frequently can be a challenge because of distance, inaccessible infrastructure or reliance on others.

People with disabilities are often already isolated from the outside world, missing out on public health campaigns geared towards people who move around. And public health and information campaigns are rarely targeted to their specific requirements. Those who rely on a carer to help them with daily tasks face either the risk of added exposure to the virus through their carer, or an inability to get the help they need more than ever in challenging times.

Reuben J. Yankan, Director of the Disable Camp 17th Street Community, who is visually impaired, being helped down the steps from a public toilet by Timothy Kpeh, Executive Director for Peace, Education, Transparency, & Development in Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia.

WaterAid/ Ahmed Jallanzo
Reuben J. Yankan, Director of the Disable Camp 17th Street Community, who is visually impaired, is helped down the steps from a public toilet by Timothy Kpeh.

 

Equally, public health messaging and calls to stay inside are hard to follow for people who have little or no access to WASH facilities; those who rely on daily wages to survive; those living in densely populated informal settlements or refugee camps; and street dwellers. This puts them at greater risk of not only COVID-19, but also harsh punishment by authorities. For example, we are already seeing a response that includes clearance of informal markets and housing in the name of ‘sanitisation’ in some places. The Ebola crisis in Monrovia in 2014 set a precedent for quarantining entire informal settlements that were deemed a ‘health risk’. This a deep injustice.

Our response efforts can mitigate both existing and new vulnerabilities

While the poorest and least powerful are likely to be worst affected in crisis situations, we can work to alleviate the inequality through our response:

  1. Support governments and other WASH actors to deliver the human right to water and sanitation as a central part of response efforts, provided in a way that is non-discriminatory and accessible to all.
  2. Develop crisis responses alongside the affected communities rather than for them, to ensure solutions meet cultural, social and religious challenges. Disability rights, women’s rights and indigenous rights groups, to name a few, are best placed to help us shape our response in a way that is empowering, does no harm and responds to real requirements.
  3. Tackle and confront any discrimination and stigmatisation in response efforts, related to factors such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, livelihood type and caste. We must closely monitor our messaging, images and approaches to ensure they are not inadvertently fuelling discrimination.
  4. Promote collection of water, cleanliness of water and sanitation facilities and practising of hygiene as the responsibility of all – not just women.
  5. Recognise the obligations and responsibility of government and sector actors to respond; do not make this an issue of individual action or responsibility.
  6. Ensure we are collecting and disaggregating data to understand differing impacts on all parts of the population. At minimum age, disability, gender and location disaggregation is needed.

Read UNICEF’s COVID-19 Considerations for Children and Adults with Disabilities (PDF) guide.

Our simple list of dos and don’ts

As initial responses, including ours, rely heavily on visual and mass media public communications, it is vital that these are respectful and do no harm. Our list of actions to take and avoid can help.

Do: Use images and messaging that show responsibility for hygiene behaviours can be equally distributed.

  • Ensure images are gender balanced.
  • Include males in images of household & community hygiene practices to show collective responsibility.

Don’t

  • Do not reinforce gender or other stereotypes – i.e. do not show only women doing washing, cleaning or looking after children.

Do: Frame messaging that builds community spirit, support and collective action.

  • Use terms like ‘us’, ’we, ‘together as a community’, ‘altogether we can, etc.
  • Use images that show people helping each other.
  • Demonstrate sector/government response and duties, not just individual responsibility.

Don’t

  • Do not focus only on individualistic messages, which reinforce individualistic responses and actions.
  • Do not use emotional triggers such as shame, guilt or fear – we have a responsibility to avoid promoting further hysteria or blame.
  • Avoid emotional or negative language.

Do: Portray people in all their diversity.

  • Communities are made up of women, men, children, people with impairments, people of different ethnic or religious identifies, etc – reflect this reality in your communications to improve uptake.

Don’t

  • Do not blame or associate individual factors such as gender, ethnicity, religion, age, impairment, health or poverty status with reasons for infection or contagion.
  • Avoid messaging, images or implementation approaches that unintentionally stigmatise, ostracise or cause abuse for certain people.

