Alana Potter, lead author of the WASHCost working paper on “Assessing hygiene cost-effectiveness“, explains the importance of changing hygiene behaviours so that improved water and sanitation can lead to the expected health benefits. She has been reviewing indicators, tools and methods that sector institutions are using to monitor and measure hygiene behaviour change and identified three key hygiene behaviours common to all of these tools. Simply put, these are hand washing, using a toilet (i.e. separation of faeces from users) and safe management of household water. These are crucial for health benefits to be derived from improved water and should be remembered on World Water Day.
Interview and video by Nicolas Dickinson, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre
March 21, 2012
Source: IRC / WASHCost, 21 Mar 2012
In a commentary published in Nature on 20 March 2008, Jamie Bartram (WHO) calls for a smarter system of indicators to monitor progress in achieving the MDG goals for safe water and sanitation. The current way of measuring progress shares “a basic weakness in regarding every human as either ‘having’ or ‘not having’ these key amenities [safe water and basic sanitation] ; a formula well past its sell-by date”, Bartram argues.
“Counting haves and have-nots has the advantages of simplicity and equity” […] but it does not encourage “progressive improvements”.
“The benchmark for sanitation is use at home, whereas for water it is an improved communal source – a protected well or spring, for example. Applying benchmarks that require both drinking-water and sanitation at home would better represent what is needed to protect health and secure social benefits. Sadly, raising the water benchmark to a household level alongside the sanitation benchmark would mean missing both targets”.
For Bartram elements of a smarter system include:
- recognising not only household latrines but also successful shared or public toilets
- including health, well-being and livelihoods in indicators
- using “overlays” incorporating greater detail in indicators, e.g. ‘marking down’ flush toilets “if they discharge untreated wastewater into a nearby river rather than to a treatment facility”.
- recognising “that safe water and sanitation in schools, workplaces, hospitals, markets and other public places are also important”
- recognising “that sanitation protects health best when practised by all”.