Global Communities Celebrates World Toilet Day 2019

By Eddy Perez, Global Communities Technical Director for WASH

Hundreds of millions of people globally do not have access to sustainable safe drinking water and sanitation services. According to the WHO/UNICEF Global Joint Monitoring Program (JMP 2019), as of 2017, about 30 percent of the world’s population was without safely managed drinking water, and about 60 percent without access to a safely managed sanitation service. The situation is worse in rural areas, where 70 percent of the population lack basic services: as of 2017, 701 million were using unimproved pit latrines and 673 million still practiced open defecation. Three billion people still lacked basic handwashing facilities at home: 1.6 billion had limited facilities lacking soap or water, and 1.4 billion had no facility at all (see WHO/UNICEF JMP tables below).  An estimated 829,000 WASH-attributable deaths occurred from diarrheal diseases in 2016, equivalent to 60 percent of all diarrheal deaths. In children under five years, 297,000 WASH-attributable diarrhea deaths occurred, representing 5.3 percent of all deaths in this age group. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the scale of undernutrition resulting in part from poor sanitation leading to diarrhea is staggering; 58 million children under the age of five are too short for their age (stunted) and 13.9 million weigh too little for their height (wasted).  An overarching contributor to the problem are  social inequities which play an important role in water and sanitation-related risks – poor and marginalized populations, particularly women and girls who  live in rural areas and informal peri-urban settlements and slums generally have lower levels of access than those who live in cities.   

WASH is a core technical focus of Global Communities, and a primary plank in its mission to build community and household capacities to direct their own lives and development. Global Communities’ WASH approach is strongly influenced by Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The WASH targets under SDG 6 set an ambition of no less than universal access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services by 2030, emphasizing the need to focus on the vulnerable and those left behind.  The SDG 6 and its targets are “game changers” in the global and national WASH sector. As such, in order to achieve the goals, a major paradigm shift is needed—“doing things differently” in how WASH interventions are done by governments, development partners, and donors. Consistent with the paradigm change embedded in SDG 6, the Global Communities WASH portfolio needs to “do things differently.” What Global Communities should do differently to be successful in our WASH programs includes:

  • Program designs that go beyond stopping open defecation to addressing a wider range of unhealthy behaviors along the water and sanitation value chain;
  • Program designs that go beyond physical construction and counting outputs to strengthening and measuring governance and enabling environment for service delivery;
  • Program designs that go beyond end of project outputs to strengthening and measuring factors that contribute to sustainability of WASHservices;
  • Program designs that go beyond anecdotal assertions of reaching the poor to using data toexplicitly target the disadvantaged and monitor progress toward the progressive reduction of inequity;
  • Program designs that go beyond siloed and selective technical assistance and capacity building for organizations we are working with, to a dynamic systems approach that looks at all actors and factors in an ecosystem and strengthens the local systems based on an understanding of how the system components are interdependent and interact with each other;
  • Program designs that go beyond INGO-led projects to government-led programs with local CSOs to support national and local systems for sustainable service delivery at all levels;
  • Program designs that go beyond the household and community level to institutional WASH in schools and health care facilities;
  • Program designs that go beyond working with small scale local and social entrepreneurs toa market-based approach where Global Communities engages with the formal private sector and helps to facilitate a market-strengthening process with all stakeholders (government, financing institutions, local government, communities and other development partners) to create an enabling environment for the private sector to contribute solutions to WASH challenges;
  • Program designs that go beyond external and unsustainable funding for WASH infrastructure to supporting the development of financing policies for both capital expenditures as well as for ongoing sustainability of services, such as facilitating the creation of credit programs and the effective use of public subsidies for reaching the poor and other disadvantaged populations; and
  • Program designs that go beyond individual behavior-based approaches to changing social norms and measuring behavioral outcomes.

Examples of how Global Communities does things differently can be found in Ghana – where in partnership with USAID under the WASH for Health project, Global Communities took a market-based approach to working with the private sector, the government and communities to design, produce and market the Digni-Loo latrine to households  in rural areas that are below the poverty line (read the cased study, “A Market-based, Pro-poor Approach to Rural Sanitation” here). In addition, Global Communities in Ghana partnered with a Swiss university to collect data and assess what factors increased the construction of latrines in rural sanitation programs (read our latest research brief, “What Makes Ghanaians More Likely to Stop Open Defecation and Build Latrines?” here). This kind of evidenced-based learning enables Global Communities and its partners to improve program design and impact.