Do: Acknowledge and respond to the diverse needs of communities.

  • Demonstrate how assistive devices can be used.
  • Demonstrate solutions that are relevant in low-income settlements, in rural and water scarce areas.
  • The Compendium of accessible WASH technologies has illustrations and descriptions you can adapt.

Don’t

  • Avoid blanket approaches that suggest that everyone can change behaviours without any specific adaptations.
  • Do not direct messaging or responsibility for ‘change of behaviour’ at one group of people, e.g. mothers, instead talk about parents caring for children.
  • Do not misrepresent the number of people who have a clean water supply or access to soap.

Do: Adapt communications to suit different target groups.

  • Consider the communication and learning abilities of all people, including people with visual, hearing and intellectual impairments.
  • Plan channels for information to reach all, especially those doing caring duties, sanitation work, etc.
  • Takeaway materials can reinforce messages and make up for some short-term memory loss among older people or people with disabilities.
  • These should be easy to read, large script, high contrast between text and paper, on non-glare/glossy paper, in local languages/dialects, highly visual​​​​.

Don’t

  • o not exclude anyone. Not being inclusive of all can lead to fear, shame and blame.
  • Do not portray informal settlements or slum areas as ‘vectors of disease’, or poorer areas of the city as being unable to keep clean. This reinforces stigma and increases the chance of a negative reaction. For example, there have already been cases of informal housing being cleared in the name of ‘sanitisation’. The solution lies in guaranteeing adequate and safe levels of service for all, rather than reinforcing stigma towards certain parts of the population.

Do: As part of our do no harm approach, do a risk assessment before and throughout communications campaigns

  • Monitor backlash on social media, such as racist comments and immediately delete as needed.
  • Check that it does not amplify or put blame on one group (or if audience is interpreting it that way).
  • List who is likely to miss out on the communication because of language, ability, culture or gender, and come up with strategies for how they could be included.

Don’t

  • Do not ostracise or promote ‘calling out’ of people or parts of the population. This may encourage vigilante tactics or backlash.
  • Avoid terms such as ‘victim’, ‘infecting’ or ‘spreading to others’.
  • Do not tolerate any racist, bigoted or blaming comments on social media and have a strategy for monitoring these.

Follow us on our journey through the response

As we support community, national and global responses to the coronavirus pandemic, we need to draw on what we already know, keep learning from others and ultimately improve the way in which response work reaches and addresses the needs of the most marginalised, the most burdened and those further away from life-saving clean water for hygiene, safe sanitation and basic healthcare.

At WaterAid, we are putting these principles into action, applying them to our COVID-19 response efforts, details of which you can read in this blog. We look forward to sharing lessons and challenges along the way.

Priya Nath is Equality, Inclusion and Rights Advisor and Louisa Gosling is Senior WASH Manager – Accountability and Rights, both at WaterAid UK.

Photo credit: WaterAid/ Ronny Sen

 

 

 

Make the last mile the first mile: is business the key to fulfilling human rights?

This guest blog was written by Selma Hilgersom (Simavi). The original blog post is available here and is re-published with permission and thanks from Simavi.

Last week, I attended the AGUASAN workshop. This yearly event is organised by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and joined by a broad variety of WASH practitioners. The key focus of this year’s workshop were ‘service providers that take an inclusive business approach and drive the advancement of the human right to water and sanitation’. Within the conference, six cases of young and inspiring entrepreneurs were put forward during the week and participants teamed up to dive into the business cases and assess the human rights angle of making a business out of WASH.

If anything, the week has given me a serious mind exercise on the role of the private sector in development. I have a background in the field of water technology and supporting the development of innovative business propositions. I do believe that the private sector is key in addressing global challenges. Business comes with internal drivers to guarantee the delivery of products and services that meet the demands of costumers, as entrepreneurs depend on the success of their business to generate an income. This drives efficiency, cost-efficiency and the continuous exploring smarter ways of working.

So, if business has the potential to provide everyone in the world with well-functioning WASH infrastructure, why are we not collectively entrepreneuring into the most rural areas of this world and ensuring that the human right to water and sanitation is fulfilled? And why are NGOs still funded to do a job that business can do while making money out of it?

