COVID-19 Resources

The Wash’Em team is committed to helping local-level actors respond rapidly and effectively to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We encourage you to read our brief and watch our webinars. We are working on getting these translated into more languages. 

 

Wash’Em Resources

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the globe. The situation is changing daily and it is different in different regions of the world. It is important to stay informed via reliable information sources. Wash’Em has not developed its own list of resources, but below you will find a list of reliable resource hubs. 

  • Some of these have general resources and global guidance, e.g., the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 
  • Others are WASH sector specific, e.g., the Global WASH Cluster (GWC) and the Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP). 
  • Some contain more technical information and research, e.g., The Lancet family of journals, the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). 
  • We also encourage you to pay attention to the latest guidance from your Government or National Ministry of Health for context-appropriate actions and recommendations. 
  • If you want to learn more, why not try some of the free online courses. 

 

Key websites and resource hubs

 

Free online courses on COVID-19

 

Visual Assets

A picture says more than a thousand words. If you are looking for some quick infographics, posters or videos to share or adapt, we can suggest some resources too. Try to work with a designer and/or instructor if you can, or find someone from your target audience who can provide feedback. This will help ensure your message is robust, and that your message is easily understood as you intended.

CAWST CEO responds to the COVID-19 pandemic

The global community is at the heart of everything we do. Like you, we are watching with great concern as the communities we live and work in are being impacted and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our duty as an ethical organization and as global citizens to do what we can to slow the spread of the coronavirus and minimize its impact.

The global community is at the heart of everything we do. Like many of you, we are watching with great concern as the communities we live and work in are impacted and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is our duty as an ethical organization and as global citizens to do what we can to slow the spread of the coronavirus and minimize its impact. We are focused on two things: the health and safety of our team and communities, and finding new ways to serve our cause.

We are following directives and guidelines by the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta and the City of Calgary, and the World Health Organization (WHO), with a particular focus on handwashing and social distancing as the most effective methods to slow down the rate of transmission.

At this time, the WHO estimates that approximately 80% of cases are mild, 20% moderate to severe, many of whom will require hospitalization1. Without action, we will overburden our health care workers; but with concerted effort, we can limit the spread, particularly to those who are most vulnerable. The Government of Canada site has a useful FAQ on the coronavirus here.

As an organization whose staff is constantly travelling around the globe to achieve our mission, we are thankful to share that all staff travelling on CAWST business have safely returned home. They are now self-isolating. We are strongly encouraging everyone to work remotely, and supporting those who need extra help to look after children and family members.

As the situation surrounding COVID-19 changes rapidly, we will continue to closely monitor the guidance of health authorities and governments, and base our decisions on the available evidence. CAWST is in a fortunate position to have a team with extensive experience in outbreaks such as Ebola, SARS, and cholera, and expertise in analyzing data and information on disease transmission.

It is our commitment to serve water, sanitation, and hygiene practitioners in public health by focusing on our online consulting services and e-learning platforms.

We are inspired by the local and global actions being taken to tackle this crisis, and are most grateful to those of you who are serving all of us on the front-lines.

Together, we will respond to the new realities and emerge fit to face the future.

Stay safe and wash your hands,

Shauna Curry
CEO, CAWST

 

References

World Health Organization. (2020). Clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) when COVID-19 disease is suspected: Interim guidance V 1.2.

How to promote handwashing behaviour using posters

One of the most important things we can do to stop the transmission of COVID-19, as well as diarrheal disease and respiratory infections, is to wash our hands. CAWST’s handwashing posters can serve as an excellent reminder of this critical behaviour.

Out of sight, out of mind. On the other hand, however, it’s harder to ignore what’s staring us squarely in the face. It’s one reason that posters—and mirrors—can be useful to promote handwashing.

One of the most important things we can do to stop the transmission of COVID-19, as well as diarrheal disease and respiratory infections, is to wash our hands.

CAWST’s handwashing posters can serve as an excellent reminder of this critical behaviour. Display the posters at handwashing stations, toilets, kitchens, eating areas, and other key places, to remind people to wash their hands frequently. The element of surprise is important; remember to put up different posters regularly, as people ignore posters that have been up for a long time.

Created for six different regions around the world, and available in English, French, Spanish, Swahili, and Creole, you can adapt the language and the message of CAWST’s Handwashing Posters to suit your local context. As with all our WASH education and training resources, the posters are open content (free).

 

Download CAWST’s Handwashing Posters 

 

Posters are a visual cue that prompt us to wash our hands regularly. This helps protect our own health and the health of those around us.


Learn more

 

Further reading

Systematic reviews that support the reductions in diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections via handwashing.

Diarrhea

  • Wolf J, Hunter PR, Freeman MC, et al. Impact of drinking water, sanitation and handwashing with soap on childhood diarrhoeal disease: updated meta-analysis and meta-regression. Tropical Medicine and International Health. May 2018;23(5):508-525.
  • Ejemot-Nwadiaro RI, Ehiri JE, Arikpo D, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA. Hand washing promotion for preventing diarrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015;9:CD004265.
  • Curtis V, Cairncross S. Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: a systematic review. The Lancet infectious diseases. 2003;3:275-281.
  • Cairncross, S., et al. (2010). “Water, sanitation and hygiene for the prevention of diarrhoea.” Int J Epidemiol 39(suppl 1): i193-i205.


Respiratory infections

  • Aiello AE, Larson EL. What is the evidence for a causal link between hygiene and infections? Lancet Infect Dis. 2002;2.
  • Rabie T, Curtis V. Handwashing and risk of respiratory infections: a quantitative systematic review. Tropical Medicine and International Health. 2006;11.

 

Accelerating Gender Equality in WASH and the World

For International Women’s Day, we introduced women leaders in WASH, Srijana and Xenia. As International Women’s Day ends and World Water Day approaches, let’s stop thinking of women as passive beneficiaries who need to be helped. Let’s see them for their full potential as capable providers who are highly motivated to improve their communities.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we honour and appreciate the women alongside whom we have the pleasure of working. At the front of workshops, boardrooms, and movements, women are powerful agents of change. They are leaders in accelerating gender equality in WASH and the world.

In case you missed it, we introduced two inspiring women, Xenia Castellanos in Honduras and Srijana Karki in Nepal in celebration of International Women’s Day. Around the world and at CAWST, we are privileged to work with many inspirational women, like Kelly James, Rebecca Morante, or Amanda Deis. In fact, our executive leadership team is entirely made up by women. At the head is Shauna Curry, our CEO, and by her side are Keri Smith, Vice President of Business Operations, and I, Millie Adam, Vice President of Global Services. 

Our cause, water, sanitation and hygiene, is a women’s issue. We often hear about the burden women and girls face in collecting water. Women are generally responsible for water in their homes, and they are most negatively affected when it’s lacking. However, seeking only to eliminate their burden misses an important opportunity. When we build the knowledge and skills of women to look after the WASH needs of their homes, schools, and clinics, we are seizing an opportunity to empower women by giving them the opportunity and capacity to lead change. Many of the women we train generate an income from what they’ve learned and become leaders in their community. Gender equality and WASH are closely linked.

As International Women’s Day ends and World Water Day approaches, let’s stop thinking of women as passive beneficiaries who need help. Let’s see women for their full potential as capable providers who are highly motivated to improve their communities. As technicians, trainers and leaders, women earn incomes, challenge gender norms, and pass on their knowledge, all while providing a basic human right (water and sanitation), a foundation for poverty reduction and development. If we mobilize this massive resource, we can meet the global need for safe drinking water and sanitation, and make huge strides in gender equality. Or rather, they can, with a little support.

