Failures in Sanitation (a list by Improve International) - now also on Wikipedia

  • F H Mughal
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Failures in Sanitation (a list by Improve International) - now also on Wikipedia

Note by moderator:
A related thread on the sustainability clause in Dutch grants is available here:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/183-mo...tch-government#13238

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Failures in Sanitation

Improve International has an ongoing compilation of statistics that shows that failure rates in sanitation. The statistics can be seen at:
( improveinternational.wordpress.com/handy...sanitation-failures/ ).

While the statistics make a disappointing reading, one aspect stands out quite clearly and that is: sanitation failures occur in different geographical locations (Africa, South Asia, etc); and in all compartments of sanitation.

For example, issues related to open defecation are reported in Madagascar, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Cambodia and India. Shocking state of school toilets is reported in South Africa, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Failure of eco-toilets scheme is reported in China. School toilets requiring extensive repairs in reported in Maldives and Pakistan. In Ghana, only 60 per cent of the new latrines are used. In Peru, 85 per cent of the latrines are unusable. And, in India, 50 per cent of the subsidized toilets remain unused, or are being used for purposes other than sanitation. One can very well imagine the health impacts of “defective” sanitation.

The above observations show failures in all compartments of sanitation (failure of sanitation models; open defecation remain despite various interventions; bad workmanship in toilet construction; operation and maintenance of toilets, etc).

It seems like, despite all sanitation promotion and sanitation marketing, the targeted population remain untargeted. On the surface, it appears, the needs of the population are not taken into account, and there seems to be superimposing of sanitation models that, in practice, don’t work in that particular location. Sanitation presents itself to be a hard nut to crack. Failure is reported not only because of the attitude of the people, governments have also its share as well. Politicians, decision-makers and the key government departments (e.g., the local government department) pay little attention to sanitation. This has resulted in poor quality of the sanitation-related infrastructure.

To me, the bottom-line here (as sort of remedial measures, or course-correction) is: take community needs into consideration; take community members on board; create sanitation demand; work on behavioral change; and develop partnerships in sanitation.


F H Mughal

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  • joeturner
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Re: Failures in Sanitation

Thanks, that is interesting.

I was just reading this interesting paper looking at Politics and Open Defecation in Mumbai, which seems also to make some important points about the way that provided systems are used.

onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/anti.12117/full

The Politics of Open Defecation: Informality, Body, and Infrastructure in Mumbai by Renu Desai1, Colin McFarlane, and Stephen Graham

It makes a lot of interesting observations, the one I was thinking about was the way that politics on a small scale impact on the way that provided latrines are used - for example residents limiting access to others because of worries that other people will make it dirty.
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Re: Failures in Sanitation (list by Improve International) - and Experiences with sustainability instruments (the Netherlands)

Dear FH Mughal - I'm sorry to be late to this discussion, but it was just recently brought to my attention. I appreciate your comments on our list of sanitation failures. Your comments show just what we were trying to accomplish - to bring attention to the scope and various reasons for failure. Since our first blog on the topic of water and sanitation failures in August 2012 ( improveinternational.wordpress.com/2012/...sanitation-projects/ ) these pages have been the most popular ones on our website, with thousands of views and several references in other blogs and articles.

A little history on why I started compiling this list. When I started working in international development 16 years ago, I was told that about half of water projects led to failed systems. I saw some of those firsthand. I’d always wondered whether any organization was tracking the success and failure of water systems. Of course, most non-profit development organizations prefer to focus on the numbers of systems built and anecdotes of success, because they need to entice donors to support their organization.

A decade plus later, in various presentations on sustainability, I met some people who said “there are no good numbers on failures” and others who quoted one old water failure statistic. I had seen horrendous toilets and abandoned latrine pits during visits to rural communities in developing countries, but at that point not many people had (or shared)details on sanitation failures.

I founded Improve International in 2011 to try to improve the way the water & sanitation crises are being addressed. So in the interest of improving, we thought it would help to:
1. Acknowledge there is a problem (not just the sanitation crisis, but with the ways the sanitation crisis is being addressed)
2. Understand why the problem exists
3. Change the way we work

This list of sanitation failures, which I’m sure are not complete, were our way to start trying to get at 1 & 2. They are not intended to “point fingers” or place blame – rather, they are intended to bring us together in a common challenge. All of the information was made public by the various organizations or governments involved, so I’m not spilling any secrets. We’re all here to help people in need, right?

As you say, “Sanitation presents itself to be a hard nut to crack.” But we have to recognize that we haven’t cracked it so that we can start using different tools. I’m hoping the popularity of these lists of failures shows a strong interest in doing just that.