Let’s first set the perspective straight. I work for an NGO. I am not afraid to re-consider my role in a fast-changing world. I do believe business has an key role to play in accelerating development and strengthening (business) ecosystems in-country. Especially local entrepreneurship and equal North-South partnerships can go a long way in providing people with the basic services that they need. Especially the businesses that pro-actively include women and girls and effectively respond to the needs of all members of a given community, regardless of who they are and their circumstances, seem to have the exact same goal as many NGOs. And stepping away from the ‘beneficiary perspective’ and including people as ‘costumers’ creates a different perspective. Two sidenotes: let’s try to avoid the discussion whether capitalism is the system that ensures everlasting happiness here and at the same time acknowledge that disadvantaged people benefit from a system in which they are participating as more than just ‘costumers’ that are defined by their purchasing power.

The nature of business is to ensure that there is a profit made. And from my experience in start-ups, this is a challenge when starting-up a business. The question that comes to my mind is then how feasible it is to design a self-sustaining business model targeting consumers with the least purchasing power, especially in the beginning. And whether it is possible to focus on the lower-bottom of the pyramid; even if this comes with challenges. A few examples: geography (what if a village is located at a remote mountain), reaching relatively few costumers per community, having to invest a lot in demand-creation before WASH services and products are bought. Are there smart models that make this ‘work’? Or stable financing mechanisms that can blend different revenue streams to cover the high need with the limited profitability? And how do you create a business ecosystem with local entrepreneurs to serve the people who currently lack access to WASH? What is the role and contribution of the government?
There is a broader development perspective to this too. Including ‘impact indicators’ in doing business, which reflect the aim of development work, does require extra efforts that may conflict with business interests. But results in lasting positive change in communities. Think of delivering water in a community where people are at high risk of a specific disease; is this just solved by delivering water? Or does this require the provision of additional health information and working towards improved service delivery? Or in the case that women are not allowed to decide over their own bodies, does the delivery of WASH provide an answer to the broader challenges that exist in the community?

Even if we would imagine an all-inclusive model of the private sector that perfectly responds to the needs of people, there is still one discussion that was put forward more than once during AGUASAN: (government) systems are the enablers of the success and upscaling of any business. The central question is therefore how business models fit in existing local, national and global systems? This links into the very basis of acknowledging that people have rights, and that they should be able to claim them, wherever in the world that may be.
And this is not ‘just a remark’ – it links into the issue of rightly anchoring the responsibility where it belongs: who is (or should) take the responsibility for fulfilling the human right to water and sanitation, and what is the place of the private sector therein? What to do if there is no profitable business case for providing WASH? Maybe the consideration is whether the ideal business model, if it would exist, would silence this discussion: does access to WASH equal that human rights are fulfilled? Even if this is done independently from the government, and in a profitable way? And if so, is it possible (capacity wise) to reach the 2.1 billion people (!) that still do not have safe and sustainable water delivery? Should the private sector be made responsible for fulfilling the human right to water and sanitation, if governments fail to do this?

I am not afraid of profit. I believe that businesses and NGOs both play a vital role in development. I believe in systems that are driven by (young) entrepreneurs and create a broad-range of value to consumers and are self-sustaining. There are many examples in the world where the private sectors makes a huge difference in the lives of disadvantaged people. I refer to the two amazing female entrepreneurs of Pad2Go who want to break the barriers women face in Nepal due to their menstruation (and with whom I had the honour to work with during the week). I am incredibly happy that many entrepreneurs are positive towards cooperation with NGOs. However, I also believe that this comes with a joint dream and a joint responsibility.

Often, the cooperation between NGOs and the private sector is defined by the roles ‘taking care of the business’ and ‘taking care of development’. I advocate for a more integrated business case, where investing in business and investing in development are one and the same thing. Could we agree that the success on the broader impact indicators is equally important as the development of a sustainable business model? And not from a ‘charity perspective’, but from the believe that this will increase the integrated value proposition of businesses. And thereby open up new markets and potential (impact) costumers. And a call to NGOs – can we move beyond the output, outcome and impact indicators, and join hands with those who will remain long after the funding of our NGO programmes has run out? And create built-in incentives to be as successful as we can? And not be guided by pre-set targets?