Learn more

Coronavirus: How to change handwashing behaviour

The global spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in public officials and mainstream media encouraging people to wash their hands with soap as regularly as possible. The simple act of handwashing with soap remains our best defence against coronavirus and common global killers such as diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections. However, rates of handwashing with soap at critical times are less than 20% globally.

[ Download a PDF version of this article ] 

Handwashing with soap – our best defence against the coronavirus

The global spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in public officials and mainstream media encouraging people to wash their hands with soap as regularly as possible. The simple act of handwashing with soap remains our best defence against coronavirus, other outbreak pathogens, and common global killers such as diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections. However, rates of handwashing with soap at critical times (such as after using the toilet or before eating) are less than 20% globally. 

In this guide we give you practical tips for how to encourage community-level handwashing behaviour with the aim of controlling and preventing the spread of the coronavirus. This guide is not a technical brief about COVID-19; please refer to reliable sources such as the CDC or WHO for this information. If you are working on water, sanitation or hygiene we recommend you read this technical guide also.

How to change handwashing behaviour

  • Globally most people know the benefits of handwashing. Despite knowing this, people all around the world often forget or deprioritize handwashing with soap. To really change behavior we need to do more than just hygiene education. 
  • People sometimes don’t practice handwashing because it is inconvenient or because they have other priorities. So to change handwashing behaviour we need to create an enabling environment, establish positive social norms, and make it a desirable thing to do. 
  • In an outbreak, people normally start to wash their hands more frequently and more thoroughly. This is because they perceive themselves to be more vulnerable to disease than usual. Our job is to support this natural instinct without creating unnecessary fear and do so in a way that establishes handwashing as a habitual practice that persists even after the outbreak. 

What is Wash’Em and how does it relate to coronavirus?

Wash’Em provides humanitarian organisations with a way of designing rapid, evidence-based, and context adapted hygiene programmes. The Wash’Em process combines 5 rapid assessment tools to learn about the determinants of handwashing behaviour with a software that helps humanitarians to identify contextualised hygiene promotion activities.  To date, Wash’Em has been used in 34 humanitarian emergencies by 45 NGOs. In each case Wash’Em has facilitated handwashing programmes to be designed in just a week. 

Wash’Em has also been used in the acute phase of cholera outbreaks and for Ebola prevention. Wash’Em is also a useful resource for hygiene promotion in the context of the coronavirus because it includes a set of 80 easy-to-implement activities that can be used to promote handwashing in regions of the world where the coronavirus is spreading.

Early stage response recommendations

The activities below are designed to be used in the coming month (March 2020) for coronavirus control and prevention. They have been chosen because they are quick, easy, and low cost. 

  • Make handwashing easier by increasing the availability of handwashing facilities, soap and water. Did you know that the presence of a handwashing facility can make people 60% more likely to wash their hands? Focus on providing handwashing infrastructure in visible places. This may include at the entrance of buildings, in places where lots of people gather (like markets or bus stops) and in places where handwashing is most needed (outside toilets and in places where people eat). Read our guide on how to design handwashing infrastructure that will actually change behaviour. 

  • Share real experiences of the coronavirus. When a new disease emerges it can create a lot of fear. It is normal to be worried about an outbreak like the coronavirus but fear can cause people to act in unpredictable and harmful ways. We suggest that you partner with health authorities to interview people who have been exposed to the virus and who have recovered. Sharing the lived experiences of these individuals (with their permission) will help you build an accurate understanding of COVID-19. Getting these individuals to speak out about the importance of handwashing with soap is likely to be much more believable and have a much more persuasive effect on the behaviour of others. Find out more about how to do this activity here

  • Make handwashing messages surprising. Placing messages (e.g., on posters) in key locations can act as a cue to remind people to wash their hands with soap at critical times. However, if these posters stay the same they will begin to go unnoticed and over time they may no longer trigger handwashing behaviour. Changing the handwashing message every few days will help to capture people’s attention time and time again. While COVID-19 is a serious disease, our handwashing messaging can still be aspirational and fun. Find out more about this activity here as well as examples of hygiene messages that can be used on rotation

  • Remind people of the power of soap! Soap has been around since 2800 B.C. so it is easy to forget what a miracle product it is. In most countries, people often just wash their hands with water—but handwashing without soap will not result in truly clean hands. Wash’Em includes several fun activities to show the power of soap. All you need are simple props like pepper, glitter, Vaseline and water. Watch these videos and try these when you visit communities or within workplaces and schools. Make sure to assess the risk before doing any in person activities in the areas where you work. If the risk is high you can also share these activities on social media so people can try them at home. 

 

  • Normalise and celebrate handwashing. Controlling an outbreak like COVID-19 requires the whole community work together and practice handwashing with soap regularly. Rewarding people when they do the right thing is more likely to encourage them to do it again and can lead to long-lasting habit formation. If you are working in a setting where social media is common, then share photos of people washing their hands with soap and praise them for doing the right thing. If you are working in a setting where social media is less common, then consider creating a champions wall where you feature similar photos on a wall in a public place. Find out more about how to do these activities by following the links.

 

 

A longer term approach (for use if COVID-19 continues to spread)

The activities above are designed to be simple short-term ideas to promote handwashing with soap in countries where the coronavirus is spreading. If the coronavirus continues, those implementing hygiene promotion programmes will need to change their approach in the following months. This is because behaviour change is complex and often you need to include a range of activities which reach people through a range of mediums in order to sustain behaviour. From April 2020 onwards it may be worth developing a contextualised and longer-term response to the COVID-19 outbreak. For this we suggest using the Wash’Em process. To learn about Wash’Em, visit our website or access the software. Here you can download the rapid assessment tools and the training package or watch video-based guides. You can also use the software to generate additional handwashing programme activities.

 

The 5 Wash’Em Rapid Assessment tools can be adapted in simple ways for COVID-19 prevention

  • Handwashing Demonstrations tool – use as per the guide
  • Disease perception – The guide uses diarrhoea as the case study disease. To adapt it change each ‘diarrhoea’ reference to coronavirus.
  • Motives – use as per the guide. If you do not have time to do all the Rapid Assessment tools then the Motives tool can be dropped. 
  • Personal Histories – use the worksheet that is designed for outbreak prevention. Adapt the second column so that you ask participants to describe what would happen should they get coronavirus.
  • Touchpoints – use as per the guide.

 

Handwashing Facts

  • 80% of all germs are transferred through hands. In fact, at any one time we have about 3,200 microbes on our hands (many of which are not harmful). 
  • Hands get easily re-contaminated. An hour after handwashing with soap they will typically be as contaminated as prior to washing them. This means it’s important to wash your hands as regularly as possible. 
  • Viruses are much smaller than bacteria and are typically harder to remove from hands. This means it’s important to wash hands thoroughly (for about 20 seconds), creating a nice soapy lather, scrubbing all over your hands and then rinsing the soap off fully. Drying your hands can also help to remove any remaining germs. 
  • Alcohol-based hand gel can be used when you do not have easy access to water and soap. 

