Household WASH interventions: An untapped opportunity for impact?

 

This article was written by Teije Brandsma, author and creator of Dutch website, Aid Publicity

In this interview, WASH expert Alexandre Doyen tells me that his past experience has shown him that the long-term management of communal solutions on hygiene, water and sanitation have been problematic to manage, often leading to high failure rates. To help combat this challenge he advocates the use of household interventions that empower the end-user to make their own decisions.

Doyen believes that one of the challenges associated with communal solutions is that they belong to anyone - and therefore to no one. "A focus on solutions with a clear ownership has proven to be successful in public health with insecticide treated mosquito nets being a leading example of such an approach", says Doyen. 

Doyen, who was born in D.R. Congo and graduated from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has worked in several African countries on water purifications and WASH related issues, amongst other things. He also co-authored publications on health campaigns and innovative household led WASH components.

"I have seen many water and sanitation programs that focus primarily on large community solutions. Because many consultants tend to think that household solutions will be more expensive, will have less impact and will be more challenging to implement. But my experience is a different one."

 

 
 
It is very empowering when a user or family can decide, with for example a device like the SaniTap, ‘Do I use my own handwashing device or not?’. That is empowering. That they can decide themselves.
— Alexandre Doyen - WASH Expert
 
 

"I have been working for 20 years in public health now and believe that it is very empowering when a user or family can decide, with for example a device like the SaniTap, 'Do I use my own handwashing device or not?'. That is empowering, that they can decide themselves. Communal solutions like a borehole or pumps are absolutely necessary however, long-term management of these community owned assets without clear ownership or revenue models has often been problematic."

Doyen believes that household interventions are a great 'untapped' opportunity in WASH and that the provision of simple interventions such as a SaniTap, a handwashing bag combined with a soap holder, could catalyze existing 'software' programs focusing on behaviour change and educating people on the importance of handwashing and hygiene. 

"Rather than talking to children about soap and handwashing for hours on end, you could greatly benefit from showing them simple handwashing tools that they can use at home. Humans are visual beings'. 

Do you think household solutions help empower users and could contribute to viable WatSan solutions? Or do you think the answer lies elsewhere? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions below.