Boosting sanitation programmes through local government: Success stories from Uganda

Date: 6th June 2017

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The magnitude of the sanitation crisis means that sanitation and hygiene solutions must be delivered sustainably, and on a large scale. This requires the close involvement of government at all levels. A GSF case study outlines eight lessons from the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF)-supported Uganda Sanitation Fund (USF) in coordinating, planning, and implementing Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) at scale through a decentralized government system.

Meet three of the local government champions featured in the case study, who are critical to the USF’s success.

Jimmy (left) shaking hands with triggered community members. Credit: WSSCC/USF

Mujuni Kitimbo Jimmy: Engaging district staff through on-the-job mentoring

“When you support local governments, you sit together with the person using guidance and support, not direct instructions. This approach breaks barriers and establishes personal relationships,” says Mujuni Kitimbo Jimmy, a USF Field Officer supporting seven districts in the West Nile region.

The USF is managed Uganda’s Ministry of Health, and District Local Governments directly implement the behavior change programme through District Health Offices. As part of the Ministry of Health’s mandate to provide on-the-job, technical assistance to districts, Jimmy’s job involves working in close partnership with District Health Offices to improve their activity planning, CLTS facilitation, reporting, and results verification. “I see my role as a person who motivates district staff to take proactive action to support communities to end open defecation,” he adds.

On-the-job mentoring is the USF’s most effective capacity building method, which not only helps develop greater technical and managerial skills, but also instills greater confidence. “This is how you can better understand their challenges on their own terms, and it enables you to give appropriate support and advice,” stresses Jimmy.

He adds: “One of the roles of the Field Officer is to enhance coordination by engaging the head of the district civil service and other local government departments to bring them on board.”

One of his tools to achieve this is field-based demonstrations: “In Arua, we took the [District Health Officer] and the district leadership to see what a real CLTS session looks like. This triggered the health extension workers to do things differently, and they appreciated that they need to more closely involve the political leadership.”

What inspires Jimmy to support his districts to improve their performance? “The people I work with make me passionate about my role. When you go to the district, and you get people that are really passionate and wishing to see change, it gives you more desire to achieve results. This desire to see change really inspires me – we really feel that together we are making an impact.”

Annet Birungi: Bonding with communities through listening, music, humour and innovation

Annet (centre-left) celebrates with community members to mark their progress towards open defecation free (ODF) status. Credit: WSSCC/USF

When the USF introduced community-led behaviour change approaches, passionate extension workers emerged as powerful champions for their peers.

Annet Birungi is one of them. Serving as a Health Assistant in Lira District, she has emerged as one of the District Health Office’s star facilitators. As the leader of her team, she has accompanied 12 communities on their journey to end open defecation.

She explains: “After I attended the Ministry of Health training, I made sure that once I got to the field, I would perform my best. As I love the communities that I work in, I wanted to deepen my knowledge on this new CLTS approach.” Her enthusiasm for working with communities soon earned her a position as a team leader.

Annet uses songs, dances, and humour to build a strong bond with the communities. For her, being an effective facilitator means, “having good listening skills, getting down to earth with communities by supporting the emergence of local technologies and initiatives, and using flexibility and innovativeness to trigger behaviour change.”

She now supports her colleagues to build their own skills: “It’s my pride to see that others also come up like me, so I ensure that I also pass these skills on to my colleagues. I feel that good facilitation is all about the attitude.”

The Ministry of Health has asked her to help provide technical assistance for three other neighbouring districts. She adds: “My pride is seeing communities with a healthy environment, and my vision is to see not only an ODF Lira, but an ODF Uganda.”

Aula James: Championing a movement for sanitation and hygiene for all

Credit: WSSCC/USF

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Aula James, is one of the first champions in Abebtong District to push for universal access to and use of sanitation and hygiene.

“I make sure that our district takes full ownership of the USF. I am responsible for ensuring that the USF runs smoothly by following up on the use of funds, reporting on programme progress to district technical committees and political leaders, and even take part in CLTS activities and the declaration of ODF villages.”

He adds: “When I first engaged with the USF, I became triggered as I realized that open defecation threatens our ‘Vision 2020’ of achieving middle income status. But if we can sustain good sanitation and hygiene behaviour through preventative approaches, like the USF, our district can save a lot of money since most of the diseases we face are sanitation related.”

“Sanitation and hygiene is everyone’s business, so the USF’s integration with other local government departments is key. I therefore promote the involvement of other departments during CLTS sessions, or when we are going to declare villages as ODF.”

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