About the Wash’Em project

The Wash’Em project is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)The contents are the responsibility of Action contre la Faim (ACF), The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology) and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

International Women’s Day: Srijana Karki

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we honour and appreciate the women alongside whom we have the pleasure of working. Srijana Karki is a systems leader, accelerating gender equality in Nepal.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we honour and appreciate the women alongside whom we have the pleasure of working. At the front of classrooms, workshops, boardrooms, and movements, women are powerful agents of change. They are leaders in accelerating gender equality in WASH and the world.

Srijana Karki is a leader who is accelerating gender equality in Nepal.

As a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Officer with Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO), a partner in CAWST’s Water Expertise and Training Centre program, Srijana has over a decade of experience in WASH planning and project implementation. She brings a gender equity and social inclusion lens to all projects and organizations that ENPHO supports, to influence practices that will enhance equitable participation in decision making. 

“There are many barriers to gender equity and social inclusion. First of all, I work in a very patriarchal society. Stereotypes around gender run deep and influence all WASH. We’ve seen a commitment to gender equality through government policy, but I feel strongly that the greatest opportunity for practical change starts at the household level.

In many households, there’s a prevailing belief that WASH is women’s work. Men must support it too. We can influence the shift in belief and behaviour with ongoing sensitization and mainstreaming. Sometimes projects include one training on gender roles, but that is insufficient. Shifting stereotypes requires daily repetition of messages on gender equality and strategic interventions, such as creating meaningful leadership roles for women on community committees.

Indeed, WASH is a powerful platform for gender equality at the community level. As Srijana sees it, shifts must happen at the organizational level too. 

“One of the most exciting areas in my work is within my organization, and others we support, to integrate gender policy. We recently reviewed the ENPHO gender policy. Learning from that, we guided four organizations to complete gender assessments of their organizations. From there, we helped them develop gender policies and implement them in the field. Implementation included creating key positions for women, both at the coordinator level and field staff, and mainstreaming gender throughout the full project cycle. The results are hopeful. On community visits I often see men cleaning and supporting household water work with pride.”

A champion for gender equality in all that she does, Srijana walks the talk. We’re privileged to walk alongside her in her work.

“I simply feel lucky to work in this area. When I completed my first master’s degree on Rural Development, I started to work in WASH. Soon, I ran up against recurring limitations of WASH interventions due to gender stereotypes and a lack of consideration of gender in the design of interventions. Women simply could not access WASH in the same way as men. So, I pursued a second master’s degree in gender to get beyond my surface-level observations. This education opened an opportunity for me to implement my knowledge in bringing gender sensitizing campaigns to life within our interventions. Now, I’m honored to represent ENPHO at international and national forums, sharing cases and knowledge. But I’m also always eager to learn more.”

Srijana is keen to learn and we’re keen to learn with her as well, especially in our upcoming gender assessment. Currently, Srijana is leading a gender assessment of our work together on the Global Affairs Canada-supported Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal was devastating, and left many without access to water. ENPHO and CAWST educated on water and sanitation solutions to help those with the least access – women, children and low-income people – recover, rebuild, and stay healthy in the aftermath. Srijana’s gender assessment will reveal where we’ve advanced on gender awareness to inform our future work.

Srijana is hopeful for the future of gender equality in WASH and the world. 

“First of all, let’s not just talk about gender equality, let’s invest in it. The proper investment means developing the capacity of local organizations for gender mainstreaming. Once we have that proper investment, my hope is that anything done in WASH considers the needs of women in both the practical and strategic senses. Perhaps most importantly, my hope is that in offices, households, communities, and within ourselves, we start a dialogue to fight the stereotypes that permeate media, institutions and culture. That’s my biggest hope to shift gender equality.”

Learn more

International Women’s Day: Xenia Castellanos

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we honour and appreciate the women alongside whom we have the pleasure of working. Xenia Castellanos is a champion for gender equality through her training style and the subject matter she addresses in Honduras.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we honour and appreciate the women alongside whom we have the pleasure of working. At the front of classrooms, workshops, boardrooms, and movements, women are powerful agents of change. They are leaders in accelerating gender equality in WASH and the world.

Xenia Castellanos champions gender equality through training in Honduras.

Working with Xenia Maribel Castellanos Rodriguez in Honduras since 2016, our staff are continually inspired by her growth, determination, and agency. As a Water Expertise and Training Centre Facilitator for Pure Water for the World Honduras, Xenia trains groups in remote regions of Honduras and Guatemala on water, sanitation, and hygiene. Never satisfied with the status quo, Xenia always pushes to improve herself; her tenacity and encouragement are contagious, even in new and challenging workshops.

“It can be challenging to gain the confidence and buy-in of those for whom I facilitate. Is it a gender issue? I can’t say. But I find workshop participants can be closed to learning because I am new to them and their community. By facilitating (and participating in) icebreakers and using participatory approaches, I find I can be successful, no matter the gender and power dynamics present in the room. In part, CAWST supported me to grow in these competencies and my confidence as a trainer.”

For several years, PWW Honduras has been in high demand for their expertise on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in schools. They train teachers to incorporate WASH knowledge into all subjects and curricula to influence behaviour of students at the school and throughout their communities. What does that look like? It’s everything from measuring the flow rate of a water filter in mathematics to writing a WASH-related story in Spanish grammar class.

As Xenia knows, WASH in schools also touches on gender-related subjects that are uncomfortable to some. Menstrual hygiene, for example.

“Most recently I was on a trip to Guatemala, delivering a WASH in Schools training to a group of teachers. When I brought up menstrual hygiene, a male teacher asked ‘why would I ever talk about that?’ I am resolute that menstrual hygiene is a topic for everyone to understand. In that workshop, I led teachers to identify the challenges that girls face coming to school during their menstrual cycle. They brainstormed solutions and became more comfortable with the topic. By creating a dialogue on the subject, we created a safe and inclusive environment for men and women to engage in the topic of menstrual hygiene.

Little by little, and with persistence, we are dismantling barriers and removing taboos by opening up the conversation. When teachers can talk about it, girls are encouraged to talk about it, and those girls become the trainers, training other girls in their school and community. At PWW, we’ve seen this shift in communities in Honduras and Guatemala.

Beyond the content, Xenia champions gender equality in her training style.

“There are things that we all need to know. Things that women know that men need to know, and things that men know that women need to know. My contribution to gender equality is to create an environment that encourages inclusive dialogue and equally values what everyone has to say. In training, everyone should have a voice and an opportunity to share their knowledge.”

Looking ahead, Xenia has high hopes for the future of PWW as a recognized leader in WASH nationally and internationally, and for gender equality in WASH.

“Yes, women have the confidence to take on leadership roles, but they don’t get recognized in the same way as their male counterparts. My hope for the future is that more women lead more processes and that they are recognized for doing so. Furthermore, I hope that the perspectives of women are taken into account in all areasnot just in theory, but in a meaningful way.” 

Learn more

Excel-erating change in Zambia

2019 marked the inaugural year of CAWST’s partnership with H2O Innovation. This was a unique learning experience for CAWST, H2O Innovation, and Africa Manzi Centre (AFMAC).

2019 marked the inaugural year of CAWST’s partnership with H2O Innovation. This was a unique learning experience for CAWST, H2O Innovation, and Africa Manzi Centre (AFMAC). As a leading company in water treatment, H2O Innovation was interested in contributing to a related charity, where they could provide not only financial support, but knowledge and capacity.

