Author Archives: WSSCC

Focus on people, not their toilets

Q&A with WSSCC’s Carolien van der Voorden about whether building toilets is sufficient for stopping open defecation

About herself: “I work for the Global Sanitation Fund of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). The Fund is all about collective sanitation and hygiene behaviour change to tackle the sanitation crisis, currently working in 13 countries in Africa and Asia to demonstrate viable models that result in open defecation free (ODF) communities, districts and states, and can pave the way towards ODF nations.”

Q: Do you think the SDG of ending open defecation by 2030 is realistic?

A: We have to believe the goal is feasible, if governments and all their partners agree on common strategies and roadmaps that are based on collective behaviour change and demand creation rather than on subsidy driven approaches which, apart from their effectiveness, in most countries would require many times more the financial resources than are available.


Photo: WSSCC

Q: How can someone be convinced to want and use a toilet, when they don’t currently?

A: Some of GSF’s country programmes are having great success applying the community led total sanitation (CLTS) approach. This can really work, just look at Madagascar’s programme has so far resulted in more than 11,000 communities declared ODF, but it does come with challenges in terms of going to scale with quality. We are finding that especially the quality of facilitation, and the need to make sure community engagement is a process of pre-triggering, triggering and strong follow-up, are two key elements.

It is not a silver bullet but we have seen the approach work in many different circumstances and countries. The key as far as we can see it, is to ensure these “demand creation interventions” are really community driven, which is sometimes tricky when CLTS becomes government policy or strategy and so local governments might feel pressured to push communities into ODF, rather than these being real community learning journeys.

Our Madagascar colleagues put a lot of emphasis on the principle that community problems require community solutions – to make sure these do not become outsider-driven programmes. This is not to say that the communities do not need support and advice, but even there we have found that many of the most innovative solutions to deal with specific infrastructure issues come from within the community.

Q: 11,000?! That’s impressive. By “declared” you mean self-declared? Or independently verified?

A: Verification in Madagascar is a five step process where the fourth and fifth steps are third party verification.

The numbers we publish are at the very least based on three steps of verification, where communities first self declare are then checked by sub-grantees and then by our Executing Agency, and some of them also by the additional third party verifiers.

Q: What behaviour change initiatives around hygiene do we know work? Can/how they be replicated or adapted to reduce open defecation rates?

A: We see hygiene and sanitation messages as linked, especially the need for systematic hand washing with soap or ash. The three key behaviours to defeat ODF, keeping toilets fly proof and washing hands after using the toilet and before preparing food are the key ways to ensure that communities are key to our CLTS approaches. As well as being the key indicators for declaring a community ODF.

Q: How can governments be encouraged to take the lead on this issue?

A: I think there is real value in showing what is possible if government dedicates the necessary resources and really gets involved, at all levels.

In some of our programmes we’ve had success in doing institutional triggering, where decision makers, from the president down to the local councillor, are taken on the same journey as communities are and they get triggered to take action in whatever way is most relevant and appropriate linked to their position.

In terms of the president of Madagascar, this helped to establish the national Roadmap towards ODF. And more importantly, doing this at the local level really creates the sense of a movement for change, where everybody is clear on the role they have to play and puts that into concrete action plans that they can then hold each other accountable for.

Another thing we have learned from our programmes in Uganda and Nigeria, where local governments are the implementing agents, that capacity building and training of trainers can only go so far. The real capacity comes from learning on the job, and that requires an implementation budget.

There is no point just training local governments and then leave it at that. There must be a focus on implementation and continuous presence in order to refine strategies and approaches. As said before, there is no silver bullet so even CLTS needs to be continuously adapted and local governments must be given a chance to learn and understand this on the job over time.

Q: Any final comment?

A: Lift every stone, increase the movement, find champions and most importantly, focus on people, less on their toilets!

The original Q&A was hosted by Katherine Purvis of the Guardian and can be found here.

Australia helps carry the can on World Toilet Day

Article by Steven Ciobo, Australias Minister for International Development and the Pacific

In Australia, we love toilet humour. The 2006 comedy Kenny, which followed a portable toilet man about his daily business, was a local box office hit, and our televisions are awash with advertisements of puppies unravelling toilet tissue rolls around the house.


