Understanding slippage #4: what are the most common patterns?

Date: 22nd February 2017

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Many sanitation and hygiene programmes are confronted with slippage, which refers to a return to unhygienic behaviour, or the inability of community members to continue to meet all open defecation free (ODF) criteria. Join us as we explore this phenomenon in a seven-part series for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practitioners.

In last week’s article, we discussed the community behaviour change process and its links with slippage. This week, we explore  slippage patterns. The article is based on a chapter in a Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) reflection paper on slippage and sustainability. 

Institutional Triggering, a key CLTS approach, can be used to identify and discuss slippage patterns. The approach galvanizes support from agencies, organizations, and influential leaders, such as those pictured here. Key outcomes include signed commitments to take action to end open defecation, forming multi-sector tasks groups or committees, and the creation of ODF roadmaps. ©FONDS D’APPUI POUR L’ASSAINISSEMENT

The Global Sanitation Fund has identified a number of slippage patterns, linked to factors that communities have significant, little or no control over. These patterns can occur independently or interact with each other, reflecting the dynamic, highly varied and context-specific nature of slippage. The patterns are:

  • Slippage due to non-compliance with ODF criteria
  • Community-wide slippage
  • Seasonal slippage
  • Slippage of convenience
  • Externally induced slippage
  • Institutional slippage

Slippage due to non-compliance with ODF criteria

This is the most common type of slippage in Madagascar, given that the GSF-supported programme applies a zero tolerance policy for failure to comply with one or more ODF criteria. This means that even if a single toilet in a community fails to live up to fly-proof standards, the entire community is deemed non-ODF.

For example, slippage can be determined if one or more toilets has a misplaced squat hole cover, a lack of ash to eliminate odors and fly larvae, no soap, ash or water at the handwashing station, and uncovered and used cleansing materials.

This type of slippage can be caused by inadequate behaviour change, but more often than not it is mainly due to human error by one or more households.

Community-wide slippage

This type of slippage occurs when an entire community or a large majority of community members either fail to comply with ODF criteria, or return to open defecation after achieving ODF status. Community-wide slippage is a sign of weak or non-existent collective behaviour change, and its cause can usually be traced back to poor facilitation during Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) triggering and follow-up activities.

Seasonal slippage

Seasonal slippage happens during both the wet and dry seasons, as observed in rural Madagascar and Nigeria. For example, during the rainy season in these areas, some pit latrines may collapse or fill up with water, and they cannot be repaired until the season is over. Since this may take several months, community members might in the meantime return to open defecation. In addition, GSF Sub-grantee facilitators may be unable to conduct follow-up visits due to inaccessible terrain.

In parts of drought-prone southwestern Madagascar, communities struggle to maintain ODF status throughout the year, due to a lack of water for handwashing facilities. In some communities, the nearest water point is 20 kilometres away by foot. During the dry season and periods of serious drought, communities therefore deprioritize water for handwashing, focusing instead on other water needs.

Slippage of convenience

This occurs when members of ODF communities openly defecate in areas outside their own community where no sanitation facilities exist, such as in fields, motor parks and marketplaces. Similar to community-wide slippage, this is primarily caused by poor CLTS facilitation leading to poor behaviour change, as community members fail to truly internalize why open defecation must stop.

Externally induced slippage

Communities hosting displaced people from conflict-affected areas sometimes deal with overstretched facilities and newcomers unwilling to use toilets, as they may not have been triggered in their community of origin. Even if these displaced groups were triggered to eliminate open defecation, they may slip back due to impact of the conflict.

In addition, during festive seasons or social events in rural communities, there is a high influx of visitors who may originate from non-ODF areas and as a result practice open defecation in ODF villages.

Institutional slippage

When the actions, policies or processes of institutions – government bodies, GSF implementing partners, and others – contribute to the reversal of sanitation gains made by communities, then institutional slippage can be determined.

Some reasons for institutional slippage include:

  • A lack of coordination between different institutions leading to overlapping activities
  • The use of conflicting policies (such as subsidies versus CLTS)
  • A lack of agreement on verification protocols and other institutional disagreements

Going forward

The above slippage patterns show us that if we are to come to terms with slippage, we must address the issue at both the community and institutional levels. Addressing slippage calls for community-based solutions, building on the creativity of the community as well as the quality of facilitation throughout the CLTS process.

Join us next time as we explore what to consider when monitoring slippage.

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