Given the nature of CAWST’s work in capacity development and international development more broadly, our client relationships and engagements tend to be long-term. At first, we questioned whether we could design an effective volunteer placement that delivered value to our partners in the required fields. In an effort to do so, we sought specific skills and attitudes, including openness and ability to coach others.

CAWST and H2O Innovation were pleased to see many eligible applicants from their 665 global employee pool. It made the selection challenging, but in the end, Derek Pirraglia and Kenneth Head were our chosen volunteers. Derek Pirraglia works in Burlington, Ontario, as a Process & Applications Engineer with H2O Innovation’s Drinking Water Team. Kenneth Head is an Office Manager in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Once selected, the volunteers were onboarded alongside the CAWST and Zambia team.

Working with AFMAC, a partner in CAWST’s Water Expertise and Training Centre program, Derek and Kenneth focused their volunteer work on growing capacity in Excel skills. While at first glance Excel skills might not seem related to our work, this was fundamental knowledge and organizational capacity that supported a broader project. AFMAC and CAWST have been working together to collect and analyze data on what household water treatment technologies are available, where, and through which suppliers. This market assessment will enable us to better understand where there are gaps between supply and demand. 

The first week of their trip, Derek and Kenneth planned one-on-one training sessions with managers and project officers. They administered a short needs assessment to understand existing skill level and comfort with Excel, and then worked through a list of competencies with each individual. 

Following these sessions, on week two of the trip, Derek and Kenneth accompanied AFMAC staff on community and household visits to collect data. “The community visits and trip overall opened my eyes to simple, affordable technologies and what a difference they can make in people’s lives. When we were originally talking about suppliers, I didn’t realize that the technologies would be things like chlorine tabs and household filters. Yet, these technologies are fundamental to health in households,” shared Kenneth.  

Working together, they added data from the community visits into Excel and presented it back at a culminating lunch meeting. “My hope is that AFMAC staff will be more efficient and confident in organizing and analyzing the data they collect from visits to households and community health clubs. Before the visit, one staff member did all the work in Excel, but now 10 have at least a basic level of confidence,” Derek reflected in his close report.

It was an eye-opening experience for all involved. For CAWST, we recognize the shared value that can be achieved when we engage donors in our work and harness corporate knowledge to tackle global challenges. We are excited about the results of our partnership with H2O Innovation, and we hope to continue to EXCEL together in the future.

Mauritania

Case Study Context

Country: Mauritania
Context: Food security crisis
Organisation: Save the Children Spain, Croix Rouge Française, Croissant Rouge Mauritanie, Medicus Mundi Espagne
Point Person: Claudio Deola, Senior Humanitarian WASH adviser for Save the Children UK and Alessandra Ginocchi, WASH adviser for Save the Children International
Duration of Training: 1.5 days
Number of People Trained: 10 including WASH, Protection and Nutrition Head of project assistants, supervisors, and auxiliaries
Duration of Data Collection: 3 days 
Number of Locations: 4 villages

What appealed to you about the Wash’Em tools and made your organisation want to try them?

The possibility to develop an effective and tailored context strategy for handwashing promotion to reduce morbidity and mortality of wrong hygiene behaviour related diseases, mainly diarrhoea, exacerbated by current food insecurity.

Having tried the Wash’Em tools, what is different about them compared to the standard processes you used for WASH assessments in crises?

Compared to standard assessment tools, the Wash’Em ones have a deeper focus on beneficiaries. People are placed in the centre and become the measure of the intervention. Wash’Em tools allowed the team to better understand what beneficiaries do, what they think—and even more exceptionally—how they feel during a crisis.

Give an example of one particularly interesting insight you gained from using the Wash’Em tools, or something you wouldn’t otherwise have known.

Using the process and spending more qualitative, effective time with beneficiaries has allowed the team to understand and identify the blockages to effective handwashing behaviours, particularly regarding which means beneficiaries are lacking, what handwashing key moment is neglected, and why.

“[Using the Wash’Em tools] has allowed the team to understand and identify the blockages to effective handwashing behaviours.”

 

How does your organisation intend to use the findings?

Depending on the impact the strategy will have on behaviour change, Save the Children aims to integrate the Wash’Em methodology in future grants and recommend the approach to other actors working in WASH, health, nutrition, and food security programmes in Mauritania.

CAWST in the News: ACGC Top 30 Under 30 for 2020

CAWST is pleased to congratulate Jeremiah Ouko, Aqua Clara Kenya Training Specialist, recently selected as one of the 2020 ACGC Top 30 Under 30 for his commitment to achieving safe water and sanitation for all.

Happy International Development Week!

As we enjoy the 30th annual International Development Week, we’re thrilled to share the stories of the young adults recognized by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s Top 30 Under 30 award in 2020. This yearly campaign recognizes youth between 18 and 30 from Alberta, and those working with ACGC member organizations abroad, who are acting on solutions to the development challenges we face globally.

This year, the theme for International Development Week and the ACGC Top 30 is Go for the Goals, celebrating progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ACGC’s Top 30 approach the SDGs with creativity, enthusiasm, and a commitment to a better future for all. Congratulations to all those nominated and acknowledged in the Top 30 Under 30! 

Among the 30 deserving recipients of this honour was Jeremiah Ouko, Training Specialist with our training partner, Aqua Clara Kenya (ACK). Through ACK, Jeremiah delivers training in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to develop the capacity of individuals in delivering training that is more effective; recommend appropriate, affordable, sustainable and readily-accessible solutions; and in supporting community members to adopt WASH practices. Jeremiah has been instrumental in the development of ACK programs such as the WASH Incubator, a training program for WASH entrepreneurs, and a Community Health Club program called WASHiriki. In WASHiriki, community clubs engage in WASH lessons weekly, led by a Community WASH Promoter, trained and supported by ACK. The photo in this article is a group of Community WASH Promoters, following their training with Jeremiah (he’s the tallest man with the big smile, back and centre). Community WASH Promoters facilitate WASHiriki clubs to convene and learn about safely protecting water sources, transporting, treating, and storing their drinking water. The members, in turn, support each other to implement changes to their water and sanitation practices in their homes and communities.

As a strong advocate for developing local capacity, when asked about his vision for the future, Jeremiah shared,

I believe the cycle of poverty as a result of poor WASH practices can be broken. For this to happen, implementers need to acknowledge that although provision of technology to address WASH challenges is a step in the right direction, it must be coupled with the development of local human capacity for the benefit to be sustainable.

Thank you Top 30!

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners of this year’s ACGC Top 30 Under 30. We are grateful for, and inspired by, your leadership and achievements towards a world that is a more just, fair, and sustainable place for all. Learn more about Jeremiah and all the ACGC Top 30 winners here.

Wash’Em, telephones, and adoption curves

Tom Heath is a WASH Technical Advisor at ACF. Over the past year, he has been working on promoting Wash’Em across their country programs. In this blog, Tom reflects on this work and why it has been surprisingly difficult to change the behaviour of WASH experts.

We know we have a problem

In 2016, I thought that having solution to a problem was sufficient to bring about change. When I was in the field as program manager, I would have loved to have used the Wash’Em process to design hygiene programmes. I felt there wasn’t enough practical information on how to run creative, fun or dynamic activities to promote changes in behaviour (like the use of glitter to illustrate the transmission of germs). I wanted a catalogue of ideas that I could adapt to my context (not just principles—things I can do). And it wasn’t just me. In 2017 we interviewed 31 practitioners in Iraq and DR Congo. They repeatedly explained that they weren’t happy with how we do hygiene programming, many believing that it had no impact and that we too often copy and paste from one context to the next. The people interviewed were also reflective and thoughtful about how we could improve and wanted to do better. Wash’Em was designed based on these frustrations and ideas. So I assumed that when you identify a good solution to an identified problem, people would use it.

