Talking about shit is neither romantic nor attractive for both politicians and media. But it is a reality in South Asia, where more than one billion people simply don’t have toilet to perform their natural functions, out of that about 700 million men, women and children defecate in open in highly undignified manner in remote rural villages to poor and informal urban localities in metropolitan cities . They are exposed to severe health risks, violence and adding to environmental pollution. Majority of schools in all the countries don’t have toilets and hand washing facilities for children, hence a chance to change behaviour in next generation is missed out. (more…)
November 7, 2011
January 12, 2011
Nepal’s ‘Millennium Development Goals progress report 2010’ is optimistic about Nepal achieving many of its MDG targets by 2015. The report indicates that some are very likely to be achieved and others quite likely. However, it predicts that three targets are unlikely to be achieved by 2015. These are: ‘achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all’, ‘universal access to reproductive health’ and ‘halving the proportion of population without sustainable access to improved sanitation’.
At a time when Nepal faces the huge challenge of making progress in these three MDG targets, an article published by The Kathmandu Post on January 7, 2011, ‘Water industry eyeing Rs 5000 b investment’ offers some encouragement. The article reports that the fast growing water industry in the country is expected to attract approximately Rs. 500 billion in investment from Indian and foreign companies, which would provide one
million jobs within the Nepalese market over the next three years.
This would certainly help Nepal’s government in terms of expecting progress in at least one of these targets: ‘achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all’.
I believe that an increase in employment and water supply could actually contribute indirectly to reproductive health and access to improved sanitation. It will therefore be the responsibility of the government and other stakeholders to endeavor to make this program a success.
Given this important development then, the country will need to place more focus on targets relating to reproductive health and sanitation in order to translate its commitment into reality.
Written by Govind Shrestha, Research Officer, WaterAid in Nepal
January 5, 2011
Sanitation is finally being recognized as a priority on the development agenda. Water and Sanitation supply experts in particular are well aware that this hasn’t come too soon. A neglect of sanitation in this country has led to Nepal ranking as the lowest country in South Asia in terms of sanitation coverage. In statistical terms, this means 14 million people are deprived from basic sanitation services; that’s 51% of the population, and only 41% of public and community schools have toilet facilities.
So, why is this such an issue?
Firstly, poor sanitation leads to sickness and disease. Unsafe sanitation leads to higher rates of infant mortality and infections, contributes to malnutrition and generally a weaker human condition. Inadequate sanitation may actually be the biggest killer of children as 10,500 children die from diarrhea every year in Nepal before reaching their 5th birthday. We know that more than 80% of diseases are caused because of unsafe sanitation facilities and unhygienic practices. We also know that safe sanitation facilities can prevent diarrhea by 45%.
Secondly, a lack of sanitation limits economic growth. Without good sanitation, workers are less healthy and therefore less productive, living shorter lives and saving and investing less. Children are also less likely to attend school. Meeting the Millenium Development Goals’ (MDG) sanitation target would yield economic benefits. Even conservative estimates predict that adequate investments in sanitation could provide an additional 3% of economic growth.
We can breathe a small sigh of relief that it is finally becoming more widely understood that a lack of sanitation facilities in schools has led to low levels of female enrollment and to high levels of females dropping out of school. We can also be pleased that, as a direct result of the water and sanitation related MDG targets, the government in Nepal has also recognised sanitation in its PRSP targets, ‘All the people of Nepal will have sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2017.’
However, let’s not be too complacent. To achieve universal access to sanitation facilities by 2017 would require an annual investment of Rs. 7.5 billion. Fortunately, the current trend of budget investment is around Rs. 9.15 billion. The challenges then, are to ensure the government’s continued financial commitment, equitable distribution, ie ensuring that the finance is directed to low coverage districts, effective use of the allocated resources and also that sustainability mechanisms are in place.
Each year, since 2006, an average of 4 million people are provided with basic sanitation services. However, it is estimated that only 62% of initiatives taken for sanitation access are sustained. At this rate of drop-off, it will take until 2031 to achieve the national target, even if the financing trend does exceed requirements.
So yes, while there has indeed been progress, I urge us all to remember how far we still have to go to achieve as much recognition for sanitation as there now is for water supply.
Written by Kabir Rajbhandari, Programme Manager – Urban, WaterAid in Nepal
December 29, 2010
Several women’s rights issues have been receiving increased attention in the development arena in recent years. Issues such as the role of women in economic development, equal representation of women in different forums and platforms, early marriage, sexual abuse and the burden of domestic duties. One issue, however, remains a taboo for many – the issue of menstruation and the effects it can have on a girl’s education, dignity and quality of life. Neither women’s activist groups nor the Government have made adequate attempts at addressing these issues in Nepal.
Menstruation is a normal, natural process that occurs in all healthy adolescent and adult women yet to reach menopause. However, it has mostly been dealt with in secrecy since even discussing menstruation means breaking a social taboo.
As I write this, many adolescent girls are dropping-out of school because a lack of toilet on the school premises means nowhere to change their sanitary pads. A lack of water means nowhere to clean themselves and they undoubtedly fear leaking blood. Traditional beliefs and taboos associated with menstruation present further challenges. Many women will have been punished today for touching a member of the opposite sex, for going to worship or for using the same ponds as others for bathing or fetching water. A lack of proper menstrual hygiene management also means that many more are facing health related problems such as itching, vaginal discharge, severe headaches and abdominal pain. I am also sure that many women woke up this morning in the cow shed, having been banished from their usual bed.
