Long Read

Looking back – the WASH SDG programme in 2020

Expected reading time: 7 mins

2020 will go down in history as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the absence of a cure or vaccine, prevention remained the best alternative. As such, the activities of the WASH SDG programme proved to be more relevant than ever. WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), together with physical distancing, are central to preventing the spread of the coronavirus and are a first line of defence. We are therefore very proud to share with you that the majority of our activities planned for 2020 have continued. Furthermore, we were offered the opportunity to set up a complementary programme – WASH First –, focused on the promotion of health-related hygiene practices to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

The WASH SDG programme

The WASH SDG Programme is a manifestation of the Dutch commitment to realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 6. The six-year programme is financed by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is implemented by the WASH SDG Consortium formed by WASH Alliance International (led by Simavi), SNV and Plan International Netherlands.

Together with a large number of in-country partners, the Consortium aims to to sustainably improve access to, and use of, safe drinking water for at least 450.000 people, sanitation for at least 2 million people and improve the hygiene behaviours of 1.6 million people before the end of 2022. The programme is implemented across seven countries in Africa and Asia and gives specific attention to gender and social inclusion, and climate vulnerability and resilience.

The WASH SDG programme contributes to sustainable system changes in the countries in which they work, through the realisation of three key strategic objectives: 1) increased demand for improved WASH facilities and practices; 2) improved quality of WASH service provision; and 3) improved governance of the WASH sector. All activities under the WASH SDG programme contribute to one or more of these objectives.

The WASH First programme

As recognition of its added value in the fight against COVID-19, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs awarded additional funds to the WASH SDG Consortium to start a new programme, called WASH First. The overall goal of WASH First is the “promotion of health-related hygiene practices to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in at-risk countries through awareness raising and improved access to WASH services.” The WASH First programme was launched on World Toilet Day 2020 (November 19th) with the message: access to water and sanitation is an essential first barrier against COVID-19.

Highlights 2020

In all the countries where the WASH SDG programme is implemented, the effects of COVID-19 and the corresponding lock-down measures were clearly noticeable. During these challenging times, however, the majority of the programmed activities remained highly relevant in the COVID-related context, especially those that sought to improve hygiene behaviour and practices in general.  The programme found new approaches and methods to continue  And activities were adjusted whenever possible to ensure the safety of programme participants, partners and staff members.

So much work was carried out in 2020! Below we share just a few examples:

1. Increasing demand for improved WASH facilities and practices

Behaviour change campaigns and messaging

In Bangladesh SNV launched a campaign within the WASH SDG Consortium to improve hand washing in schools. The campaign included a song (in Bangla) to help embed practice amongst children (and adults) to facilitate message recall. At the same time, in Indonesia, people with disabilities that used to make reusable menstrual hygiene cloth pads with support from Plan International, diversified their product base and were trained to produce facemasks as well. The programme proved to be very capable to swiftly adapting to on-line working methods as well.

Menstrual hygiene in schools

In Nepal, a research study was conducted to assess the knowledge, attitude and practices in menstrual hygiene of school students in Banke and Surkhet by Simavi’s partner NFCC. The findings of this study will help make more informed, evidence-based decisions when it comes to menstrual health in schools. The report will be available early 2021.

Students in Belu District (Indonesia) are participating on sanitation and Menstrual Hygiene management monitoring facility in school – picture by Plan Nederland

2. Improving the quality of WASH service provision

Financial inclusion improves sanitation and health (FINISH)

The WASH SDG FINISH sub-programme in Tanzania finalised this year. In Serengeti district, the WAI (led by Amref Flying Doctors and WASTE ) contributed to making sanitation more accessible for women, children and people with a disability. The sub-programme worked closely with local government stakeholders and focused on raising community awareness and behaviour change to increase the willingness of households to invest in household sanitation facilities. This video gives an overview of some of the results and testimonies of the work carried out since 2018.

Water testing

In Nepal, mini labs for water quality testing were built with support from the WASH Alliance sub-programme led by Simavi. These labs were established in the project locations of Barahatal, Bheriganga, Kohalpur and Baijanath and local entrepreneurs will be responsible for running them.

