Author Archives: WSSCC

Sacosan VI set to tackle sanitation in Asia

The latest Sacosan conference will bring together ministers and sector experts to accelerate continental progress on sanitation, hygiene and equity

The sixth South Asia Conference on Sanitation (Sacosan-VI) – the region’s leading water and sanitation hygiene (WASH) forum – is taking place in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka from 11-13 January, 2016.

Supported by the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) and held on a rotational basis in each member state, Sacosan is a biennial gathering that provides a critical platform for governments and key stakeholders in South Asia to develop a regional agenda and action plans on sanitation. Under the banner ‘Better Sanitation, Better Life’ the three-day conference aims to accelerate progress on sanitation and hygiene promotion in South Asia, and thus enhance the quality of people’s lives.

“While the proportion of people using improved sanitation in South Asia has increased significantly over the past decade, over a billion people in the region still lack access to adequate sanitation,” says Chris Williams, WSSCC’s Executive Director.

“Sacosan-VI is thus a key forum for discussing the region’s water and sanitation hygiene (WASH) sector accomplishments, sharing experiences and exchanging ideas. But it is also a great opportunity to examine the challenges South Asia face as it journeys into the Sustainable Development Goals era, particularly the challenges wrought by climate change, socio-economic development and increasing inequality.”

Launched in Bangladesh in 2003, subsequent Sacosan conferences have been held in Pakistan (2006), India (2008), Sri Lanka (2011) and Nepal (2013), all of which have helped to generate an increasing political will towards better sanitation in South Asia.

More than 500 delegates and participants from the Saarc countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are due to attend Sacosan-VI.

Attendees will include ministers, parliamentarians, senior government officials, donors and representatives of civil society organisations, as well as unilateral and bilateral organisations, local and international NGOs, research institutions, academics, media, private sector and community members actively engaged in the promotion of sanitation and hygiene services in their respective countries.

The conference aims to develop increased knowledge, in-depth learning and practical solutions that address common Wash challenges in South Asia, especially on universal access to, and use of, sanitation and hygiene. The emphasis will be on behaviour change across whole communities, particularly people in the hard-to-reach areas, institutions and public places. The main objectives of Sacosan-VI are:

  • Achieve an ODF South Asia by 2023 through improvement of policy frameworks, increase financing, strengthening implementation and monitoring strategies for sanitation and hygiene, with a special focus on marginalized groups.
  • Contribute to increased knowledge, deepened learning and practical solutions to address the common challenges in South Asia, especially on universal access to, and use of, sanitation and hygiene, emphasising behaviour change across whole communities, especially among the hardest to reach (in their homes, institutions and public places).
  • Develop the strategic direction for future Sacosans by reviewing the achievements and learning of past Sacosans.
  • Conduct deliberations in the context of national, regional and global priorities in relation to the post-2015 environment.

Sacosan-VI will include a variety of plenary sessions and side events, an exhibition area and visits to local cultural sites, including the Bangabandhu Museum, which commemorates the founding leader of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. By the end of the conference a declaration on its commitments – the ‘Dhaka Declaration’ – will be drafted by the participating South Asian countries. The conference will then be followed by two days of field visits to successful initiatives run by the Bangladeshi government and its development partners.

The conference will also feature a review of the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) achievements and identify the challenges facing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The aim is to use a critique of the MDGs and SDGs to develop a ‘Smart’ regional plan for formulating policy and strategy, which includes ideas on technology for hard to reach areas, school sanitation, hygiene promotion for poor communities, urban sanitation, collaboration and alliances at national, regional and international level, and monitoring mechanisms for hygiene and sanitation at national and regional level.

This article was originally published on the WSSCC Guardian development blog.

Better Sanitation, Better Life – Join WSSCC at SACOSAN 6 in Dhaka!

WSSCC wishes all of its Members and Friends a happy and prosperous 2016!

In this first year of the Sustainable Development Goal era, we look forward to working with colleagues around the world in the vital effort to achieve sanitation and hygiene for all.


Credit: Javier Acebal/WSSCC

Our work begins in earnest at the 6th South Asia Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene (SACOSAN), which begins this weekend in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Click here for a list of our activities at SACOSAN 6

Follow all our conference updates on Twitter using the hashtag #SACOSAN.

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.