One of the things that stayed in my mind after AGUASAN is the presentation of human rights superstar Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, who challenged us to “make the last mile the first mile”. Let’s do that. Together.

Edit from the author: I had some discussions about the extent of ‘pushing (Western) values upon local communities’, and whether businesses or even NGOs should be involved in this at all – or that we should limit ourselves to basic product or service delivery. I can write another blog on my thoughts on this. As this blog has a slightly different focus, I refer to Simavi’s aim to ensure that disadvantaged people in low and middle income countries are enabled to practice healthy behaviour based on their own free and informed decisions and free from coercion and violence. By doing this through supporting civil society to claim its rights with and through local organisations, development is no more than amplifying positive changes that start locally.

About the author

Selma holds a master degree in ‘Human Geography’ and ‘Policy and Organisation’ with a specialisation in transnational advocacy and business and innovation. She has worked in international organisations to promote and support the development of new business models, sustainable innovations and the uptake of new water technologies. Currently, she coordinates programs of Simavi in Tanzania and Nepal that aim to ensure that disadvantaged people, and especially women and girls, can live healthy lives

 

 

How a radio talk show is promoting WaSH in Northern Uganda

This is a guest blog by Justine Olweny, a Ugandan WASH entrepreneur and resource centre founder. You can find out more about his activities here.

“YOT KOM LONYO” (meaning “Health is wealth”) is a WaSH campaign radio program talk show conducted every Thursday from 16:00–17:00 hours East African Time. It encourages the involvement of local entrepreneurs, school leaders, pupils, politician, district technocrats, and partner representatives on water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) promotion discussions. It has promoted the utilisation and ownership of WaSH products among the communities of Kitgum District.

The weekly talk show was started in September, 2018 and has so far covered 7 WaSH topics within 22 episodes.This involves the engagement of eight stakeholders within the region being represented in at least two sessions. This talk show was motivated by the need for community ownership in safe WaSH infrastructures created by difference agencies, including the government.

Mightyfire 91.5FM has a total coverage of about 1,500,000 listeners in Northern Uganda. It has made significant progress in reaching out to the majority of refugees from South Sudan in the local language Acholi, which is spoken by them. The intention was to prepare for the rainy season, which often leads to an increase in the prevalence of waterborne diseases, including cholera, through the production of short radio spots to promote hand-washing with soap before eating and boiling drinking water to avoid illness.

This 6-month partnership between Mightyfire 91.5FM and Water Access Consulting is a pilot project to explore the possibilities of promoting hygiene and sanitation products and services led by the communities of Kitgum District. It was inspired by the webinar From Beneficiaries to Business: Promising findings from customer-centered approaches to sustainable water services.

Achievements:

  • Improved pit toilets (DuraSan and the SaTo pan supported by the “Sanitation as a business” programme of Water for people Uganda) are being constructed by landlords, while demand for improved pit toilets has increased together with the services provided by the pit-emptying gulpers team of the Municipality.
  • The radio programme materials were developed in accordance with the context, with compelling radio programmes that engage listeners in good hygiene practices, and with references to Lifewater mWaSH and UNHCR WaSH manuals.

Learnings:

  • The materials and topics discussed are generated by the audience themselves, for example during a school Q&A session, and during interviews
  • The audience pay a lot of attention to jingles, and they memorise short spot messages instead of the entire radio talk show
  • It is very motivating for both parents, elders and pupils to listen to their recorded debate play over the radio.

What do you think? How can we create more WaSH service demand using media? Do you have any examples of good WaSH campaigns in the media, that have contributed to behavior change in WaSH? Please share your experiences below.

(Photo credit: Water Access Consulting Archive)

Pipe dream or possible: Reaching the furthest behind first in WASH sector?

By Sara Ahrari (Simavi) RWSN Theme Leader for the Leave no one behind Theme.

