Rwanda in the fast lane, sanitation field visit confirms

Around 30 percent of the national budget of Rwanda is made available to district authorities. This high share makes Rwanda a front-runner in Africa, Stephan Klingebiel and Timo Mahn, two German banking specialists write in the June 2011 edition of Development and Cooperation, Vol. 38.2011:6. In only a few years, the country has considerably improved its public financial management. And the reform impetus started in the country itself. Donors helped to mobilise reform forces, but no one questions Rwanda’s leading role.

A similar drive can be reported on sanitation. ‘From the ruins of years of war and genocide, Rwanda has moved to improve household access to hygienic sanitation  facilities faster than in any country in Sub-Saharan Africa””, writes Nitin Jain in the July 2011 Getting Africa to meet the sanitation MDG: Lessons from Rwanda.

And from my four days in Rwanda during the AfricaSan3 Conference I can confirm this reality. I had talks with a national planner who finances district level Training of Trainers on Sanitation and Hygiene, district level officials who were trained and Community Mobilisers who trained village level Community Health Workers. I also visited and talked to the Community Hygiene Club in Rwanagala umudugudu (village) in Kazence cell, in sector Ntamara, in district Bugesera, Eastern Province, some 30 kilometres out of the capital Kigali.

Handwashing facility at road toilet, Photo IRC/Dick de Jong

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Rwanda: Community hygiene story from Rwangala village

When we enter the Rwangala village to find out how the Community Hygiene Club works in practice we see a large group of women in white WaterAid T-shirts wave goodbye to a leaving bus with participants from the AfricaSan 3 Conference in July 2011.

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With a smaller group we squeeze into a small meeting room. There we talk to Marie Louise Uwigize who heads the Sanitation and Hygiene workers, Bering Musengamana, president of the Hygiene Club and Petronille Nkwibonzere, one of the four Community Health Workers (CHW), and Florence Umware, Member of the club.

Q: What do the Community Health Workers do?

Petronille: We sensitise the people in weekly meetings on different government hygiene and health programmes. Sometimes we talk on hygienic practises, HIV/AIDS prevention, malaria prevention and oral rehydration solution (ORS). Or we discuss with help of nutrition posters. We always use the open space for these sessions. Every last Saturday of the month there is a national sanitation service day (Umuganda). Three months ago we installed sanitation and hygiene slabs.

So far nearly 80 percent of the 15,000 villages in Rwanda has formed these hygiene clubs. Environmental Health Officers from the Ministry of Health has trained 45,000 Community Health Workers so far, on average three per village, as part of the Community Based Environmenmatl Health Promotion Programme that was launched in December 2009. The plan is to have 60,000 health workers trained in 2012 and to scale it up to all the 30 districts in the country

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Rwanda: school toilet realities from the field

On the Friday 22 July 2011 field visit in Rwanda we are looking at two plastic, injection moulded Mobilet toilet blocks with five seats each for boys and girls at the Kicukiro Technical Training Centre funded by South Korea, just outside Kigali. The toilets have been supplied in May 2010 by the private company AquaSan at US$ 11,000 for the complete installation under contract from the Ministry of Education.

“So far we have installed 40 of these Mobilet blocks in Rwanda”, Mr. Rakesh Vikram Singh says. The blocks have a specially shaped vent pipe against flies entering and they have a plastic tank that is used to collect rainwater for the handwashing unit.

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Rwanda: two unhygienic roadside Ecosan latrine blocks

Later on 22 July 2011 we visit two ecological toilet blocks on the Kigali highway that turn out to be not hygienic at all.

Our first stop is just outside the Rulindo District headquarter in the Northern Province, where we meet Mr. Diogene Bitunguranye, Acting Executive Secretary of the elected District Council. He was holding the fort, as the Mayor, vice Mayor, Executive Officer and Budget Officer were preparing the sanitation targets for the next financial year to be presented to the President next Tuesday.

Since 2008 they have constructed 11 of these Ecosan toilets, three on the main roads, and eight at primary schools on the initiative from parent-teachers associations.  Six of these were supported by UNICEF.

… on inspection inside the toilets my comments give a shock to Mr. Jackson Mugisha, Environment Facilitator of the Ministry of Local Government and Johnson Nkusi, CEO of the Rwandan Environmental NGO Forum. I see light from the collection chamber through the slab. In fact the collection chambers are 120 litre open drop boxes that are not linked with the slab. This means that flies from the excreta can still spread disease.

“Maybe construction teams require more training”

Jackson is grateful that I point this out to him. He says: “I have to send the Ministry of Infrastructure people here to check your observations that these are not hygienic ecological toilets. It may be that the construction teams require more training. Maybe all the technical teams require more training”.

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Dick de Jong

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