United Nations staff installed a 15-door-high inflatable toilet to mark the World Toilet Day in front of the UN headquarters in New York on November 19, 2014. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

We can see the funny side of toilets, because we’re able to use a toilet and wash our hands as often as we need. The Australian Department of Social Services publishes an online National Public Toilet Map so we can find, in a matter of seconds, the nearest of some 16,000 public toilets.

Unfortunately, for too many in the world, this is far from the case. According to United Nations estimates around 2.4 billion people, or a third of the world’s population, don’t have access to a basic toilet, leaving them exposed to the many diseases transferred through human waste, such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery. Approximately 946 million people defecate in the open, in fields, streams, forests and open city spaces, which puts entire communities at risk of diarrhoeal diseases.

On 19 November, the world will mark World Toilet Day. This year, the focus is on the link between toilets and nutrition. Regular bouts of diarrhoea caused by open defecation, poor hygiene and unclean water, contribute to poor nutrition, growth stunting and developmental impairment, preventing children from reaching their full potential. In 2014, the World Health Organisation reported 159 million children under five years of age suffer from growth stunting. Nearly 1,000 children die every day from diarrhoeal diseases and poor nutrition, making diarrhoea the world’s second leading disease killer of children . These children are missing valuable time at school and their families are forced to spend their limited incomes on medical care, which exacerbates the cycle of poverty.

Read the full article on the WSSCC Guardian partner zone.

WSSCC increases support to Swachh Bharat Mission

The Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) has announced that it will amplify its support to the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the Government of India’s (GOI) programme to achieve a Clean India by 2019, by establishing an in country India Support Unit and bolstering its work linked to the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF).

The government has welcomed these moves, which enhance WSSCC’s normative and implementation work to improve access and use, equality, knowledge and collaboration in sanitation and hygiene. WSSCC has appointed Mr. Vinod Mishra, previously the organization’s volunteer National Coordinator, to the position of National Officer in a new India Support Unit (ISU). Mr. Mishra will lead a WSSCC team of three professionals, including Ms. Kamini Prakash, an Equality and Non Discrimination Officer, and Ms. Sanchita Ghosh, a Knowledge and Learning Officer, based in Delhi. The unit will coordinate WSSCC support to SBM on policy and monitoring guidelines, capacity building and rapid action learning.

Credit: Anil Teegala

Credit: Anil Teegala

In addition, WSSCC’s work through the Global Sanitation Fund-supported programme managed by NRMC India Private Ltd. will include four additional elements: extension of field operations in the States of Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam; support to the Namami Ganga Mission (NGM) within SBM; support to Bihar State on a “District Approach” to collective behaviour change; and facilitation of peer exchanges with neighbouring States in Northern India. Collectively, these additions respond to the Government’s aims to expand and share through successful sanitation programming.

These additional elements build on an already successful GSF programme which, since 2010, has been instrumental working in those three States with high open defecation rates, to establish the modalities for implementing collective behaviour change at scale, an essential pathway to the practical realization of SBM. To date, WSSCC has facilitated open defecation free status for Gram Panchayats in Jharkhand and Bihar. As of July 2015, the GSF programme has empowered 551,000 people to live in open defecation free villages, and 1.4 million people to gain access to improved sanitation in India. “The Swachh Bharat Mission is a call to action for finally ending the practice of open defecation and ensuring equal access to sanitation and hygiene,” says Dr. Chris W. Williams, Executive Director of WSSCC. “We aim to answer that call and work together to solve the serious and deep rooted sanitation challenges for the well-being, prosperity and very survival of India’s 1.2 billion citizens.”

Since 1990, WSSCC has worked closely through its individual members, National Coordinators and partners to support improved access to sanitation and hygiene. In the past five years alone, the Council held the first Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene in Mumbai, facilitated innovative sanitation programming through the GSF, and worked with the Government of India and States to transform sanitation policy and practice to include safe menstrual hygiene management with dignity, responding to the demands of hundreds of millions of women whose monthly periods were hitherto linked to pollution and impurity and therefore shame and indignity.