Simavi’s Programme Manager, Sara Ahrari, moderated a side event during the UNC Water and Health Conference on 1 November 2018. This event was convened by Simavi, Wateraid, Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN),London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and World Vision (WV). The purpose of this section was to reflect jointly on “who are left behind” from “Use of” and “Participation in decision making processes related to” WASH services, “what are the barriers for their inclusion” and “what can be done and what roles can different WASH stakeholder play to accelerate their inclusion”.

The session started with a short introduction to “Leave No One Behind” Concept in the WASH sector. Afterwards the participants were divided into groups to focus on a specific scenario related to multiple exclusion factors facing by different personas. Initially 8 personas were defined (for elaborated description of the personas, please click here) but based on the number of participants and their interests only 6 personas were discussed in the groups.

The groups were asked to work through the following process to come to recommendations (in form of a pitch) on how “Leave No One Behind” can be reached for the persona in their scenario:

  • Illustrate using mind map technique draw the barriers faced by the persona as a group
  • Inspire list anything that inspires them as individuals (people, products, programmes, services, innovations, insights, etc.).
  • Selection come up with as many ideas/ solutions/ practical recommendation to address the barriers faced by the persona, then cluster all the ideas and select one idea as a group to further work on it
  • Sketching draw a storyboard using pictures representing the idea or recommendation, who will be impacted by the idea, what would be their experience, the way idea would be rolled out. Prepare your pitch.
  • Pitch The idea to the plenary in one minute.

After the group work a Ms. Ellen Greggio presented Wateraid experience on using Washington Indicators on disability in their monitoring including the challenges and insights that application of such tool might entail.

Key results of the group exercise

Group 1-Mariette: who lives on daily wages and is a member of WASH committee.

 

 

 

 

 

The mind mapping exercise had led to identification of poverty, no support at household when husband is away, time constrain, lack of community support and lack of government support as main barriers faced by Mariette. The selected solutions were:

  • Share responsibilities: train more members of the committee to be able to do repair work, make sure roles are divided properly and backed up.
  • Increase awareness among community members/users: to pay their WASH costs (which are affordable) so that the repair work can be paid for; other support in forms of other incentives (i.e. help with the children) and manage expectations
  • Create a safe platform for everyone to share the experiences and challenges.

An interesting discussion which took place during the group exercise was selection of the “right” person for the committee and “dividing the roles”. While very valid points, one should be careful that defining “right” as people who have time to participate can lead to “leaving those who can’t afford to participate behind”. Also when dividing the roles, it is important to make sure that dominating community role (namely men being the decision maker and women doing the work) will not influence the decision making process. The group pitch can be seen here.

Group 2- Sharon: A young girl living with HIV/AIDS who produces & sells low cost sanitary napkin.

The participants indicated that Sharon is disempowered due to stigma and lack of access to education, has limited voice, suffers from trauma due to loss of her parents and lack of institutionalized support for the poor. The suggested solutions included:

  • Improved access to WASH services: City authorities, utilities and local government need to ensure that proper pro-poor WASH policies and services are available, provide subsidized tariffs, access to affordable sanitation and hygienic products. Advocacy organisations can influence policies to ensure that this will take place.
  • Increased learning opportunities: NGOs, faith-based organisations or vocational training institutes can provide skill and entrepreneurship training as well as scholarships.
  • Enhanced link to social services: Government of NGOs can create youth homes, facilitate peer support and mentorship (female, people with HIV/AIDS and business mentorships).

The group pitch can be seen here.

Group 3- Maria: :A visually impaired girl who is sent out to city to live with her aunt in slum area and earn income through begging on streets.

The main barrier identified for this persona was her visual impairment which in her situation causes dependency on family and strangers for support, poverty, lack of accessible WASH service and transport, unsafe and non-trustworthy environment at home and outside, which leads to mental health problems feeling as a burden and stress.