I was wrong.

But knowing there is a problem does not mean action

I was reminded of other new toolboxes or manuals. I would so often say ‘nice work’, ‘I love the sharp formatting’ and then just file them away in a later folder, meaning to read it later. But then, later never really arrives. Sometimes there is a crisis or someone demanding change and then maybe—just maybe—I will dig out the tool and try to understand how it works.

Yet with behaviour change, I felt we already had a crisis—but we didn’t see the rapid uptake of Wash’Em that I had expected. As we started promoting the project and collecting feedback, the Wash’Em team was really hands-on and gave close support to the individuals piloting it. It was the equivalent of having a free behaviour change consultant designing your handwashing program. All you had to do was complete the rapid assessment tools. It wasn’t a lot to ask, I thought, but we had to beg. To begin with, we did a lot of chasing. Then the hand-holding needed throughout the process was heavy. I admit I may have initially bullied some of my teams into testing Wash’Em.

Why interest is not the same as uptake

There is a difference between excitement around a new thing and the effort needed to actually use it. Getting people excited requires minimal effort. However, to actually use something new requires an investment of time and overcoming the discomfort of learning something unfamiliar. So that feeling of the initial excitement has to be sufficiently durable that people are willing to emotionally invest despite having competing time demands that would otherwise leave it on the later backburner. After all, the bandwidth of frontline WASH managers is fiercely sought after. While these individuals do care about programme quality, they also have a myriad of organisational and donor obligations to deliver upon—and they do so within a very chaotic working environment.

Promoting Wash’Em has taught me that the journey to update has multiple stages. It starts with accepting that the status quo is not great. Then you require exposure to the solution. Then you need to sow interest and motivation in the idea and convince people to actually read about the tools. The really big next step is to actually use the rapid tools and then—the end goal—to integrate the recommendations into WASH programs.

We are only now beginning to grapple with this last step in the Wash’Em process. And I suspect this may still be our biggest challenge. As we worked with different users, I was struck by our sector’s aversion to change. Even if hygiene programming, as it is done now, may not be working, current approaches are doable and fit within the way the humanitarian system runs. Their familiarity means there is no need to create a new resource or train their teams. Incorporating Wash’Em recommendations will almost certainly be more demanding of teams. Recently I spoke with a programme manager in Nigeria about adding on a community consultation process for latrine locations. She got it, she understood why it was important, but she also has the foresight to know that actually doing this would be a bit of a headache. She would have to train her teams, develop a new form, ensure the team use it, and add consultation time within a response mechanism that was supposed to occur within 48 hours. I can relate to the reluctance.

The spread of ideas

But are our struggles with uptake unique? What about other ideas or technologies? Technology adoption curves (1) plot the uptake of new ideas across a market. They map the transition from uptake among early adopters to widespread usage. I wondered what Wash’Em’s adoption curve looked like and how this compared. So we plotted the number of users over time. In the first year Wash’Em was tried by 45 agencies in 28 different emergencies.

What about If you look at uptake on a monthly basis over this same period? It seems to show that uptake decreases during common holiday seasons!

Lastly, we thought it would be interesting to compare the uptake of Wash’Em to the uptake of different technologies among US households. How do we compare? I’d say we are like the telephone!

Image: Courtesy of Harvard Business Review. Reproduced with permission from ‘The Pace of Technology is Speeding Up

In many ways, Wash’Em uptake has been a success. Many other innovations in the humanitarian sector have struggled to achieve this level of traction. However, any success we have had has still been an upward struggle, requiring lots of support and adaptation to make the process easier for users. The spread of ideas—even good ones—takes time and effort.

Footnotes

1. Wikipedia: Technology adoption life cycle.

See you at AfWA 2020

We’re looking forward to attending the African Water Association Congress this year. Will you be there? Let’s connect!

CAWST at the African Water Association International Congress & Exhibition

Let’s connect!

CAWST will be in Kampala from Saturday, February 22 to Thursday, February 27 for the African Water Association International Congress & Exhibition activities and the SuSanA (Sustainable Sanitation Alliance) meetings.

Will you be there? Get in touch, let us know what you’re up to. We will be connecting with colleagues to share knowledge and learn from each other’s work in WASH. Our participation this year will focus on capacity development in non-networked sanitation.

The CAWST team traveling to Uganda will include:

Headeshots: Laura Kohler and Kelly James

What we’ll be doing

CAWST’s emptier competency framework at a session held by WaterAid – times, dates, room number etc – add graphic/s

We are excited to present during the WaterAid session on the Health, Safety, and Dignity of Sanitation Workers. The session will include SNV, WaterAid, The World Bank, and the WHO.

Laura is co-facilitating the launch of the Sanitation Operator’s Partnership program (called SAO-CWIS)

Drinks on a blue table, Canadian maple leaf overlay and event details

Why capacity development?

(We’re glad you asked!) Because it’s how you get knowledge to the people who will make use of it, and achieve behaviour change.

Are you into capacity development and sanitation? CAWST co-leads the SuSanA Capacity Development Working Group 1, via Laura Kohler, BA, MSc, PhD. We’d be delighted to see you join the group!

Find out how CAWST can help you start, scale up, or strengthen your WASH programs through capacity development .

 

Why non-networked sanitation?

The safe management of human excreta supports public health by protecting the water source, preventing excreta from contaminating the environment, and breaking the cycle of disease

The ability of a networked system to provide full-service, sustainable service to a community or city may be limited by cost, land requirements or lack of government capacity. Non-networked sanitation solutions:

  • Are affordable and easily adapted to local contexts
  • Provide services to marginalized, vulnerable or hard-to-reach communities in remote areas
  • Protect human health and the environment, in contexts where networked systems are not feasible
  • Can be constructed, operated, maintained, and financed by community members, when combined with knowledge and skill training.

 

 


Learn more about Emptiers

Through the project Scaling Up Capacity Development in Non-Networked Sanitation, CAWST completed a study to document the skills and knowledge along the sanitation service chain. In 2019, Laura Kohler and Kelly James hosted workshops with Emptiers from across Africa to develop a competency framework that will guide professional development for Emptiers.

Emptiers play a significant role in public health: they are responsible for the safe collection of fecal sludge for transport to treatment facilities.

 

About Laura and Kelly

Laura Kohler is a Senior Knowledge and Research Advisor at CAWST. She holds a PhD in Civil Systems Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder. Her doctoral research used on-site wastewater treatment system (OWTS) performance data to model the reliability, risk, and resilience of decentralized, owner-operated sanitation solutions using multivariate statistical methods. Her MSc degree in Environmental Engineering focused in WASH is also from the University of Colorado Boulder, and she obtained her BA degree in Civil Engineering from Carroll College in Montana. Laura has also served as a Water and Sanitation Engineer with the Peace Corps in southern Honduras, worked with Water for People in Guatemala in WASH monitoring using mobile technology, and worked in the USA on water resources engineering and in youth education. You can reach Laura at lkohler@cawst.org.