More recently, along with other partners, WSSCC contributed to the design of the SBM to include equity, innovation, rapid action and learning, and sustainability aspects before it was launched in October 2014. In 2015, GOI called upon WSSCC to organize the first ever national workshop to define the verification of open defecation free (ODF) status in India, followed by the first national sharing of innovations, best practices and failures in sanitation and hygiene. On equity, the Indian example and experience has been leveraged systematically to forge partnerships, innovations and guidelines wider in South Asia and in Africa. Inclusive WASH has also been clearly articulated in regional declarations and hygiene and sanitation proposals for the Sustainable Development Goals. “In a country where pervasive caste and gender inequalities threaten life itself, over 300 million women and girls in India try to squat in a sari, while holding a cup of water to cleanse themselves and keeping an eye out for molesters. Imagine how much more complex and impossible this becomes every month during a woman’s menstrual period!” says Ms. Archana Patkar, Programme Manager, WSSCC. “It is time for the entire development community to unite behind this cause.”

Mr. Mishra added: “The deleterious impacts of poor sanitation and hygiene on health, productivity and well-being extend well beyond India, which is responsible for 60% of the world’s total open defecation, and is nothing short of a global emergency. WSSCC’s amplified engagement will therefore lead to successes and solutions which will not only tackle the emergency here, but help elsewhere.”

Find out more about WSSCCs work in India and in other countries:

Toilet touring in Uganda: experiencing the true spirit of Community-Led Total Sanitation

Patrick England, who recently joined the Global Sanitation Fund secretariat, travelled to Uganda to participate in a learning exchange mission. The mission turned out to be a unique opportunity to experience the true spirit of community-led total sanitation (CLTS). Read about his experiences below.

Representatives from Madagascar’s Fond d’Appui pour l’Assainissement (FAA) programme demonstrating CLTS facilitation in Amuria District. Credit: Patrick England/WSSCC

Representatives from Madagascar’s Fond d’Appui pour l’Assainissement (FAA) programme demonstrating CLTS facilitation in Amuria District. Credit: Patrick England/WSSCC

When I first entered the field of international development, I had no idea that ‘shit’ would become a standard part of my professional vocabulary. But as a Portfolio Support Analyst with the WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund (GSF), my mission is to discover and document everything about shit: how communities are dealing with it, and how to support our programme partners to tackle the world’s growing sanitation and hygiene crisis. So in June 2015, I received my first opportunity to become a professional toilet tourist with the GSF during a cross-programme exchange to Uganda.

Just prior to my Ugandan journey, I was working with Concern Universal, the GSF Executing Agency in Nigeria. I supported the development of case studies and lessons learned for the GSF-supported Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria programme, which carries out Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) activities in the south-east of the country. Similar to Uganda, Nigeria’s GSF-supported programme is fully owned and implemented by government agencies. However, for local officials and civil servants, the participatory, spontaneous, and dynamic ethos of CLTS often runs in direct contrast to decades of enforcing toilet construction. Not only must CLTS trigger improved sanitation and hygiene behaviour in communities themselves, but it must also trigger government authorities to create enabling environments for communities to climb the sanitation ladder.

CLTS learning journeys converge: the GSF cross-programme exchange
Dazed after two days of travel from Calabar to Kampala, I met my new Uganda colleagues in the rural district of Pallisa. Accompanying them was a delegation from Madagascar’s GSF-supported programme. While much could be written on this band of Malagasy medical doctors-cum-sanitation crusaders, let’s just say that they definitely know their ‘shit’. For them, CLTS isn’t just an approach to increase sanitation coverage and reduce under-five mortality; it’s an action-affirmative philosophy that underpins a movement to improve the health of entire countries. Most importantly, this movement must be wholly owned by communities themselves – a point continuously emphasized throughout our district visits in Uganda.

Map of districts visited in Uganda, based on image retrieved on

Map of districts visited in Uganda, based on image retrieved on

Our exchange crossed the entire country – from the shores of Lake Victoria to the jungles along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo – working alongside District Health Office staff to improve their CLTS approach. Led by the Malagasy doctors, each visit comprised a systematic review of existing practices, a hands-on demonstration of best-practice triggering and follow-up, and a critical self-analysis by health staff to enhance their community engagement. As was the case in Nigeria where decades of latrine enforcement and health sensitization failed to achieve any notable impact, this intensive learning process focused on ‘de-programming’ the old behaviours of local government facilitators.

