Dear Matt Damon,

This blog is a response to the video posted by Matt Damon, co-founder of water.org, where he announces a toilet strike to raise awareness for the water crisis.
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Dear Matt,

I enjoyed your video on water.org about going on a toilet strike. It is great that you are so passionate about realizing access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene for all. I personally also like it that you bring in some humor into our sometimes very boring sector.

In your video you mention that it costs US$25 to provide a person with sanitation for life. This is not true. Over the past four years IRC’s WASHCost project in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Andhra Pradesh (India) and Mozambique has collected, validated and analysed cost and service level information for water, sanitation and hygiene. Based on this research we know that for US$ 25 you can construct a traditional pit latrine with an impermeable slab which provides a basic service. In order to sustain the service provided by that traditional pit latrine it costs between US$ 1.5 and US$ 4 per person per year – so to provide sanitation for life means finding that US$ 1.5-4 every year …. for life. If you do not know how, or by whom, these recurrent costs will be financed, it is very likely that the latrine you are constructing today will break down or not used within two to three years, wasting your investment.

If you would like to know more about how you can better plan, budget and monitor for sustainable services, join our free online Costing Sustainable Services course. In this online course you can  discuss with IRC staff and meet 600 water sector professionals from around the world interested in planning and budgeting for sustainable and equitable water, sanitation and hygiene services, using a life-cycle cost approach. The course is accessible 24 hours per day and you can follow it at your own pace so it is easy to combine with your other work.

Of course nothing beats a face-face exchanging of ideas, so you are always welcome to visit us at our office in The Hague, The Netherlands, or participate in one of our workshops on costing sustainable services. The next workshop is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Friday 12 April connected to the Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery Symposium.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Kind regards,

Jeske Verhoeven
Programme Officer
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre

This post is reblogged from WASH Finance News, 19 Feb 2013

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4 responses to “Dear Matt Damon,

  1. Well said. And the #sanitation intervention you can construct for $25 isn’t even much good..

  2. possibly worth recording that I had a response from @water, which reads as follows: “Matt was referring to water, not sanitation. Our $25 figure comes from a collection of calculations on our cost per beneficiary for water.”

    I think this is rubbish – the campaign is about toilets and sanitation. And even if it was about water, I somehow doubt you could ever pay for a lifetime of clean water with $25. Drivel.

  3. Yes, I think I can share a bit of my knowledge and experience as I design, market and Install INCINERATORS mainly to schools and colleges to dispose off used sanitary napkins – I have come across this problem – that many schools in rural INDIA does not have toilets. The teacher (female) HAS TO VISIT THE NEIGHBORING HOUSES( & MAINTAIN FRIENDLY TERMS WITH THEM) TO make use of their toilet. The main reason why a school does not have a toilet is not due to shortage of funds, it costs so little compared to a classroom, BUT TO GENERATE WATER (DIG A WELL, INSTALL A PUMP AND MOTOR AND TANKS AND VALVES) AND KEEP IT FLOWING DAY AFTER DAY FOR YEARS!
    G E Muralidharan

  4. I really think it is great that Matt Damon and water.org are trying to increase awareness on the lack of access to water and sanitation in an original way. It is just that if you are planning and budgeting with US$ 25 to provide water for life, you will properly get very disappointed in the long term outcome of your interventions. Matt’s money could do so much more if it was allocated differently, not solely towards capital expenditure but taking recurrent costs into account.

    In WASHCost research we found that there is a threshold of funds that needs to be allocated per person per year as a necessary condition for sustainability.

    When using the WASHCost benchmarks, Matt’s US$ 25 will just cover construction and installation of a borehole and handpump (at 2011 prices). Our research suggests that the capital costs of preparing and installing a borehole and handpump (at 2011 prices) range from US$ 20 per person to just over US$ 60 per person. But to provide water for life, recurrent costs (covering operation and maintenance, capital maintenance and direct support) are far more than US$ 25. The costs that we found range from US$ 3-6 per person per year for boreholes and handpumps, and from US$ 3-15 per person per year for piped schemes.

    For more information see Infosheet 3 – Funding recurrent costs for improved rural water services available at http://www.washcost.info/page/2584

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