Kelly James is a Knowledge and Research Advisor at CAWST. She holds a master’s degree in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies and Economics from the University of Calgary. Her master’s research explored barriers and facilitators to accessing disability targeting social protection programs. Kelly has experience working on health, disability, and capacity building development projects in Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Uganda. Through the project Scaling Up Capacity Development in Non-Networked Sanitation, Kelly has worked extensively with Emptiers. Her WASH capacity development expertise also includes developing training packages for development and humanitarian professionals, and organizing training and mentoring programs. In recognition of her achievements in public health and non-communicable disease prevention, Kelly was lauded in 2019 as one of Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40. You can reach Kelly at kjames@cawst.org.

 

 

2019 Reflections: Letter to CAWST Community

With 2019 behind us, our CEO Shauna Curry reflects on CAWST’s accomplishments this year and shares her thanks with you, our CAWST community.

With 2019 behind us, I had the opportunity to reflect on CAWST’s accomplishments this year and share my thanks with you, our CAWST community.

I write to you from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada. It’s the furthest north I’ve ventured. In the context of this remote location, I reflect on CAWST’s accomplishments and how we reach people in some of the most remote locations in the world.

From new commitments to collaborate on non-networked solutions, to new ways of reaching remote populations through online services, we are laying the groundwork to support our partners and clients to accelerate reach and impact towards our vision.

Read my letter on LinkedIn to learn more about the 2019 achievements of our global community.

Handwashing in emergencies: there’s an app for that

In the acute stage of a crisis, hygiene interventions can prevent the spread of illness. Yet, as cost effective as they are and simple as they seem, their implementation can be complex. Learn about Wash’Em, the app that’s helping humanitarian workers design better hygiene programs.

Image Credit: Medair

“I can tell you I had a good life; I was rich. I had cows, goats, and farms. But everything changed when I was displaced. Now everything is bad… We are living like animals here.”

This is the sentiment of a man displaced during the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Ebola outbreak. It is a common sentiment among displaced people. Whether their displacement is due to natural disaster, war, or disease outbreak, their world and lives have been turned upside down with no certainty for the future.

If you wondered what prompted the recent issue of National Geographic, A World on the Move, or the daily news headlines, such as this article from the BBC: Globally, displacements are at an all-time high. The UN Refugee Agency released its Global Trends report that “an unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home.”

Amidst the terror, trauma, and chaos in emergency contexts, hygiene is a vital priority. In the acute phase of a crisis, diarrheal diseases cause about 40% of all mortality. Without handwashing at critical times, health risks quickly get out of hand. Handwashing is an effective intervention that can reduce the risk of death by half.

While the importance of hygiene in emergency contexts may seem obvious from the stats, implementation is much more complicated than adding handwashing stations in temporary settlements. In emergency contexts, handwashing habits are a function of the physical environment and a person’s experiences, knowledge, motives, and perceptions of risk.

“Give me back my previous life, see how my emotions and life would change, and then there would be a high chance I will wash my hands with soap,” reflects the same man from DRC.

Those working in emergency contexts face time and financial pressure to deliver on hygiene programming. “The challenge is that most hygiene programs in emergencies are not designed with context in mind, nor are they evidence-based. Therefore, they do not provide the hygiene behavioural change intended,” explains Olivier Mills, CAWST Senior Director of Global Services and Wash’Em team member.

Wash'Em app - handwashing behaviour change in emergency contexts

  Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

Through a USAID-funded partnership between Action contre la Faim in France, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK, and CAWST in Canada, a series of rapid assessment tools and a decision support tool have been developed. The Wash’Em software allows humanitarian program managers to assess key factors that influence handwashing within a week, and then make recommendations for design of handwashing programs. Thus, bringing handwashing interventions to the forefront, instead of an afterthought.

“In emergencies such as displacement, it’s common for humanitarian workers to rely on instincts and design programs without truly understanding the local context. But we know a lot about the behavioural science behind handwashing, and by using this software, we can bring that into practice very quickly,” shares Lona Robertson, CAWST Instructional Designer and part of the Wash’Em team.

In crises, hygiene and handwashing promotion is often done by distributing hygiene kits, or educating people about disease transmission, but these approaches alone are insufficient to influence handwashing behaviour.

Early indications and adopters suggest that this is an effective, potentially revolutionary tool in emergency contexts. During the 2018 Ebola outbreak in the DRC, Medair started a handwashing program in high-risk areas to mitigate the spread of the disease using Wash’Em tools.

“The Wash’Em tools appealed to us because they have been designed for use in settings where time and resources are limited, yet they still allow you to apply the science behind behaviour change,” Tom Russell, Medair Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Advisor, explains. In one day, staff were trained to conduct a needs assessment across three villages in order to inform the design of a handwashing program. It’s still too early to assess the full preventative power of an intervention like this, but it is clear that it has potential.

After one year, Wash’Em has been tested in 27 locations across 18 countries by 40 organizations, including Plan International and Concern Worldwide. The team continues to grow and iterate the software to provide more accurate recommendations.

For the millions of people displaced, the future remains uncertain. Yet, Wash’Em is honouring their dignity, personal histories, and cultural knowledge to design better handwashing programs that prevent the spread of illness.

How do the partners work together on this project?

Each organization brings something unique to the Wash’Em Team. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine provides the subject matter expertise and content for the tools. Action contre la Faim contributes the practical knowledge and testing of the tools in the field. CAWST brings strengths in training, graphic design, and provides the technological ability to develop an app. CAWST contributed to the design of the training, with an emphasis on making it practical. As Lona Robertson reflects, “our strength is helping people disseminate knowledge. And making that knowledge stick.”


About the Wash’Em project

The Wash’Em project is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Action contre la Faim (ACF), The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology) and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

 

References

UNHCR. (2018). Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2018.

An opportunity for us to do better for the communities we work with

Angelica Fleischer is a WASH Technical Advisor with the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, United States Agency for International Development. In this guest blog post, Angelica shares her thoughts on how Wash’Em offers the opportunity to design handwashing promotion programming based on the barriers people face while recognizing the capacities they have to achieve behaviour change.

Guest blog post by Angelica Fleischer, WASH Technical Advisor with the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, United States Agency for International Development.

When I arrived in Indonesia to help respond to an earthquake as a young Hygiene Promotion Coordinator, I wondered: Where were the theories of change and the community health education approaches I had learned so much about in school? Why were we just talking about handwashing and germs when we all know that motivating someone to change their behavior is much more complicated than that?

Now as a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene technical advisor with USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), I have the same reflection as the donor—“why do we keep using the same approaches to hygiene promotion, and in particular handwashing promotion, when it isn’t really the most effective way to change behavior?”

“Now (…) I have the same reflection as the donor—“why do we keep using the same approaches to hygiene promotion, and in particular handwashing promotion, when it isn’t really the most effective way to change behavior?

At the same time, I couldn’t really blame the humanitarian community (or my younger self!) as there wasn’t an easy way to make behavior change concepts and approaches accessible to people implementing WASH programs. Change is hard. Plus, people are motivated by different factors. Identifying what resonates with a specific group and tailoring programs accordingly is key to helping people make difficult changes. For example, some people are motivated by respected leaders and will change to emulate them. Others are striving to be the best parents they can be, so they might be motivated by what behaviors give their children the best chance to be healthy and happy.

And that to me is the value of the Wash’Em approach. They’ve looked at the theory and the evidence, and distilled it into practical tools that anyone can use—whether or not you actually know the behavior change principles they are based on.