Compared to Nigeria, where 25 percent of the population practices open defecation, Uganda has a relatively high level of sanitation coverage (where seven percent practice open defecation)[1]. This was made evident by the number of well-built latrines I observed during our visits to rural communities. Until then, I never entertained the notion that a toilet could be beautiful: walls carefully smoothed and polished, meticulously patterned with charcoal and red mud paint, all topped with round thatch roofs. One elderly woman in Koboko District proudly demonstrated how she used a local weed to give her latrine’s mud floor a glossy sheen. However, the presence of toilets – even those ornately designed – did not mean that these communities were open defecation free (ODF). These latrines frequently went unused, especially during planting and harvesting seasons, while a lack of adequate fly-proof covers and handwashing facilities meant that these community members were still unintentionally eating their own, and others’, shit.

Read the full blog on the WSSCC website

Not just another day

Global Handwashing Day is there to remind us of how simple the solutions to serious issues can be.

Global Handwashing Day is on the 15 October. Photograph: Concern Universal

Global Handwashing Day is on the 15 October. Photograph: Concern Universal

I’ve always been a sceptic when it comes to world “Days”. However noble the cause, what difference can they really make? The International Day of Peace – as if the various factions in Syria or Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremists paused from their daily destruction to consider alternative approaches. How many acres of forest are cleared for extracting resources or planting cash-crops every World Environment Day? Aside from providing a hook for advocacy press releases, how could those involved possibly think that one day could positively affect the suffering on the front lines of poverty and insecurity? Well, having run behaviour change projects in West Africa over the last five years I am beginning to believe that it can.

Today is Global Handwashing Day, and together with its cousin World Toilet Day on 19 November, it brings attention to the most basic issues – hygiene and sanitation – that to our shame still account for two million child deaths a year.

A third of the world’s population – 2.4 billion people – live with poor sanitation and hygiene which, according to the World Bank, costs countries $260 billion annually. Every day 2,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday due to diarrhoeal diseases, the vast majority caused by poor sanitation and hygiene.

Diarrhoea alone killed far more young children in Nigeria over the last 12 months – around 150,000 – than Boko Haram’s slaughtering and the wars in Syria combined. Whilst we continue the daily search for even a hint of a resolution to these two brutal and complex conflicts, we already know the simple solution to tackling hygiene and sanitation-related diseases.

We know that handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrhoeal diseases – reducing incidence by up to 47% – and combined with improved sanitation, this is boosted to 68%. We know that in countries with the highest child mortality rates as few as 1% of people wash their hands effectively, and that the global average is only 19%. Most frustratingly, effective tools and participatory methods are readily available and it is estimated that interventions that promote handwashing could save close to a million lives. So why is hygiene promotion not a focus of most development projects?

Read the full article in the WSSCC partner zone on the Guardian.

Learning, progress and innovation: Sanitation and hygiene promotion in Madagascar

Learn how the Global Sanitation Fund-supported programme in Madagascar is promoting sustainability and achieving strong sanitation and hygiene results trough a cycle of learning, progress and innovation.

Download the complete case study or explore the sections below:

The national context

Photo: Members of a local sanitation and hygiene advocacy group in the fokontany of Anjalazala celebrate achieving open defecation free status. Credit: FAA/Nirina Roméo Andriamparany

Photo: Members of a local sanitation and hygiene advocacy group in the fokontany of Anjalazala celebrate achieving open defecation free status. Credit: FAA/Nirina Roméo Andriamparany

The latest report from the Joint Monitoring Programme of the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization highlights revealing statistics on Madagascar’s sanitation and hygiene situation. Approximately 12 percent of the country’s population have access to improved sanitation, while 18 percent have access to shared sanitation that is unimproved, and 30 percent have access to other types of unimproved sanitation. Furthermore, 40 percent defecate in the open. Ensuring improved sanitation and hygiene for all remains a major challenge in the country, but innovations from local partners supported by the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) are vigorously helping to transform this situation.
Learn more

The CLTS journey

Photo: ‘Triggering’ children in the commune of Mangarano, using the open defecation mapping tool. Credit: FAA/Fano Randriamanantsoa

Photo: ‘Triggering’ children in the commune of Mangarano, using the open defecation mapping tool. Credit: FAA/Fano Randriamanantsoa

In rural Madagascar, CLTS is the preferred approach for eliminating open defecation, and these actions also drive overall improvements in sanitation and hygiene. CLTS was introduced in the country in 2008, following its success in Asia. The crux of the approach lies in creating an enabling environment in which communities become self-reliant and improve their own sanitation and hygiene situation without external help.

