April 14, 2016
The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call upon us to deliver water, sanitation, and hygiene for all. To do so, we must scale handwashing programs successfully and sustainably—a significant challenge. This was the thematic area that Handwashing Think Tank participants addressed during the second day.
BRAC is implementing a major WASH program in Bangladesh, and Ingebourg Krukkert (IRC) shared the challenges and lessons from this program. They found that sustained behavior change took community buy-in, a high level involvement of water and sanitation stakeholders (including the government and the private sector), and ongoing, intense hygiene promotion. Success was also the result of an integrated approach, where hygiene was mainstreamed into sanitation promotion. The project found that handwashing was, in some instances, a motivator to end open defecation. We discussed integration on the first day of the Handwashing Think Tank, but its linkage with scale and sustainability is evident.
The second day further solidified the fact that the private sector can, and should, be engaged in scaling up water, sanitation, and hygiene programs. To this end, Cheryl Hicks of the Toilet Board Coalition & Richard Wright of Unilever described how the Toilet Board Coalition seeks to catalyze the business sector to deliver universal access to sanitation by using a business accelerator model and focusing on innovation. Through this process they used consumer feedback as a way to improve the design and uptake of their product. In the 2014 Handwashing Think Tank we heard from the Water and Sanitation Program at the World Bank on the design of the Mrembo handwashing station, and they also emphasized the need to be responsive to local desires when designing products.
Geoff Revell of WaterSHED Asia also gave an update on the HappyTap/LaBobo portable handwashing station, which was likewise the result of human-centered and aspirational design research. In marketing this handwashing station, WaterSHED found that they needed to differentiate between consumer wants and needs. Marketing the product as a way to be modern was counterproductive, but encouraging parents to purchase the product as a way to protect their child’s health was effective.
At the conclusion of the Think Tank, Dr. Val Curtis (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) led participants in an exercise outlining how we should move forward as a result of our discussions and commitment making. It is clear that there are opportunities for the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing to continue to share knowledge about what works and doesn’t work in behavior change and promote advocacy for hygiene at the global and national level. Measurement of handwashing was a thread that ran throughout the discussions, and this was an area where both handwashing programs and researchers can work together.
The three thematic areas—integration, settings, and scale/sustainability—will undoubtedly be important over the next few years as we work to begin implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Through collaboration we believe that we can meet the challenge set forth by the SDGs.
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