Using Wash’Em from the assessment to design phase can take two weeks, but even in the most complex emergency, this is not too long.

But it’s very important to remember that Wash’Em is not just a set of tools to collect data and then tick a box and say the work is done. The tools are the first step. The more critical part is using the data to improve handwashing promotion programming through implementing the guidance that Wash ‘Em provides. It’s using methods that we may not be familiar with—maybe try talking about how clean hands make us feel good instead of emphasizing the 5 key times for handwashing. And this is where commitment and investment—from not only WASH staff, but also program managers and headquarters staff—is essential. Allow WASH field teams to try something new—to break out of the formulaic and didactic approaches that are the hallmarks of most hygiene promotion programming.

“Using Wash’Em is an opportunity to design handwashing promotion programming based on the barriers people face and at the same time recognizing the capacities they have to do so.”

Using Wash’Em is an opportunity to design handwashing promotion programming based on the barriers people face and at the same time recognizing the capacities they have to do so. And that’s why OFDA supports Wash’Em—it’s an opportunity for us to do better for the communities we work with.

World Toilet Day: Eva Muhia

As World Toilet Day approaches, are proud and honoured to share stories of some of the non-sewered sanitation professionals with whom we work. Eva Muhia is leading systemic non-sewered sanitation change in Kenya, fighting contamination of the water source and encouraging coordination of the public and private sector. 

As World Toilet Day approaches, are proud and honoured to share stories of some of the Emptiers with whom we work. The non-sewered sanitation service chain is the process of containment, collection, transport, treatment, and disposal or reuse of human feces. In this process, every step is critical to making non-sewered sanitation a viable solution to one of the greatest challenges our world faces: two-thirds of the population (4.5 billion people) lack access to safely managed sanitation.1

The collection step in the non-sewered sanitation chain involves emptying latrines and septic tanks, and the professionals in this line of work are called Emptiers.

Eva Muhia is a non-sewered sanitation champion

She is changing sanitation in Kenya, fighting contamination of the water source and encouraging coordination of the public and private sector.

“As the president of Global Sanitation and Environmental Services (GSES), I’m leading a four-pronged strategy targeting innovation, strategic partnership, advocacy, and services. My team serves close to 60% of housing units in Metropolitan Nairobi, an area with a fecal discharge of 3,520,000 litres daily. They provide on-demand service, so they’re typically servicing orders via cell phone.”

(Wondering what 3.5 million litres of fecal sludge would look like?
It’s enough to fill about 1.75 Olympic-size swimming pools. Yes—that’s a lot).

“The current sewer system serves 50.6% of the Nairobi’s estimated 6.4 million residents, about 3,238,400 people—it was originally designed to serve 800,000 people. The majority of the new and upcoming developments do not have access to the sewer and rely on Emptiers to discharge their septic tanks and pit latrines. 36% of Kenyans rely on water from underground sources—over 90% of Kenya’s sanitation structures are sub-surface in nature. In the absence of conventional sewer systems, our fresh water sources are constantly in danger of contamination by wastewater.

Despite the central importance that sanitation plays in our society, the majority of consumers I interact with view sanitation as an afterthought. I was surprised to learn that out of Kenya’s 47 counties, only a handful of counties made provisions regarding wastewater management in their five-year development plans. It’s especially surprising because almost all tributaries, streams and rivers flowing through Nairobi are brackish, black with a pungent smell characteristic of raw effluent. Further, undue strain on existing sewer infrastructure leads to burst sewers, which discharge raw effluent into storm drains, and eventually, rivers.”

The non-sewered sanitation chain
The non-sewered sanitation chain

Eva Muhia’s workdays are not only spent coordinating her team, but also advocating to improve the system within.

“My challenge is to influence positive perceptions towards sanitation so that it is better considered in planning. There has been a prevalent silo mentality within the sanitation industry. The emptying industry is governed by strict policy and a licensing regime that lacks coordination and consultation between service providers and statutory bodies.

I’m honing my organizational skills to encourage conversations between actors in the sanitation value chain so that we can have more positive and productive collaborations. I’m hopeful that this will improve legislative and operating environments of the sanitation industry and conserve our environment.

Learn more

Want to learn more about Fecal Sludge Management (FSM)? CAWST is co-delivering a FSM workshop with CASS and CDD Society in Bengaluru, India November 20-22, 2019. You could attend if you’re in the area! If not, check out our Fecal Sludge Management Technical Brief on Emptying and Transport.


References

Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017. Special focus on inequalities. New York: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization, 2019

World Toilet Day: from mistreated emptiers to successful entrepreneurs

As World Toilet Day approaches, we are proud and honoured to share stories of some of the Emptiers with whom we work. Emptiers transport and empty fecal sludge, a public health service that is vital to the health of a city. When Alidou Bande witnessed their work in Burkina Faso, he invented sanitation technology solutions to improve their safety. He’s also helping Emptiers become successful entrepreneurs.

As World Toilet Day approaches, are proud and honoured to share stories of some of the Emptiers with whom we work. The non-sewered sanitation service chain is the process of containment, collection, transport, treatment, and disposal or reuse of human feces. In this process, every step is critical to making non-sewered sanitation a viable solution to one of the greatest challenges our world faces: two-thirds of the population (4.5 billion people) lack access to safely managed sanitation.1

The collection step in the non-sewered sanitation chain involves emptying latrines and septic tanks, and the professionals in this line of work are called Emptiers.

Alidou Bande’s path to non-networked sanitation is an unconventional one. In fact, it was a sidewalk.

Before working in sanitation, I was a photographer. When I would go into neighbourhoods to take pictures, I saw all the wastewater and sludge running through the streets, right in front of people’s homes! Doing this, I learned that emptying services are prohibitively expensive for most Burkinabe people. This inspired me to start developing a prototype that would allow pits to be emptied inexpensively and safely. I entered a competition with this prototype emptying technology and came in the top 25 participants out of 1800.

Aside from the technology, Alidou’s mission is a deeply social one.

“Because the general public has a negative perception of the work being done by manual Emptiers, they discriminate against them. In Burkina, people say that their job is a dirty, disgusting job, that anyone willing to do that job is lost in life and hopeless. Despite this mistreatment, manual Emptiers work hard to earn their daily bread. However, because of this mistreatment by the general population, a lot of manual Emptiers will start drinking alcohol. It is a big problem.”

When asked about the day in the life of an Emptier in Ouagadougou, Alidou shared that most manual Emptiers work at night.

“Since manual Emptiers are denigrated by the population here, it is very common that manual Emptiers work at night to hide. They do not want to be seen by their girlfriend, or their entourage. Those who work the night, they typically start at 10 pm, and by 4:30 or 5 am they will finish the job. A manual emptier goes to work equipped with basic tools: a rope, bucket, pick axe. They often work in pairs: one enters the pit and one stays outside.
In Ouagadougou, manual emptying is essential to public health and yet they are people who have been abandoned by the population, sometimes even rejected by their families.”

That’s why Alidou founded ABASA,the manual Emptiers association in Burkina Faso, and is working closely with the Pan-African Sanitation Actors Association.

I want to provide a support system for these Emptiers to help them work, earn a living, do their job better and more safely. I am honoured to be engaged in this work. Manual Emptiers are rarely supported. They need support to develop and do their jobs well. My biggest hope is to turn these mistreated Emptiers into successful entrepreneurs.

See Ouagadougou and learn more about sanitation challenges and solutions in this short documentary, created by Alidou.

