David Njuguna, a mentor for BBC Media Action Kenya, looks at how a volunteer-run local radio station is helping prevent cholera in Kenya.
Last year Kenya was facing a devastating cholera outbreak. It started in the capital, Nairobi and by June 2015, a total of 4,937 cases and 97 deaths had been reported nationally.
According to public health officials, the spread of cholera in Nairobi particularly affected people living in slums. Frequent bursting of sewer lines, poor sanitation facilities and heavy rains played a major role in the outbreak. Poor hygiene practices – such as not washing hands before eating or preparing food – also contributed to the spread of disease. The outbreak eventually petered out, but the environment and practices that contributed to the spread of cholera continue to pose a threat.
In a quiet courtyard, away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi’s Kawangware slum, a community radio station was planning a response.
Mtaani Radio, run by a team of volunteers, was a hive of activity when I walked into their studio last week. They were recording content for ‘WASH Wednesdays’, a show looking at ways listeners can improve their health and hygiene. The show, reaching over 100,000 people in the Kawangware community, was just about to start.
Ooh good, another ‘lessons of history’ research piece. Check out the excellent new WaterAid report: Achieving total sanitation and hygiene coverage within a generation – lessons from East Asia.
The paper summarizes the findings of four country case studies: Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, all of which produced ‘rapid and remarkable results in delivering total sanitation coverage in their formative stages as nation states’. I can certainly vouch for Singapore – I spent 3 years there as a child in the late 60s. Whenever the rains came, the main roads flooded, turning the city into an insanitary swamp. Not any longer.
The paper concludes: ‘Although their initial conditions were very different from those currently found in ‘fragile’ and ‘least-developed’ countries in Africa and South Asia, some useful conclusions can be used to inform discussions on development of strategic approaches to delivering sanitation for all:
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.Hand-washing is one of the single best habits any individual can adopt to lead a healthier, happier life. Hand-washing with soap is an extremely effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrhea and acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia, which is the number one cause of mortality among children under five years old, according to the World Health Organization. Over 2 million children die from pneumonia each year, and diarrhea and pneumonia together account for almost 3.5 million child deaths annually. Simply hand-washing with soap could, though, could reduce the number of deaths due to diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter, saving more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention.
These are some of the many reasons that Global Handwashing Day was established. It is observed on October 15 with the aim of increasing awareness and knowledge about the importance of hand-washing with soap to prevent diseases and save lives.
The following video, produced by Help Nepal.today, encourages people in Nepal to wash their hands with soap. The lyrics ask, “How can Sabunman fly? Why is his body so strong?" and answer “Because before eating a meal he washes his hands with soap and water.” Composed and performed by Almoda Rana Uprety, "Kina Udcha Sabunman," cheers kids to defeat the dirt monsters by washing their hands before they eat and after they play or use the bathroom.
Inadequate sanitation costs India $54 billion a year. To that, add the challenge of juggling our nationalistic aspirations of superpowerdom with the ignominy of housing the largest share of human population that defecates in the open. In light of this, here are six steps to a success sanitation campaign.
The study finds that the govt’s rural sanitation programme, implemented by NGOs, was unable to reduce exposure to faecal matter.
No one denies the importance of good sanitation and the impact it has on human health. It must follow therefore that the lack of positive impact is down to poor implementation of the sanitation programme in the study area. In fact, a process evaluation of the programme concludes that the implementation was far from perfect, both in terms of the levels of coverage achieved and the levels of awareness. Over an implementation period of 13 months (January 2011—January 2012), the villages where the programme was implemented saw an increase in toilet coverage from 9% to 63%, but only 38% of the households had a functional toilet. It would have been interesting to learn more about the gap between toilet construction and usage (25 percentage points). In any case, the state of implementation, the authors point out, is typical of the prevalent Total Sanitation Campaign across the country.
The sanitation debate has suffered from a seemingly irreconcilable dichotomy when it comes to identifying the best approach towards sanitation for all.
A good way of blocking progress in an argument is to present two aspects of a whole as a dichotomy. The sanitation debate, in recent years, has suffered from a seemingly irreconcilable dichotomy when it comes to identifying the best approach towards sanitation for all. This is the one that pits subsidies against motivation and correspondingly, construction against behaviour change communication. And yet, in a comprehensive and prudent programme design, there is no need for these ideas to be opposed to each other. I call this then, the false dichotomy in the world of sanitation advocates.
