Thoughts on One Million
Adequate sanitation is cardinal in tackling preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera that can be life threatening. This is why Akros has been partnering with the Government of Zambia and UNICEF through the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) program in fighting open defecation to improve sanitation and hygiene for rural Zambians. Recently the program reached an incredible milestone: 1,000,000 new users of sanitation. We spoke with a some village leaders and Akros staff to learn a bit about what this 1 million new sanitation users mark means to them, and what it has taken to get here.
One of the most innovative and potentially transformational aspects of the project is the mobile to web performance management system. This not only improves reporting efficiency, timeliness and reliability, but also empowers a network of stakeholders with information they need to perform. Decision making is enhanced, accountability improved, and advocacy strengthened. Taking into account lessons learnt in rolling out the system in 15 districts, as well as sector interests and the development of a sector MIS, the system should be expanded to all 47 project districts’
– DFID, ANNUAL REVIEW REPORT, APRIL 2014
The mobile to web monitoring platform demonstrates significant innovation working at scale. It is being used in 23 districts to monitor progress on key sanitation indicators and will be expanded to pick up water supply elements. We saw how District Councils were using it to present data and monitor progress on ODF status in villages, and they were using it as a basis for taking corrective action.
– SANJAY WIJESEKERA, UNICEF CHIEF OF WATER, SANITATION, AND HYGIENE, PROGRAMME DIVISION
This [system] appears to be the most active and effective Monitoring & Reporting process in rural Zambia at present and is proposed to be the basis for scaling up to all Districts. In addition, in 20 of the 46 districts, data transmission and consolidation is operated through a very efficient and cost-effective mobile-to-web system using the open source DHIS2 platform with the support of Akros.
– AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK, PROJECT APPRAISAL REPORT, APRIL 2014
“This milestone marks a tremendous achievement for the Zambia Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH), UNICEF and the Akros WASH team. It is impressive enough that so many rural Zambians have actively changed sanitation and hygiene behaviors with Akros support. Even more significant is the profound capacity built within government and traditional leadership channels supporting these 1,000,000+ Zambians. Not only are we seeing tangible population impact at the community level, but we’re also seeing government and traditional leaders championing the cause. We are eager to share lessons learned with the global WASH community and further support Zambia MLGH in its efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene in Zambia.”
– BEN WINTERS – AKROS ZAMBIA COUNTRY DIRECTOR
“Understanding the concept behind CLTS for the people is easy but having them implement it can be challenging as they are so used to defecating in the bush. One of the most helpful tools that can be used to achieve an open defecation free status in the chiefdom is by sensitizing people in villages through public address once a month, serving as a reminder to everyone of the need to construct a latrine. This can be achieved with assistance from already existing structures such as the District Development Coordinating Committee (DDCC) under the Ministry of Local Government and Housing.”
– GIVEN HABAZUNGU, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH TECHNICIAN
“During the inception meeting held in 2013, I was introduced to new approaches of constructing latrines and given other essential information which contributed to increasing the number of toilets in the chiefdom and improved sanitation in general. I received CLTS with gladness as I saw it as an opportunity to further reduce diarrheal infections in my chiefdom.”
– CHIEFTENESS KABULWEBULWE
“This is a great achievement which brings a sense pleasure and fulfillment to all the stakeholders of Sanitation. The target looked impossible. We had even bigger challenges along the way but seeing strengthened collaboration and a sharing of information among stakeholders was essential. Am also particularly excited to see how mobile technology has changed the lives of many rural Zambians. This is great mark.”
– RABSON ZIMBA, AKROS WASH SURVEILLANCE OFFICER
Chief Mumba said that CLTS was received very well by people in his chiefdom. His chiefdom now has latrines built at 96.8 percent of households, making his the best performing chiefdom in Mumbwa district. He attributed this success to his regular visits to households in his chiefdom. “For more toilets to be built in my chiefdom, I took it upon myself to inspect households to ensure they all had latrines and those found wanting were asked to pay a chicken or goat,” he said.
– CHIEF MUMBA
“When someone who doesn’t want to comply is charged a chicken, for example, the proceeds would go to the building of latrines for the most vulnerable members of the village.”
– CHIEF MOONO
“One of the best ways of achieving an open defecation free status in the chiefdom is by seriously engaging with relatives to headmen who are reluctant to the idea of building a latrine as they believed no one could stop them from defecating in the nearby bushes since they were related to the headmen.”
– EDWARD MACHILI, COMMUNITY CHAMPION
“1 million new users of sanitation. That’s 1 million people now living happier, healthier lives thanks to the work of Zambia’s Ministry of Local Government and Housing and Akros. That’s 1 million people who have built latrines and made the decision to reduce the impact of diarrheal diseases in their community. To reach this goal, the Akros team and its partners took risks, engaged new stakeholders, and paved an avenue for a robust data collection system that Zambia had never before seen. I am incredibly proud of the Akros team and the leadership they’ve shown in this program.”