The group concluded that if Maria can be provided access to school and kept at school, many of these barriers would be overcome. This means that schools need to have inclusive education as well as access to safe sanitation and water. Schools also can facilitate “Eye vision test” and promote measures for preventable visual impairments not to occur. There should be also safe transport to and from school. Also the care-givers (aunt or her family) need to be supported to have increased income. Depending on the country, public awareness raising needs to be done on right to education, children’s right and disability rights. Legal protection and safety nets supports need to be provided to families with people with disabilities. The people with disability also need to be empowered and equipped with skills and knowledge which allows them to live an independent life.
The final pitch of the group can be seen here.

Group 4- Bilegt: A nomad man whose source of water is diminishing and has no access to proper sanitation.

The group had identified the following barriers:

  • Environmental: harsh environment due to increased effect of climate change and scarcity of water resources.
  • Social/cultural: due to challenges, there is increased migration to the cities which for Bilegt it means losing “his sense of being” and social support system.
  • Political: limited political voice and influence of population, conflict with companies, no investment in hydrogeological survey.
  • Economic: limited access to financial resources, loss of traditional income generating activity.
  • Physical: difficulty of access due to mobility.

An integrated understanding of solutions, combining bottom-up (socially inclusive) and top-down (sustainable solutions) approaches would be needed according to the group to remove these barriers. The group pitch can be see here.

Group 5- Ruksana: A 15 years old girl without forearms who is pregnant with her 2nd child.

The group identified the main barriers faced by Ruksana to be poverty, lack of support from family or community members, lack of education/trainings, disability, limited availability and distance from water sources, insecure feeling when using the latrine, social stigma inside and outside, married as a child and child pregnancy. The solution thought by group were:

  • Technological: Accessible toilets with locks which can be operated by people with disability, technology to support mobility, household access to safe drinking water (i.e. through filters).
  • Services: Accessible education/skill building centres with appropriate courses and technology for people with disability, identification & support by local government, regular follow up/ home visit by government/community health workers, optional services to deliver safe water.
  • Health: family planning methods (cycle beads), regular home visits by health workers.
  • Social Engagement & awareness: Awareness raising among different stakeholders (community leaders, men, local government, etc.).
  • Economic development: Increased livelihood options at the community level.

The group identified access to water and family planning option as priority to improve Ruksana’s situation.
You can see the pitch the group presented here.

Group 6- Amin: A district engineer in charge of WASH service delivery with insufficient resources, needing to prioritise different areas within the district.

Amin’s challenges were found to be rooted in legal, financial, knowledge, political barriers at the national level and cultural, knowledge, communication and financial at the community level. Lack of transparency and proper coordination between these two levels were also identified as a barrier. The solutions suggested by the group were:

  •  Encourage private sector financial investment.
  • Dedicated structural leadership support to district level staffs.
  • District management support in communication and planning.
  • Town halls communicating plans to the communities.
  • Capacity building at all levels.
  • Relationship building based on trust.
  • Cultivating demands and grassroots community planning.
  • Transfer of power & decision making rights from national to district and lower levels.

The group’s pitch can be seen here.

Reflection and way forward

The side event had brought together participants from the different background and organisations, namely NGOs, knowledge institutes and government. As we have defined “Active contribution of the participants and lots of ideas not to leave anyone behind” as one of the success indicators for this event, we can say that it a very successful event thanks to the energetic and engaged participants.

We still hope to receive more stories of success (or constructive failures) and increased collaboration on “Leave No One Behind” and to “Reach the Furthest Behind First”. The conveners will continue to promote the dialogue on the topic in different platforms, in particular RWSN “Leave No One Behind” discussion group.

Participants’ feedback

Lena Bunzenmeyer, Global WASH Advisor, CAWST: “ I truly enjoyed the participatory session and I definitely learned a lot. It was by far my favourite session of the entire conference! Would it be possible to get a copy of the PowerPoint presentation that went along with the session? I’d like to bring it up at CAWST as an example of both participatory learning (we love learning new techniques from others!) and also how to approach the topic of inclusive WASH services. Thank you again for your excellent facilitation!”

Reposted with thanks from Simavi; the original blogpost is available here:  https://simavi.org/long-read/pipe-dream-or-possible-reaching-the-furthest-behind-first-in-wash-sector/

Photo credits: Tom Flunder

Why does accountability matter for sustainable water services?

