Sanitation: One Target, Two Approaches


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Sanitation: One Target, Two Approaches

Sanitation: One Target, Two Approaches

In a recent blog, Amulya Gopalakrishnan, writing under the caption of What Bangladesh can teach India about toilet training, says that Bangladesh is now a ODF (open defecation-free) country. Bangladesh achieved this distinction through CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation) approach.

The blog says: It (CLTS approach) rejects sanitation subsidies; instead it mobilizes communities through emotions like shame and disgust. It shows people how they are literally eating their neighbour's shit, and how this makes them ill and stunts their children. It finds community representatives to trigger these messages, and rouses the community to adopt better hygiene habits, including menstrual hygiene. The answer is local empowerment, not a tsunami of toiletisation.

Many may not agree with me, but I personally disapprove use of shame and disgust emotions. They play with human dignity. It is now said: sanitation is dignity.

On the other hand, Lauren Yamagata of Plan International, USA, cites impressive progress of Cambodia in the field of sanitation. Writing under the caption of Toilet tales from the field, Lauren highlights the Cambodia Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Program (CRSHIP), an eight-year program funded by the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), for which Plan International Cambodia serves as the Executing Agency in Cambodia.

Lauren says:

The program, currently in its fifth year of implementation, aims to increase access to sanitation and promote good sanitation and hygiene practices to rural communities in Cambodia through non-hardware subsidised approaches including community-led total sanitation (CLTS) and sanitation marketing (SanMark) among others.

Access to improved sanitation in rural Cambodia, representing almost 80% of the country’s population, stands around 30% (up from 20% around the start of the project) with 60% practicing open defecation (OD). Cambodia lags behind other countries in the region and its rural sanitation coverage is more on par with Sub-Saharan African countries (which average 23% improved, 11% shared, 34% other unimproved, and 32% OD) making increasing access to sanitation a top priority.

CRSHIP was designed to prioritise the main need of triggering demand for sanitation, improving the supply of sanitation products/markets, and sustaining behaviour change, all of which contribute to addressing the challenge of access/utilisation of sanitation. The program works in about 3,500 rural villages across 10 provinces with less than 50% sanitation coverage. Program success pivots around measuring how many communities reach open defecation free (ODF) status.

In Cambodia, ODF status is defined as 85% of households in a village have improved sanitation facilities and the remaining 15% of households have access to improved sanitation through sharing facilities. ODF achievement indicates that people are building and using latrines, thus addressing the key challenge of poor sanitation coverage.

While the CLTS approach was used in Cambodia, the approach centered on need of triggering demand for sanitation, improving the supply of sanitation products/markets, and sustaining behaviour change. Nowhere were the shame and disgust approaches used.

Here is the kicking point. When progress in sanitation can be achieved in a dignified way, as in Cambodia, why resort to shame and disgust approaches?

F H Mughal
F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan

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