Glimmer of hope for elimination of open air defecation in Madagascar

Date: 7th September 2013

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The statistics are chilling: 53% of Madagascar’s 20.7 million people defecate openly every day while another 33% use dilapidated, unsafe toilets. The under-5 mortality rate of is one of the highest in the world, at 72 deaths per 1,000 children. One-fifth of these deaths are caused by diarrhoea, causing great personal anguish for families, straining health care systems, and stretching pocketbooks filled with a per capita income of just US$ 488 per year. In Madagascar, open air defecation leads to a loss of an estimated US$ 65 million per year.

In spite of this, says Mr. Chris Williams, Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), great hope exists in a country where the Global Sanitation Fund has already helped 250,000 Madagascans and 2,000 villages to escape the ignominy of open defecation. By the end of 2015, WSSCC aims to have helped 3.5 million people to be living in open defecation free communities.

WSSCC Executive Director Chris Williams using a tippy tap in the village of Itasy, Madagascar. Credit: Fonds d'Appui pour l'Assainissement (FAA) Madagascar

WSSCC Executive Director Chris Williams using a tippy tap in the village of Itasy, Madagascar. Credit: Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement (FAA) Madagascar

“There is great work being done and tremendous momentum for better sanitation and hygiene in Madagascar,” said Mr. Williams. This observation is shared by Mr. Adrien Ladislas Rakotondrazaka, General Director of the Water Ministry, who observed; “We’re contributing to the effort through the Global Sanitation Fund, which supports behaviour change – the key to real progress, not subsidies for toilet construction.

Because of the measure of success to date, Mr. Williams said that WSSCC is considering doubling its initial investment of US$ 5 million for Global Sanitation Fund work in Madagascar. Gains and successes in Madagascar form a model that can be shared and replicated in other eligible countries.

While WSSCC is helping Madagascar achieve sanitation and hygiene at scale in the 14 regions where GSF is supporting implementing agencies to do behaviour change work, Mr. Jean Herivelo Rakotondrainibe, National Coordinator of the WASH Coalition said that increased sector coordination is more important than ever in order to achieve the ultimate aspiration of sanitation and hygiene for all.

“There is a nascent but increasingly-dynamic partnership on sanitation and hygiene by government and civil society which offers even greater dividends for the nation’s health, economy, environment and social well-being,” Mr. Herivelo Rakotondrainibe said. “WSSCC together with government and partners is committed to this partnership.”

To further the partnership building and sector coordination, Mr. Williams, Mr. Herivelo Rakotondrainibe and Global Sanitation Fund staff met key government officials and representatives of various entities working within the Global Sanitation Fund program in Madagascar including the Ministers of Water, and Finance and Budget. Mr. Williams also canvassed representatives of development agencies, including UNICEF, UNDP, the United States Agency for International Development, World Bank, the African Development Bank and WaterAid, as well as senior managers in the Water Ministry to chart a path for further sector coordination.

Mr. Williams spoke of the unique role that the Diorano-WASH coalition has played in fostering a growing enthusiasm for sanitation and hygiene. “WSSCC has a ten-year history in Madagascar through its affiliation with Diorano-WASH, which started long before the Global Sanitation Fund,” said Mr. Williams. “Diorano-WASH is an inspiring national multi-stakeholder mechanism and has been instrumental in fostering an enabling environment for sanitation and hygiene progress.”

During the week, Mr. Williams, government officials and sector partners visited several communities that became open defecation free through Global Sanitation Fund work.  Results are encouraging thanks to the involvement of local and regional authorities, the contribution of the regional Diorano WASH coalition and local communities taking responsibility for their sanitation and hygiene.

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