By Louisa Gosling, WaterAid and Meleesa Naughton, RWSN Secretariat

RWSN has been exploring the question of accountability for sustainable rural water services over the past few months through an e-discussion, a workshop, and webinars in French, English, and Spanish.

What is accountability?

Accountability is a new topic for the Leave no one behind Theme of RWSN, and one that is difficult to translate in other languages: there is no direct translation of accountability in French and Spanish, for instance – we translated it as ‘responsibility’.  In the e-discussion, we initially defined social accountability as ‘an approach that refers to the extent and capacity of citizens to hold the state and service providers accountable, and make them responsive to needs of citizens and beneficiaries’. But through the e-discussion and in particular the webinar, we also heard of initiatives that seek to empower citizens to hold not only service providers (direct accountability) and governments (indirect accountability) for water services, but also donors.

So who should be held accountable for what?

The definition proposed by Catarina Fonseca of IRC, who presented some preliminary findings from a recent study during one of the RWSN webinars, is perhaps more appropriate: she defined accountability as ‘those who are responsible, accept responsibility for their actions and omissions and accept that they are called upon to give an account of why and how they have acted or failed to act.’

While accountability is often a bottom-up process in practice, with citizens and citizens’ organisations seeking to hold  service providers, governments and donors to account, duty-bearers also have an obligation to put in place effective accountability mechanisms that lead to actionable change. The study Catarina presented showed that accountability mechanisms for SDG6 for service providers and governments are often not available in many countries, and that when they exist, they are not effective and not systematic due to the lack of financing, lack of monitoring data and reporting, and limited participation of civil society organisations.

What about donors’ accountability? According to Susan Davis from Improve International, most foundations do not prioritize evaluation of WASH projects post-implementations, which impedes learning and improving accountability for the end-users. Moreover, when they do conduct evaluations, they may not share the results – or have no incentive to share results showing poor performance of WASH services. Susan proposed a WASH donor accountability scorecard which would foster a culture of accountability and transparency through virtuous competition amongst donors to disclose the results of evaluations.

The e-discussion and the webinars highlight a range of different aspects of accountability. It is encouraging to see that this topic is gaining a higher profile in the water sector. Other recent discussions include a thinkshop on social accountability in the water sector recently held in Tanzania, and the recent expert consultation for the upcoming report by the UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation. Greater understanding and application of this principle are essential for achieving SDG 6.

Resources

Photo credit: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank  

 

 

 

Getting the basics right

I’ve just returned from Liberia, where Kerstin Danert and I, together with Caesar Hall and Jenny Schmitzer are coaching, training and mentoring staff across from government agencies to prepare the first a Sector Performance Report (SPR) for Liberia. Ultimately, this this could become an annual report for the whole WASH sector across the country. It pulls together data from different sources and provides the evidence base for making decisions decisions and prioritising at the second annual Joint Sector Review (JSR) – a two day workshop of around 200 stakeholders that will happen at the beginning of May.

Monrovia Water Point
An Afridev handpump in central Monrovia, behind the Ministry of Education (photo: S. G. Furey, Skat, 2014)

The approach, in this form, was pioneered by the Ministry of Water & Environment in Uganda ten years ago. A decade later, it is the primary mechanism for coordinating WASH actors across government, NGOs and Development Partners, and for reporting activities, outcomes and priorities for the coming year in Uganda.

This is not an easy. It has been a challenging, but rewarding, process and it has been a long journey for Uganda, and Kerstin was there, coaching and cajoling for the first seven SPRs (SSOZI, D. and DANERT, K.,2012). For this reason, the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) invited us to Liberia to support the government as they start on this long journey.

Similar to Uganda when it started, Liberia is now a decade clear of a long and often brutal civil war. The physical and government infrastructure, which was weak to begin with, was largely destroyed and the social scars still have a rawness. Liberia has a unique history in that it was founded by American freed slaves, but resentment between Americo-Liberians and those of indigenous descent added fuel to the fire of the brutal wars that took place between 1989-96 and 1999-2003.

