Environment: Water, Sanitation & Hygiene
BRAC WASH programme is implementing its activities in 248 upazilas (sub-districts) to provide hygiene education and increase access to water and sanitation to 51.2 million people.
Building on its long experience of providing water and sanitation services to communities, BRAC started its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme in 2006 in partnership with the Government. Our goal is to provide sustainable and integrated WASH services in the rural areas and break the contamination cycle of unsanitary latrines, contaminated water and unsafe hygiene practices, as well as ensure sustainability and scaling-up of WASH services. The programme aims to ensure access to sanitation services for 17.6 million people, hygiene education for 38.8 million people and safe water services for 8.5 million people in 150 upazilas of Bangladesh, with the support of the Government of Netherlands.
The core of this programme is the Village WASH Committee (VWC), made up of 11 members - six females and five males - representing all stakeholder groups. The VWC meet bi-monthly to assess the existing water and sanitation situation of the entire village and identify issues that need urgent action. They select sites for community water sources, collect money and monitor the usage and maintenance of latrines. The committee members are also responsible for identifying ultra-poor households eligible for BRAC and the Government’s Annual Development Programme grants. In addition, the committee members are also responsible to select poor households for providing micro loan support in order to install sanitary latrines and construct tube well platforms. To strengthen the capacity of VWCs, two key members from each committee (one female and one male) were provided leadership training at a BRAC facility. More than 39,000 VWCs have been made functional throughout the programme area and 80,000 members were trained.
We are an active member of the government’s National Sanitation Task Force. We are also represented in the Government’s Water and Sanitation committees at district, upazila and union level as a member, which are being organised by the local government institutions.
Extension and Expansion of WASH
The programme started its second phase on October 2011 in 20 new upazilas while consolidating in the existing 150 upazilas of WASH I for four years. These happen to be challenging and by implication, expensive areas to work in. However, WASH II aims to ensure improved access to and use of sanitary toilets for two million people, hygiene promotion of 4.2 million people and improved water services and its use for 0.5 million people in these Upazilas. For the 150 original Upazilas from WASH I, the WASH II programme will continue working to ensure that the gains made in the first phase are sustained. Moreover, five new upazilas have been included due to low sanitation coverage in another project “Innovation in Sustainable Sanitation” to cover 0.67 million population.
From July 2012 onwards, WASH III is going to expand its working area in 73 new Upazilas under BRAC DFID/AusAid Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA). The project aims to increase access to sanitation for five million population and to provide water facilities for 0.5 million by following the same strategy of WASH I.
To provide communities with access to safe water, we undertake various activities, including development of a water safety plan, installation of deep tube wells, water quality tests and provision of loans for tube well platform construction. In arsenic and saline-affected areas, we sink deep tube wells, construct ponds, filters and arsenic removal filters, and install piped water supply systems to provide safe water.
We raise awareness on sanitation issues, which creates community demand for facilities such as sanitary latrines. In addition to reviving the existing Rural Sanitation Centres (RSC), we set up new RSC’s to increase access to sanitary latrines for communities in remote areas. Besides providing interest-free loans to local entrepreneurs to create quality latrine parts, trainings in production technology by experts from BRAC and the government’s Department of Public Health Engineering are also provided.
WASH provides technical support to those who can afford and are willing to construct latrines, ensuring proper design and site selection. Those who cannot afford to pay the full cost of sanitary latrines are provided with loans. On the other hand, two-pit latrine construction materials including superstructures and mini water tanks are given to the ultra-poor families free of cost.
We know that the installation of water supply and sanitation facilities is not enough to improve people’s health – good hygiene practices are essential to serve that purpose. Our programme has adopted a number of practical approaches to promote hygiene messages that are based on socio-economic and hydro-geological conditions, culture and existing practices. Cluster meetings using the proper innovative communication tools create awareness about the use of safe water, sanitary latrines and good hygiene practices. We involve the imams of mosques – religious leaders who are also the key opinion leaders in rural Bangladesh – in hygiene promotion activities. We developed khutbas (sermons) based on verses from the Quran and Hadith that refer to cleanliness and hygiene
We use the BRAC Shasthya Shebikas (community health volunteers) and popular theatre teams to deliver crucial WASH messages to communities –hygiene issues are incorporated in the drama scripts.
School Sanitation and Hygiene Education
Schools in rural areas either have poor sanitation facilities or none at all. The lack of separate latrines for girls is a major factor in their disproportionately high absentee and dropout rates. To address this issue, we convince the secondary school authorities to provide separate latrines that have adequate water and waste disposal facilities for girls.
For better management and maintenance of the facilities, School Brigades and School WASH Committees have started working in 3,960 secondary schools. A School Brigade has 24 students, selected from grades six to nine. They are responsible for the proper use and maintenance of latrines as well as the overall cleanliness of the school premises. A 14-member School WASH committee is formed in each school, with the head master as chairperson and a female teacher as member secretary. To ensure representation of all stakeholders, members of the School Management Committee, guardians and students are also selected as committee members. The committee meets once or twice a month to review activities, including latrine use and maintenance. Teachers develop an action plan for effective implementation and follow-up of WASH activities.
If school children are given health education and taught good hygienic practices, they can take care of their own health and inform others. School teachers, therefore, are given orientation on WASH issues and teaching methodology in 150 upazilas. The teachers then teach their students about health and hygiene using specially designed flip charts and posters. The children are also encouraged to spread the knowledge at home and in their communities. In addition, in order to ensure proper operation and maintenance of the facilities, the schools are encouraged to create a fund to meet the water and sanitation related expenses.
Special Project: Innovation in Sustainable Sanitation
Innovations in sanitation have been undertaken to develop a sustainable and scalable model of operation that delivers cost effective sanitation services and technology. With the financial assistance of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the scale of reach to the ultra poor is most likely going be across 150 Upazilas and an additional five new upazilas from October 2011 to September 2014. The key objective of the project is to identify and develop micro entrepreneurship skills for marketing of bio-fertiliser from human faeces as a business model that will be generated from the pit latrines.
To develop a compost business model, the project conducted social research to develop the entrepreneurs in rural area for compost selling to the farmers in order to ensure environmental sanitation which leads to meet the MDG of environmental sustainability.
The project aims to cover three million people in 155 upazilas to increase coverage from 83-95 percent along with ensuring safe hygiene practices and the maintenance of latrines by the users as sustainable initiatives.