The role of Menstrual management in achieving many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is rarely acknowledged. Yet it is clear that adequate measures to address menstrual hygiene will contribute directly to MDG-7 on environmental sustainability. Also, due to its indirect effects on school absenteeism and gender discrepancy, poor menstrual hygiene management may seriously hamper the realization of MDGs-2 on universal education and MDG-3 on gender equality and women empowerment. Unfortunately, there has been little recognition of this to date.
Issues surrounding menstrual hygiene and management have not received adequate attention in the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) sector or in the reproductive health sector. It is surprising that even gender mainstreaming literature remains silent on the issues of menstrual hygiene management.
What do you think about these issues?
Written by Om Prasad Gautam, Social Development Advisor, WaterAid in Nepal
December 24, 2010
At WaterAid we believe sanitation to be a basic human right. Yet a staggering 16 million people in Nepal do not have access to sanitation facilities, and an appalling 1,500 Nepali children die each year due to preventable diseases before reaching their fifth birthday. So why is sanitation being so badly neglected in this country?
There are several possible answers. A poor cousin of water provision, sanitation suffers from a low profile, often being misunderstood and equated with ‘dirt’. There is clearly a lack of awareness amongst society in general about the benefits or the urgency of sanitation, a problem that causes sanitation to be seen as low priority and causes potential funding for sanitation projects to be directed elsewhere. Organisations responsible for implementing sanitation projects often lack the capacity to carry out each stage of a given project effectively, leading to a lack of faith in sanitation projects. Add to this the fragmented institutional arrangements that we’ve endured in Nepal, and you can begin to understand how difficult is has been for sanitation to reach the national development agenda.
There has of course been some progress. The Millenium Development Goals’ targets set for 2015 to halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and the PRSP target for universal access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2017 have both helped to increase awareness. A separate budget of 8 crore has been allocated to sanitation in Nepal, but this is somewhat small fry when you consider WaterAid’s estimation that universal access across the country will not be possible without a budget of 100 crore. Each year since 2006, 4 million people have been provided with basic sanitation services, yet WaterAid estimates that only 62% of these initiatives are sustained. Without any new creative or holistic approaches that might accelerate progress, the national target set for 2017 will not be reached until 2031.
The way forward is, I feel, to identify more links between sanitation and sustainable livelihoods in order to tackle together both the huge lack of sanitation and the fact that the government will not be able to provide for the needs of the poor. The approach will need to be a user-centred one where the poor are viewed as informed consumers, producers, workers and citizens, rather than beneficiaries. Linked with livelihoods, sanitation will be seen in the broader context of enabling (local) governments, enabling communities, enabling markets and social and economic development.
In this model, small scale service providers will be able to play a role in sanitation provision by performing complementary roles in transport, cleaning, construction, thereby generating employment opportunities.
With support from enabling governments and donors, local NGOs and CBOs will be able to take up stronger roles within sanitation such as training, facilitating processes and mediation. The micro-enterprise concept could also be incorporated in order to tap into sanitation related skills and services, and these micro organizations should be encouraged to promote technical innovation by launching viable technologies like ‘Ecosan’ which in turn help to promote environmental sanitation.
Civil servants, government officials and laborers in the water and sanitation sector will need to be motivated to work towards poverty reduction and to show more solidarity with the poor by formulating and implementing people-friendly sanitation policies and guidelines.
Sanitation is then, in my view, fundamental to livelihood improvement among urban and rural poor people. Raising the profile of sanitation in this way will support poverty alleviation by enhancing livelihoods. And let’s not forget that improved sanitation will help to promote dignified living; a basic, surely, for all citizens of ‘New Nepal’.
Posted by Kabir Rajbhandari, Programme Manager – Urban, WaterAid in Nepal
December 22, 2010
WaterAid has always been big on sustainability; whether it be promoting affordable technology or up-skilling people for the on-going management of services. We’re an organisation committed to innovation; making sure we’re constantly adapting to meet the needs of the changing times. In the spirit of innovation then, I’d like to put forward some suggestions about how WaterAid and our peer organisations may want to adapt our work in the face of the world’s current emerging global crisis: climate change, particularly in the area of drinking water source sustainability.
- Environmental awareness components could be incorporated into our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project plans, for example, components that focus on land use patterns, deforestation, extraction of ground water and overgrazing of pasture land.
- The issues of how infrastructure development, housing, upstream diversion, carbon emissions etc impact on drinking water source sustainability should be added to the agenda for discussion
- Research could be conducted into the annual rainfall versus source yield change patterns within the micro watershed areas (or WaterAid project areas). This would help us to understand any emerging trends during the period of a project, (2-3 years) and to explore adaptation strategies. Learning gained from such research can be applied to the engineering and design of future projects.
- Proven science from forestry and botanical fields can be utilized as potential ways of improving source yields. For example we could explore whether bio-engineering techniques close to the source are effective in terms of improving the water infiltration and holding capacity of sub soil. We could increase awareness about the types of species that consume more underground water and therefore reduce source yields and the types of species that can retain more water in the soil for longer periods, contributing to improved source yields during dry seasons.
- We could pilot alternative techniques of improving ground water recharging in WaterAid supported projects in Nepal, for example by tapping rain water, storm water and waste water
- Local knowledge and appropriate technologies that could potentially improve source yields should also be explored, proven and promoted
These are some ideas of how WaterAid is looking to adapt its working practices in the face of the current changing climate but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and suggestions. Is this the right approach do you think? Is there anything else we need to consider? Please don’t hesitate to share your views below.
Written by Barun Kanta Adhikari, Planning and Monitoring Manager, WaterAid in Nepal