The Nepal programme supports the national goal to achieve 100 percent sanitation coverage by 2017, with a focus on eliminating open defecation and promoting good hygiene practices. The programme works in 17 out of 75 districts with a range of national, regional, district, municipal and village-level coordinating bodies. Sub-grantees are local NGOs.
A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in April, killing almost 9,000 people, injuring approximately 22,000 and displacing hundreds of thousands. The earthquake caused extensive damage to the country’s economy and infrastructure, significantly setting back sanitation and hygiene gains across hundreds of communities. Five GSF-supported districts were badly affected by the earthquake. Of those five, Bhaktapur had been officially certified as ODF in 2013, and Sindupalchowk and Dolakha were on track, having reached 99 and 98 percent sanitation coverage respectively, due for ODF declaration. Given the extent of the devastation, partner requests and UN-Habitat’s presence on the ground, WSSCC’s Steering Committee authorized the re-programming of a portion of the Nepal programme’s funds to support the nation-wide, coordinated response.
The programme’s post-earthquake activities focused on district WASH coordination, technical support and community-led behaviour change activities to restore the ODF campaign activities and gains made. For example, a ‘revive your toilet’ campaign in the three worst-affected districts mobilized volunteers to restore damaged latrines, and carry out massive sanitation and hygiene communication campaigns. Work has accelerated in the southern Terai region, where much of the programme’s challenges related to population density and sociocultural barriers are faced. As a result of strong WASH sector collaboration, significant progress has been observed. In June 2015, Bardiya became the first GSF-supported Terai district to be officially certified as ODF.
Moreover, by the end of 2015, over 1.5 million people were reported to be living in ODF environments across the programme’s target areas. The Nepal programme’s achievements are a strong testament to the impact of behaviour change approaches, which bodes well for the restoration of sanitation gains in earthquake-affected districts.
In addition to challenges due to the earthquake, political unrest in the programme’s Terai districts halted work in the region in the second half of 2015. No-cost contract extensions have therefore been granted to implementing partners to complete planned activities. Furthermore, despite active sanitation campaigns and collective efforts, ODF results are not increasing at rates originally anticipated. The programme is thus analyzing the capacities of Village Development Committees (VDCs) and devising appropriate strategies. To address post-ODF sustainability, the programme is supporting VDCs to develop post-ODF strategies within three months of being certified, as mandated by the Government. Furthermore, subsidies used by some sector actors as part of the post-earthquake humanitarian response create expectations of financial support instead of encouraging collective behaviour change. In addition, to address the challenge of balancing sanitation supply with the demand created, the programme is providing technical support to local entrepreneurs and training local masons.
Learning and innovation
The programme has increasingly seen the value of door-to-door visits and individual triggering, using context-specific communication materials and technologies, involving local law enforcement in campaigns and promoting sustainability. Among the multiple innovations that have impacted the programme are latrine financing through microcredit schemes; setting up triggering teams in sanitation camps within communities for extended periods of time, to build ODF momentum; campaigns supporting the poorest households by mobilizing individual contributions of cash, materials and time to help build latrines; and VDC-level sanitation conferences.
Going forward, the programme will implement its long-term strategy to help restore and sustain sanitation and hygiene gains in districts most affected by the earthquake, while continuing to support other districts to achieve ODF status by 2017.
When WASH practitioners understand the patterns and causes of slippage, they can devise innovative strategies to avoid it.
Global Sanitation Fund programmes are designed to incorporate gender considerations and equity dimensions.
Monitoring slippage should go beyond the numbers to truly understand behaviour change and community dynamics.