The current sanitation programme in India has at its centre a subsidy and incentive for individual households constructing toilets. This is a programme that has clearly not worked, irrespective of the minister or bureaucrat at the helm of affairs. India holds the ignominious record of having the largest number of people defecating in the open. At the same time, the popularity of the community-led total sanitation (CLTS) approach has risen. This approach depends on using shame and motivate as a call to action to build basic pit latrines (rejecting subsidies completely) and has worked in multiple countries around the world, as well as in certain states in India.
Melinda and Bill Gates have made an annual tradition of publishing their thoughts on international development and its key challenges. Given the substance, I assume these letters reflect an annual manifesto for the organisation they head, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Last year, I wrote about how the Gates Annual Letter was disappointing, perhaps not in the context of what the BMGF itself does, but what it ought to be doing, given its $42 bn muscle and its influential promoter, Bill Gates.
This year, the letter makes four “big bets” for 2030: child deaths will go down by half, and more diseases will be eradicated than ever before; Africa will be able to feed itself; mobile banking will help the poor radically transform their lives; and better software will revolutionise learning. In short, fast-tracking the identification technological fixes and expanding their reach over the next fifteen years will deliver a better world.
Unfortunately, these bets seem to me to be wildly optimistic. I may be quibbling, but from what we have learnt from research, there seem to be many reasons to suggest that we should be cautious with our optimism regarding what we can achieve with technology. The complexities of working on power, politics and implementation find no mention in the letter. Let us look a little more closely at each one of the bets to find out why that matters so much.
Billions of dollars are spent each year on sanitation, healthcare, and good governance, but the results vary quite a bit from place to place. What separates successful programs from the unsuccessful?
Those that achieve their goals try to change behavior alongside introducing new methods or making investments. One way to change behavior is to use shame— an overwhelmingly negative emotion —to emotionally link individuals to the communities in which they live.
Shame and Sanitation
Shame was, in fact, a central ingredient to a program in Bangladesh that reduced the percentage of Bangladeshis defecating out in the open from 19% in 2000 to only 3% in 2012.
The program utilized the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) method, which “focuses on instigating a change in sanitation behaviour rather than constructing sanitation infrastructure.” Changes in sanitation behaviors are accomplished through a process of deliberation and discussion within communities to build consensus on the need to end open defecation and clarify the hazards that open defecation poses.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
charity: water, launched its annual "September Campaign" this month in which the organization selects a country or region for targeted support. This year, the Sahel region was chosen, and the September Campaign seeks to bring clean water to 100,000 people of Mali and Niger that are living in the strip of land between the Sahara desert to the north and the Sudanian Savannah to the south. The area is frequently affected by drought and famine, and access to clean water is rare.
Unlike other nonprofits that speak about the organization and mission first, charity: water puts their supporters at the center of their communications and empowers them to tell personal stories and fundraise individually, using a method known as inbound marketing. Inbound marketing promotes an organization through blogs, video, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, and other forms of content marketing which attract the attention of key audiences and draw people to their website. By contrast, buying attention through advertisements, cold-calling, direct paper mail, and radio, are considered "outbound marketing."
Central to their inbound marketing method, charity: water appeals to supporters to start 'your own campaign.' The website offers visitors the ability to, "start a fundraising campaign and bring clean drinking water to people in need around the world." The personalized and social nature of the campaign allows people to share their own stories and encourage friends and followers to do the same. Supporters have been creative with their campaigns, starting birthday fundraisers, running marathons, and welcoming newborns with donations.
The excellently named Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (R.I.C.E) recently published an equally excellently named survey – the SQUAT (Sanitation Quality, Use, Access and Trends) survey. Based on the findings of this survey conducted in five north Indian states, R.I.C.E calls for a latrine use revolution - since the bottleneck is not the non-availability of a latrine (since even those with a government latrine are not using them), nor is it lack of funds (since far poorer countries and communities have built and used latrine). It is an issue of messaging around hygiene, towards which we need to set our firm focus.
My first job in the development sector was with an NGO, Gram Vikas in Odisha and my experience there has shaped many of my core beliefs about working in this sector. At the core of Gram Vikas' work was the conviction that the 'poor can and will pay for quality services'. So when I think toilets (not latrines – and there is a key difference in the definition), I often use the 'quality' lens and make the argument about how the usage of physical facilities installed by projects has a direct link with what community perception of what counts as good quality. This also has a strong link with the extent to which they feel a sense of ownership for the facility.