Faecal sludge management

In Zambia, SNV worked with female entrepreneurs interested in working in faecal sludge management. Emptying latrine pits is usually seen as dirty and unattractive work, but by improving health- and working conditions, better equipment and training, the trade has become a fulfilling job. Additionally, SNV’s webinar Finding ‘gold’ in ‘poop’, inspired reflection on how to find profitable business and livelihood opportunities in faecal sludge re-use.

3. Improved governance of the WASH sector

Policy brief on gender equality and social inclusion in sanitation

Plan International Indonesia developed a policy brief (in Bahasa Indonesia, scroll down for English) that provides an overview of the situation and key challenges to implementing gender equality and social inclusion in sanitation in Indonesia. The brief puts forward recommendations for the revision of Ministry of Health Regulation No. 3 of 2014 on Sanitasi Total Berbasis Masyarakat (STBM), the Indonesian term for Community Based Total Sanitation, to integrate gender equality and social inclusion elements.

Working with regional and national governments on people’s basic right to health

In Zambia, SNV worked to inform the East Central and Southern Africa (ECSA) Minister of Health, and specifically the National Government of Zambia, on the importance of WASH in the government’s delivery of people’s basic right to health. The sub-programme data collection has contributed much-needed data to strengthen governmental commitment to WASH in health care facilities, and spurred the Ministers to action: WASH in HCFs data move ECSA Ministers of Health to action | SNV World

Creating an enabling environment for accountability mechanism

In Bangladesh, the local WAI partners supported the WASH SDG Citizen Committee & Youth Group in Dhalua Union Parishad in Barguna Sadar Upazila to organize public hearings between local government and representative of different groups and fora like excluded groups, pit emptiers, women, student forum, teachers, social leader etc.

4. Learning from each other

In 2020, a Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI) Community of Practice was established. This is a virtual space where team members from the different sub-programmes come together and share learnings on topics related to the implementation of GESI practices in the programme. The learning clinic sessions took place on key topics such as Do No Harm; Disability, Chronic Health Conditions and Aging; and Sanitation Workers.

In addition, most sub-programmes received individual support on GESI. Teams used the GESI tools that were developed in 2019 to plan and monitor progress of GESI practices within their sub-programmes. In preparation for the midterm review process, a brief GESI temperature check was carried out to give teams some input on progress made to date and suggestions to make the programme more inclusion-proof during the second half of the programme.

5. Encouraging innovation

The Consortium brought out a call for innovative proposals to address challenges identified by the different sub-programmes within the overarching theme “WASH in health care facilities”. At the end of the year, three projects were selected to be financed in 2021-2022 through the innovation facility of the WASH SDG programme:

  • Social accountability for Inclusive WASH in Health Care Facilities (Indonesia)
  • Innovating safe and sustainable healthcare waste management in Nepal’s health sector (Nepal)
  • Transforming four health centres into model health care facilities in Agago district (Uganda)

We look forward to seeing how these innovations advance in the coming years!

Child club member promoting handwashing within children in community – Picture by Plan Nederland

6. Raising global awareness on WASH

World Water day (March 22), Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28), World Handwashing Day (October 15) and World Toilet day (November 19) were celebrated in many WASH SDG-countries. Often, the sub-programmes coordinated efforts with multiple Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), or celebrated them together with government agencies, to raise awareness on these topics.

In addition, some noteworthy publications were also carried out in 2020, including:

Looking forward

2021 looks set to be another busy year! In addition to the everyday implementation of the programme in all countries, the midterm review of the WASH SDG programme, which was postponed due to the pandemic, will also take place. After the report is presented to the donor in July, the Consortium will share some highlights on the progress made to date.

The Learning and Knowledge Development-component of the WASH SDG programme will also become more prominent. We will start distributing key lessons from working on this programme – from the practical implementation in-country to the more reflective overarching analysis – with the wider WASH sector and the general audience.

We are proud of the entire WASH SDG team, our many partner organisations in-country and the communities that we work with, as they adjusted to the new situation this year. No doubt new challenges lie ahead in the coming months, including the pandemic that will continue to affect our daily lives for the foreseeable future. We are however confident in our ability to stay resilient and flexible, and to find solutions where needed. We wish you a happy and healthy new year.

Interested in learning more about the WASH SDG programme?
Contact Eva Duarte (eva.duarte@simavi.nl), WASH SDG Consortium programme coordinator


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