Video: CLTS ‘triggering in action

CLTS focuses on igniting change in sanitation and hygiene behavior within whole communities, rather than constructing toilets through subsidies. During this social awakening, or ‘triggering’ process in Madagascar, the community looks for visible faeces in their environment. When people realize they are eating faeces this provokes disgust, shame and impacts on dignity. The community then makes and immediate decision to end open defecation. These steps are highlighted in the above video.
Learn more

Innovations in sanitation and hygiene behaviour change methods
As the first GSF programme, the Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement (FAA) was the testing ground for various approaches based on the essence of CLTS, which helped to drive the programme’s learning and sharing culture. Sub-grantees have utilized a range of approaches within local communities, sharing their challenges and success with the larger FAA team. Through FAA’s strong learning and sharing system, many of these approaches have been evaluated for their potential to be implemented on a larger scale, and some have become best practices, both within and outside of Madagascar. This case study highlights three best practice approaches evaluated and utilized by the FAA programme: Follow-up MANDONA, local and institutional governance and sanitation marketing.

Follow-up MANDONA
Inspired by CLTS triggering approaches, Follow-up MANDONA is aimed at helping communities speed up their achievement of open defecation free status and initiate the development of local governance mechanisms for sustainability.
Learn more

Read the full article on the WSSCC website.

Boosting dialogue on sanitation and hygiene behaviour change and sustainability: WSSCC and SuSanA launch online learning event

The WSSCC Community of Practice on Sanitation and Hygiene in Developing Countries (CoP) and the global Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) launched an online learning event today on the topic, ‘Sanitation and hygiene behaviour change programming and sustainability: habit formation, slippage, and the need for long-term programming’. The learning event runs for three weeks from 22 September to 12 October on both the WSSCC CoP and SuSanA online discussion forum. People interested in the topic are encouraged to join and participate in the learning event.

Both platforms have over 5,000 members each working in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and other related sectors. The learning event is therefore an opportunity to bring together these two global communities to share learning and ideas, identify best practice and explore links between research and practice on behaviour change. This is the first time the two networks have come together to host an online collaborative learning event.

The learning event is taking place simultaneously on both platforms, with a coordinator ensuring that content is shared across both communities. Discussions will look at a number of key issues relating to sanitation and hygiene behaviour change programming and sustainability. The main topic for discussion is divided into three inter-linked sub-topics, to further explore how behaviour change can be better understood and improved to ensure health and WASH outcomes are sustained. The sub-topics are:

  • Programming for scale, including the following key questions: What are some examples of successful scale-up? How did these models address the issues of inclusion and equity? In the cases of successful scale-up, were programmes initiated and sustained by governmental or non-governmental actors?  What is the role of the private sector in implementing sanitation at scale?
  • Sustainability for behaviour change, including the following key questions: How can behaviour change become systematized and sustained? What are the behavioural determinants and behaviour change techniques we should be aware of? What constitutes an enabling environment for sustainability?
  • Open defecation free (ODF) and slippage, including the following key questions: How is ODF defined? What are some of the local strategies in place to strengthen sustainability of ODF – within communities and beyond? What are the patterns of slippage? How and when can slippage be monitored in large-scale programmes? Are there more innovative ways looking at not only the physically visible aspects – what about the health impact and the perceptions and views of communities?

WASH sector experts leading the discussion include, among others:

  • Tracey Keatman, Senior Associate, Partnerships in Practice (learning event coordinator)
  • Suvojit Chattopadhyay, Consultant, focused on monitoring and evaluation
  • Poy Dy, Project Coordinator, Santi Sena (a Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) sub-grantee in Cambodia)
  • CLTS Knowledge Hub, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex
  • Clara Rudholm, Senior Programme Officer, Global Sanitation Fund
  • Carolien van der Voorden, Senior Programme Officer, Global Sanitation Fund
  • Matilda Jerneck, Programme Officer, Global Sanitation Fund

Weekly summaries of discussions will be posted on both the WSSCC CoP and SuSanA forum. In addition, a summary report of each topic, along with an overview of all issues generated from the discussions, will be available in late October on both platforms.

To join and participate in the discussions, visit the WSSCC CoP and SuSanA forum.

Questions can be posted directly on the platforms or sent to the following addresses: and