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The Global Handwashing Partnership

Sustaining Sanitation and Hygiene in Madagascar: the Impact of the Pandemic

July 14, 2020

By: Hoby Randrianimanana

This interview was originally posted on WSSCC’s website. 

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar – Dr Fano Randriamanantsoa is the Community Mobilization Specialist at the Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement (FAA), WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund programme in Madagascar.

A medical doctor by training, Fano Randriamanantsoa has worked in the WASH sector for over ten years. His role with FAA is to coordinate and monitor sanitation and hygiene activities in communities that have been declared open defecation-free (post-ODF activities). He spoke with us on how his work has been impacted by COVID-19.

WSSCC: Could you tell us about your work?

Dr Fano Randriamanantsoa, Community Mobilization Specialist at the Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement: I coordinate and monitor the post-ODF activities of the implementing agencies we fund. For that, I first define specialities needed to support these agencies in their post-ODF activities, and then I recruit consultants for each speciality, including, among others, sanitation marketing, capacity building and Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA) expertise.

A key aspect of my work is going in the field to collect feedback, learn and share knowledge, and test with partners the approaches we have developed.

According to WSSCC’s “EQND” handbook, post-ODF activities refers to any structured activity taking place in a community after they have been certified as ODF, with objectives ranging from sustaining changed sanitation and hygiene behaviour to promoting the use of more hygienic and sustainable facilities and addressing other aspects of environmental hygiene, including safe water treatment and solid waste management.

WSSCC: Based on your experience, what are some of the challenges to sustainability for ODF communities in Madagascar?

Dr Randriamanantsoa: I can give four prevailing challenges in our work:

Behavioural challenges arise when residents are not fully convinced that they don’t want to eat “shit” anymore. It is the result of using the wrong approach. Implementers often tend to be either too strict or too easygoing. Sometimes, they get too involved in the community, preventing the population from taking full responsibility for improving their own sanitation and hygiene.

Economic hardship is a challenge we often encounter in the field, where the majority live on less than 2 dollars a day. It automatically excludes the poorest as they are unable to afford even the most basic sanitation and hygiene services.

Non-access to resilient and sustainable infrastructure is tied to economic hardship. Due to limited resources, communities cannot build durable facilities and instead resort to using cheaper local materials, which are not sustainable and tend to become non-functional either because of weather conditions or overuse.

Environmental challenge includes external factors that aren’t necessarily sanitation and hygiene-related but potentially affect them, such as weather conditions, soil type, political atmosphere, unsupportive local leaders, and crowd-gathering cultural events.

WSSCC: When communities are having difficulty sustaining their ODF status, what support does the programme provide to address the situation?

Dr Randriamanantsoa: We have seen many cases of slippage over the years, and what we do is provide implementing agencies with tools and approaches to tackle them.

For instance, when a community is experiencing slippage due to behavioural issues, we facilitate the establishment of the Local Community Governance (GLC), where residents are trained in methods to uphold changed behaviours. Where it is caused by economic hardship, we guide the agencies in the creation of a VSLA to help community members, especially the poorest, maintain or upgrade their facilities.

As for slippage originating from non-resilient infrastructure, we encourage agencies to promote sanitation marketing with local technicians, who have been trained to build durable latrines.

Slippage is used to describe the return to previous unhygienic behaviours due to the inability of some or all community members to continue to meet all ODF criteria.

WSSCC: Again, based on your experience, can you talk about the difference between working in rural areas and sub-urban/urban areas?

Dr Randriamanantsoa: We have seen that working in rural areas is more productive thanks mainly to our ability to use what is called continuum community-led total sanitation (CLTS) —implemented from the beginning until long after ODF certification—without any disruption.

CLTS is more effective in rural areas because of existing socio-cultural norms such as tight-knit communities, respect for elders and handcrafting skills. Most rural communities are also more open to innovations from outside as long as those innovations don’t contradict their values. On the contrary, the closer you move to urban settings, the more challenging post-ODF work becomes. We usually combine various approaches in these areas and sometimes request the help of other partners to carry out activities.

WSSCC: How has COVID-19 affected your post-ODF activity programming?

Dr Randriamanantsoa: Because of the lockdown, we have suspended most activities in our 19,000 ODF-certified communities. We have, however, a few implementing agencies carrying out post-ODF activities while adhering to COVID-19 prevention rules. In other cases, the agencies follow up remotely by connecting with members of Local Community Governance (GLC) and Local Institution Governance (GLI).

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