Overcoming challenges along the road to better sanitation and hygiene

Date: 17th April 2020

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DODOMA, Tanzania – Unusually heavy rainfall across much of East Africa over recent months has caused much disruption, not least to efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene in Tanzania.

In the Dodoma district, not only have severe flash floods submerged and destroyed toilets, but they have also washed out roads and damaged bridges, making it difficult, sometimes impossible, for sanitation and hygiene ‘change makers’ to reach people in the periphery.

Achieving adequate sanitation and hygiene for all requires visiting every possible place and meeting with all people – young and old, male and female, strong and weak. In the quest to leave no one behind, reaching marginalized people in underprivileged locations is particularly important.

It’s not an easy road to supporting sanitation and hygiene in Tanzania ©WSSCC/Aidan Tarimo

When roads and bridges are rendered impassible, it is proving to be even more challenging than usual. On multiple occasions, it has simply not been possible as the blocked routes prohibit access to some areas.

“Whenever planning to go for fieldwork in far remote places during rainy season, we keep all our options open,” says Aidan Tarimo, the Communications and Documentation Officer with the Sanitation and Hygiene Programme in Tanzania (UMATA).

“Nobody knows what will happen along the route. There could be a delay due to water overflowing some bridges, or we might have to go back when there is severe damage to the road,” he says, recounting how heavy rains affect the delivery of sanitation and hygiene services in rural areas.

“This is the way of life during rainy season. We hope for the best while expecting the worst. We desire to make a positive impact while knowing there could be challenges along the road. If we get stuck in the mud, we give our best to get the car out so we can proceed to reach the communities.”

Heavy rainfall across the East African region makes roads impassable. ©WSSCC/Aidan Tarimo

Mr Tarimo says there have been occasions when they had to postpone certain activities. “We may find a bridge has been covered by water, and we wait for the water to subside, but it might take too long. Other times, we don’t find the bridge at all – it may be washed away or badly damaged. This is very risky, so we either find an alternative route or concede and go back.”

While damage by heavy rains to latrines and transportation routes presents major challenges to UMATA’s efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene, the programme, supported by WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund, has been keen to innovate mechanisms to address them.

“These challenges don’t drain our zeal for equitable access to sanitation and hygiene services for all,” says Mr Tarimo. “We find so much strength through them. We become more adamant and innovative to ensure that we leave no one behind.”

The Tanzania Development Vision 2025 acknowledges that development of the road network is absolutely essential for promoting rural development, which is why the government accorded the highest priority and massive investments in infrastructure.

Tanzania has been able to upgrade all of its trunk routes, and the majority of its urban roads, to bitumen standard (paved). The country envisions improving all routes that connect districts, which are now primarily weather roads, to bitumen as well.

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