The current president, H. E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was the first woman to be elected as a head of state in Africa and she has been a unifying voice both at home and abroad. She is also the UN Goodwill Ambassador for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) so the sector has a champion at the highest level.

However, responsibility and scarce resources for WASH are split between around nine different ministries and government agencies. Policy and strategy has been established, thanks to strong support from UNICEF, WSP and bi-laterals such as IrishAid,and USAID. There are also several other development partners in the country . However, implementation through government has been slow, for example the rural water division of the Ministry of Public Works has no budget for implementation for the current year. Stuff is happening: water and sanitations systems are being built and hygiene and CLTS is going on at quite a large scale, but it is NGOs, not government who are doing the spade work.

Is this a problem? Short term maybe not, because the needs of the people are great, but without a strong, capable government there can be no end to dependence on international aid funding international NGOs, neither of whom are directly accountable to the people or leadership of Liberia. We shouldn’t expect the private sector to ride the rescue either: where there is social and environmental responsibility, a fair, strong Government regulator is essential.

So what is needed? The basics done well.

  • Data: collection, quality control, storage, access, analysis, presentation
  • Information flows: so that stakeholders really know who is doing what, and where so that collaboration is improved and duplication avoided.
  • Writing: literacy, touch-typing, analytical thinking; articulating persuasive and logical arguments; self-critical review and proof reading.
  • Presentation: structure, content and timing, voice and body language, listening and responding.

These, and many other communication and analytical skills, seem so obvious that surely to consider them in the context of experienced, national government staff could be considered patronising. However, during the war they would have been less worried about using PowerpointPowerPoint and more worried about avoiding the likes of ‘General Butt Naked’ (CNN report). Fragile States are exactly that.

Mapping information flows in the Liberia WASH Sector with the NWSHPC
Mapping information flows in the Liberia WASH Sector with the National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion Committee (NWSHPC) – Abdul, Watara, Joseph, Kerstin (photo: S G Furey, Skat 2014)

While many of the staff we have met are knowledgeable and committed, there is need to build morale and confidence; so even they not only improve their reporting and analytical skills but also have the confidence to really commit them to paper.

So what’s the answer? Perhaps hire some international consultants to come in and write a thick report “for government”. WSP didn’t want us to do that and there was no way we going accept the task if that had been the case. The 2014 Liberia SPR will be written (mostly, though not entirely) by Liberians.

To achieve that, where capacities are low, and experience lacking we ran a four day writing course then followed up remotely, and in person, with each team of writers who were charged with creating thematic mini-reports on rural water, sanitation, hygiene, gender, urban water and sewerage, solid waste management and water resources.

This is a tough process for all involved. For the ministry staff, they have been chasing around bringing together the data and activity reports that are often scattered around their organisations or guarded. In certain cases, the process uncovered new data sources from Government officials – in particular the data collected through surveys and publishes by Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LSGIS).

For us it has been tough to resist the temptation to dive in and write it all for them. On occasion I give in where it was clear that the data analysis and presentation would take much more time than we had available and I couldn’t leave it. But as I write this, the writers were spending two days to review the entire report; and decide what to change.

However, the pleasure came from seeing the final product start to emerge and the shared sense of accomplishment.

So have we strengthened the capacity of the WASH sector to go it alone? No. Clearly not, and as I write this I still don’t know whether this approach will work, but the process so far as proved to be as valuable as, hopefully, the final report will be. The international community will still have a crucial role in tackling the chronic poverty found across Liberia, but that role needs to diminish with time as Liberian institutions take over.

From what I experienced, I saw the importance of education and mentoring to develop skills and confidence to discharge duties effectively, but that alone is not enough. Karwee Govego, Director of Rural Water, complained that their best staff get poached by NGOs. That ‘brain drain’ is inevitable as long as salaries and morale are low, management and mandates are disorganised, and career paths are determined by more than than merit.

Love it or hate it, government is essential; to build a strong, competent one in Liberia is going to take a lot of teamwork, hard graft and getting the basics right.

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Liberia is an active member of the Sanitation, Water for All (SWA) Partnership and will be presenting a new set of commitments at the High Level Meeting in Washington DC this month