Susan Davis
Executive Director
Improve International
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Re: Failures in Sanitation (list by Improve International) - and Experiences with sustainability instruments (the Netherlands)

Dear Susan,

Thank you for your enlightened post. It gives out a great deal of information! I appreciate.

Do you currently have any project in Pakistan?

Regards,

F H Mughal

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Re: Failures in Sanitation (list by Improve International) - and Experiences with sustainability instruments (the Netherlands)

Dear FH - Thank you! We have not done any work in Pakistan yet. Most of our activities to date have been in Latin America and Africa.

Best,
Susan Davis
Improve International

Susan Davis
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Improve International
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Re: Failures in Sanitation (list by Improve International) - and Experiences with sustainability instruments (the Netherlands)

Dear Susan,

It is an interesting endeavour you have embarked on... However, I don't fully understand your methodology. You call it "statistics on sanitation failures" but I don't really see the statistics part, it is more a snap shot of what other people have published regarding "failed sanitation projects"?

And how will you keep it updated? E.g. I see for 2014 only one entry which is a bit misleading, as if there was only one failed sanitation project worldwide for 2014?

2014
Madagascar: 43% of villages that had been declared [open defecation free (ODF)] now are considered by the community as ODF, while only 25% of all villages were ODF at the time of the survey [75% failure] (UNICEF & WaterAid, 2014).


If someone had a capable intern, he or she could relatively quickly do a desktop study and find more relevant reports.

Or you could go down the crowdsourcing route: A Wikipedia article could be created where everyone can then contribute to when they see a report of a failed project and it would ideally continually update "itself".
As a starting point, it could just be a subsction here perhaps:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation

I see that you have mainly focussed on CLTS and open defecation (and some school projects)... There could be further categories, e.g. also for failed centralised wastewater treatment plants in developing countries? Failed micro-finance schemes (see forum.susana.org/forum/categories/191-th...nance-for-sanitation ), failed reuse schemes and so forth?

Kind regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Failures in Sanitation (list by Improve International) - and Experiences with sustainability instruments (the Netherlands)

Dear Elisabeth - thanks for your comments and questions. This and the water "statistics" page were not intended to be rigorous academic studies. Rather they are a way to pull other studies (rigorous or not) together to give snapshots of a rather large problem. We add information when we come across it. We have begun talking to a couple of universities about possibly doing a more thorough search (ideally in some languages other than English) and some sort of analysis. As you're aware, it's hard to get real-time information because studies and analysis don't come out for one or two years after data were collected.

As you've recommended, we have brought on an intern who is adding some of this information to the Wikipedia WASH page. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WASH#Failures_of_sanitation_systems We welcome any additions or improvements to this. There appears to be a hunger for this information - our failure pages are consistently the most visited on our website.

Best,

Susan

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Improve International
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Re: Failures in Sanitation (a list by Improve International) - now also on Wikipedia

Hello friends, related to this topic I have published two blogs:

SuSanA Talk: Failing forward and future proofing. What we can learn from sanitation failures

Failure data: an acquired taste


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Note by moderator: second link has been fixed and is now correct.

Susan Davis
Executive Director
Improve International
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Re: Failures in Sanitation (a list by Improve International) - now also on Wikipedia

Just to update people and to ask for further input:
The list of failures in water supply and sanitation which Susan's organization had started on its website has now been transferred to the Wikipedia page on WASH and looks like this now:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WASH

It is grouped by water supply and then by sanitation, and in each section by country. The list of failures in sanitation (7 countries) is much shorter than that on water supply (41 countries):
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WASH#Failures_of_sanitation_systems

This probably reflects the amount of research that has been done on both, i.e. more research on water supply systems (?).

I am not yet totally convinced if the format that we have chosen is ideal. What are your comments?

Does it make sense to keep it on the page for WASH or would it be better to move it to a separate list type article? Like for example this list article:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_incidents_...olence_against_women

Are there other studies that should be added in, especially more recent ones?

There are also still some references that need to be improved (Susan's new intern is working on that).

And some more photos would be good as well. Would anyone like to put some forward that show failed water supply or sanitation systems?


Regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

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Re: Failures in Sanitation (a list by Improve International) - now also on Wikipedia

Thanks Elisabeth for requesting more information (and photos!) We'll continue to add to this list as we find more. There is a hunger for this information in the sector. Also, I will be facilitating a panel discussion at Emory University Nov 18 in honor of World Toilet Day on lessons learned in sanitation.

Please share any important lessons and/or documents you think we need to discuss.

Susan Davis
Executive Director
Improve International
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