Through our project, Scaling Up Capacity Development in Non-Networked Sanitation, Emptiers of all sorts inform and strengthen our work. On World Toilet Day, November 19, along with the global efforts to recognize the public health service that Emptiers provide and to dignify their work,  we will be premiering short video stories about our manual Emptiers clients. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about Emptiers’ crucial role in global health.


References

Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017. Special focus on inequalities.
New York: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization, 2019

World Toilet Day: the answer is within us

As World Toilet Day approaches, we are proud and honoured to share stories of some of the Emptiers with whom we work. Emptiers transport and empty fecal sludge, a key step in achieving safely managed sanitation and public health. Jafari Matovu, based in Kampala, Uganda, began his Emptying career washing, emptying equipment and sweeping a facility, and now he leads the Association of Uganda Emptiers.

As World Toilet Day approaches, are proud and honoured to share stories of some of the Emptiers with whom we work. The non-sewered sanitation service chain is the process of containment, collection, transport, treatment, and disposal or reuse of human feces. In this process, every step is critical to making non-sewered sanitation a viable solution to one of the greatest challenges our world faces: two-thirds of the population (4.5 billion people) lack access to safely managed sanitation.1

The collection step in the non-sewered sanitation chain involves emptying latrines and septic tanks, and the professionals in this line of work are called Emptiers.

Jafari Matovu, based in Kampala, Uganda, is one of those professionals.

Jafari started his Emptying career washing emptying equipment and sweeping the facility, and now he leads the Association of Uganda Emptiers.

“My first day, I felt like vomiting. I could barely stomach the smell. I suspended eating: I couldn’t even eat my favourite meal, Pillawo. I came into the emptying business because the bank I was working for had closed and I had no other option.

But I’m still in the business today. What changed? When I started this job, my wife and I had our first daughter. I had a family to support And with few trucks and high demand for the service, I stuck it out, paid my debts, and the rest is history. I’m now the President of Uganda Emptiers Ltd. and a communication and information officer of the Pan-African Sanitation Actors network.”

While Jafari’s skill and status have increased in his profession, he still faces discrimination and business barriers.

“While I’ve learned to stomach the smell, customer attitudes haven’t changed much.

Customers think that I, the service provider, am a disease-carrying human.
They mock us, asking questions like: “Do you eat food? Do you have a wife?” and only appreciate that our existence is lifting the burden of full latrine pits off their shoulders.

“Asides from customer attitudes, there are great barriers to our business success. The infrastructure and technology can be a challenge; travelling far to discharge fecal sludge sometimes renders a day unprofitable, and limited availability and quality of parts like hoses drive up costs. Financially, we often struggle to access loans because the value of our work is not well-documented or known.”

“One of my biggest concerns is the accessibility of our services in order to truly impact public health in Uganda. It is very difficult for customers in remote areas to access the service. It’s challenging for us because the demand is low and it’s not cost-effective to serve the informal settlements that surround Kampala. It’s challenging for them because they can’t afford the service. Further to that, many don’t have lined latrine pits, which means that fecal sludge is at risk of contaminating the water source, and these latrine pits don’t get full as quickly.

Despite these challenges, I have faith that customers and our industry can change. Awareness campaigns on the benefits of sanitation and how our services help break the cycle of disease could help. The answer is within us.

The answer is within all of us, indeed. And on World Toilet Day, CAWST takes pride in recognizing Emptying professionals like Jafari Matovu, whose work is vital to global health.

Learn more

Jafari speaks about the importance of lining latrine pits. Learn more about proper construction and maintenance of latrines in our Latrine Design and Construction Technical Brief and through our Latrine Design and Construction Workshop.


References

Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017. Special focus on inequalities.
New York: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization, 2019

World Toilet Day: changing the face of Emptiers

Through the project Scaling Up Capacity Development in Non-Networked Sanitation, we have worked extensively with Emptiers. Emptiers are professionals who are responsible for the safe collection of fecal sludge for transport to treatment facilities. They play a significant role in public health. This World Toilet Day, we share their stories.

As World Toilet Day approaches, are proud and honoured to share stories of some of the Emptiers with whom we work. The non-sewered sanitation service chain is the process of containment, collection, transport, treatment, and disposal or reuse of human feces. In this process, every step is critical to making non-sewered sanitation a viable solution to one of the greatest challenges our world faces: two-thirds of the population (4.5 billion people) lack access to safely managed sanitation.1

Through the project Scaling Up Capacity Development in Non-Networked Sanitation, CAWST completed a study to document the skills and knowledge along the sanitation service chain. Then, we hosted workshops with Emptiers from across Africa to develop a competency framework to guide professional development for Emptiers. But this work is not only about developing new studies, structures, and tools. It’s also about changing perceptions.

The way we’ve engaged Emptiers as true experts in their profession is changing their own perceptions of themselves. And outwardly, the work we’re doing together is changing the face of emptying, so that ultimately it can be done more safely and effectively.

Laura Kohler, PhD, CAWST Senior Knowledge and Research Advisor.

That said, for World Toilet Day we are sharing some of the faces of emptying by profiling Emptiers with whom we have had the opportunity to work. Emptiers are a very diverse group, ranging from manual pit latrine Emptiers, who enter pits with shovels and buckets to collect fecal sludge, to business owners with fleets of emptying trucks.

Through their advocacy and professional achievements, Eva Muhia, Jafari Matovu, Alidou Bande, Julius Mbuvi, and many more Emptiers are changing the world—and the face of the Emptying profession. As their stories reveal, there are many challenges to effective emptying as a service, business, and respected profession. However, we see a future full of opportunity in this industry.

Learn More

Sanitation knowledge can change the world. Advance your sanitation knowledge for World Toilet Day:

Learn more about World Toilet Day and the role of sanitation in global public health and prosperity.

 


References

Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017. Special focus on inequalities.
New York: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization, 2019

CAWST in the News: Celebrating our very own Top 40 Under 40 – Kelly James

Our very own, Kelly James, has been awarded Top 40 Under 40 by Avenue magazine for her commitment to social justice, sustainable development, and global health with CAWST.

Image Credit: Avenue Magazine | Photograph by Jared Sych.

Each year, local lifestyle magazine, Avenue, celebrates Calgary’s best and brightest in its Top 40 Under 40 issue. Published annually in November, the issue is full of high achievers, ranging from inventors to doctors to entrepreneurs to academics to athletes, and everything in-between. As such, it is no surprise within the CAWST office that Avenue decided to celebrate one of our own – Kelly James!

Kelly is an instrumental member of our Global Services team. She supports our partners around the world to design strategies to effectively monitor and evaluate their programs, in order to design more effective interventions. Her work is driven by one bottom line: seeing more people around the world with access to safe water and safely-managed sanitation.

However, it’s not just her work at CAWST that contributed to her being awarded this impressive honour. Kelly’s commitment to sustainable development was sparked long before CAWST. Kelly has years of experience working on health, disability, and capacity-development projects in Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Uganda. She is a founding member and volunteer of Fair Trade Calgary, she holds her Bachelor of Arts degree with a Major in Development Studies and a minor in Economics from the University of Calgary, and went on to obtain her Masters of Science in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

We are so lucky to have Kelly on our outstanding CAWST team. Kelly contributes to inspiring a new generation of global citizens, and we are thrilled to celebrate her.

Join us as we congratulate Kelly!

Read Avenue Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 issue here.