From 10 to 15 April 2022 an across country learning visit was organised in Bangladesh for three sub-programmes of the WASH SDG programme. The involved sub-programme teams where from the Nepal WASH Alliance sub-programme, the Bangladesh Urban Sanitation sub-programme (SNV) and the Bangladesh WASH Alliance sub-programme (WAI, Simavi). The teams of the three sub-programmes visited two-sub programme areas in Bangladesh. The visit was hosted by WASH Alliance Bangladesh partners and consisted of exposure and interactions across different pathways, mainly to learn on:
- Behaviour change and demand creation strategies and approaches.
- Engagement modalities and strategies to strengthen public sector pathway for sustainable WASH service delivery.
- Role and engagement of the private sector to deliver improved WASH services.
Key learnings and taking-home messages
Key learnings were formulated and where relevant, implemented in the sub-programmes. Some examples of ‘taking-home’ learnings were:
- The behaviour change and demand creation strategies and approaches
- Participatory community-based monitoring tools, such as social mapping, were observed as a resourceful and visual tool to understand the baseline status, including the needs and priorities of the communities. Participation of local councilors during these mapping exercises helps them to understand the local needs and establish direct linkages with the authorities to mobilise resources.
- Engagement of private sector seems critical to professionalise the faecal sludge management (FSM) services and increase demand for emptying services in the cites.
- Facilitating engagement of local government officers, such as the sub-assistant medical officer from the health department, could be a means to educate school children on menstrual health and hygiene education This also supports the improvement of linkages between the education and health department.
- WASH standing committee meetings (which also includes the mayor of the municipality), discussing pertinent WASH issues and developments at periodic intervals can be a useful exercise to reflect and review the WASH needs and interventions at the municipality level. This platform was being used by WAI partners to advocate for resource planning and allocations.
- Initiatives taken in Jessore and Khulna to implement the integrated municipal information system (IMIS) were noted as an exemplary tool to systematically support faecal sludge service delivery at the citywide level. This provides real time data on sanitation status and performance of the FSM services and potentials to provide data for measuring progress on safely managed sanitation.
- Implementation of FSM by laws was found to be an effective regulatory tool to construct safe sanitation systems for new buildings. However, upgradation of poor containments (pits) to safer, standard containments remains a key challenge. A similar challenge was observed in Nepal. Mason is one of the critical actors who can contribute to the establishment of proper sanitation systems in the buildings (septic tank) if they are properly oriented and enforced. Municipalities (including Kushtia) listed down the masons and are providing training on proper construction of septic tanks following the national building code.
- Insurance coverage of sanitation workers (e.g., pit emptier) assured safety and security on the job. This type of insurance schemes were organised through a tripartite agreement between the municipality, insurance company and the sanitation workers.
- WASH desks at municipalities and union parishad in Bangladesh provided access to WASH service information for the public to realise their human rights to WASH. These desks also served as a useful platform to exchange information regarding operation and maintenance of WASH services. In Nepal, the programme is pushing forward to establish WASH Units under the existing municipal institutional framework.
- Private sector pathway
- WAI partners in Bangladesh have been working with 327 WASH entrepreneurs of which 88 are women entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs exhibited a profitable WASH business. One-stop solutions were provided for toilet construction, both sub and super structure, including other WASH products which made toilet construction fast and simple.
- Private sector engagements are being piloted to deliver FSM services to manage the entire sanitation service chain (emptying, transportation and treatment). These forms of engagements supported the municipality to effectively deliver public services by sharing responsibilities. There are a still some policy hurdles for public-private partnerships to establish sanitation systems and services. These issues have been brought upby the programme and are being addressed at the national level.
- Role of financing institutions such as microfinance and banks are found to be instrumental to facilitate delivery of WASH services. The WASH SDG Programme, both in Bangladesh and Nepal, has facilitated successful linkages between FIs, entrepreneurs and the users.
The sub-programme teams concluded that the cross-country learning visit between Bangladesh and Nepal was a useful exercise to exchange knowledge, ideas and discuss on common issues and solutions of the WASH SDG Programme. Both countries share a similar socio-economic context and face similar gaps and challenges on WASH. Although basic WASH coverage has improved over the years, significant efforts and resources are still required to upgrade from basic service levels to improved and safely managed service levels. At present, both countries are far behind in attaining the safe service levels, one of the reasons is the resource constraints.
The teams working collaboratively during the learning exchange.
Challenges & opportunities
The WASH SDG Programme is one of the few programmes in both countries that is targeted towards attaining the WASH SDG targets. The common Theory of Change (ToC) followed, aims to mobilise the public and private sector to address the WASH needs and demands generated through resource mobilisation and delivery of products and services. The initiatives taken through extensive engagement of different WAI partners have been successful to demonstrate good approaches and models in communities and municipalities. However, there are opportunities for scaling up and replicating these models to other towns and municipalities.
Although population density differs, there is a rapid expansion of urban areas in both countries. Addressing WASH service provisions to the growing urban population is one of the biggest challenges for both countries. It will be a good opportunity to showcase some of the models and approaches developed by the WASH SDG Programme to address growing needs.
Both countries agreed to organise a joint learning workshop in October 2022 in Nepal to share learnings and discuss the sustainability of the programme. The WAI partners and selected LGI representatives will take part in this workshop.
WAI Bangladesh & WAI Nepal SNV Bangladesh