Water Sanitation Health

Sanitation challenge: Turning commitment into reality

Making information flow; strengthening partnerships

Good information on sanitation and hygiene is essential for making the right decisions. Getting the most useful information to flow from those who produce it to the people who use it is the challenge. There are several types of relevant information: there is technical information for practitioners/professionals, there is right to know/public participation information (that includes the rights and responsibilities of citizens under legislation and regulations) and there is user data collected for monitoring purposes. The Internet and e-mail are rapidly increasing access to information throughout the world, even in many poor or remote communities. To complement these new electronic methods for disseminating information, broadcast media and printed materials are still needed to reach the most inaccessible audiences. Traditional approaches to informing people, such as drama competitions and songs, have been used in many settings and have been shown to be effective. Addressing the sanitation and hygiene crisis requires a global strategy that builds partnerships between national governments, external support agencies, NGOs, communities and households and the private sector. Increased sharing of information resources between agencies and organisations through partnerships will help to reduce duplicative efforts, to learn from past mistakes and to consolidate effective approaches. Partnerships are vital for leveraging scarce resources.

What can we do?

National governments can emphasise the importance of sanitation and hygiene programmes to their national development through poverty reduction strategy papers and by otherwise reaching out to external aid agencies to create partnerships; work to increase the interagency flow of information by creating information exchange forums among different national entities (for example, ministries of environment and ministries of health); and make sanitation and hygiene information available to all.

District/local governments can work with national agencies, NGOs and entrepreneurs to develop partnerships at the local level; make information on sanitation and hygiene (including local regulations) available to all; and help to select villages for pilot projects.

Communities and civil society can participate with various partners to implement sanitation and hygiene projects; disseminate sanitation and hygiene information to communities and households; create libraries or information resource centres with sanitation and hygiene information (for example, a library with an Internet connection or computer with CD-Rom).

Households can participate in local sanitation and hygiene programmes; and request information on sanitation and hygiene from various agencies and partnerships. Entrepreneurs can work together as partners to develop appropriate sanitation and hygiene technologies and services; and make information available on available products and services.

International organisations must learn to recognise each others strengths and weaknesses; find ways of working together that maximise use of shared skills and interests; develop and disseminate information; and focus efforts on achieving a common vision and goal – and hold this goal at the forefront of efforts to make sanitation and hygiene a reality for people all over the world.

We’re inspired by…

… children’s fairs in Gujarat, India
In Gujarat, teachers organise and run children’s fairs in villages in the Santalpur region. Over two days, 80-200 children from local villages attend the fairs. Activities include a village rally or clean-up where children shout out health slogans; participatory activities to illustrate different sanitation and hygiene issues; cultural shows at night (including puppet shows) where children and teachers participate in skits or song and dance sequences that incorporate health messages; and writing action plans for their own villages. More than 200 teachers have participated in 20 children’s fairs. Teachers who participated in the fairs felt that their abilities to communicate health issues associated with sanitation and hygiene had improved.

… the Sanitation Connection (www.sanicon.net)
Sanitation Connection is the leading Internet-based information resource on sanitation and is managed as a partnership through WHO, WSP, WSSCC, UNEP/GPA and IWA (International Water Association). The web site gives access to accurate, reliable and up-to-date information on technologies, institutions and financing of sanitation systems around the world. Institutions of international standing contribute to the information base by providing and maintaining a topic of their specialisation. Each month, thousands of users from all over the world enter the site to obtain the best available information on sanitation and hygiene and to link to other sites.

… UN-Water
Twenty-four United Nations agencies have significant activities involving water (and often, but not always, sanitation and hygiene). Each agency has traditionally planned and implemented its own activities concerning water, with little coordination of activities between different agencies. This often resulted in the duplication of water-related activities and, in some cases, the development of contradictory information. UN Water was created as a forum for sharing information and fostering partnerships between the different agencies to more effectively implement water-related programmes.

Source: UNICEF (1998). Towards better programming: a manual on school sanitation and hygiene. New York, NY, United Nations Children’s Fund.