New Study Shows Progress in Sustainability of WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund Initiatives in Nepal

  • UN-HABITAT has delivered the ‘Sustainability of Open Defecation Free Campaign in GSF-supported Programme Districts, Nepal’ study
  • The study reports that of all surveyed households (1,927), 97% continued to have access to toilet facilities. Some difference was observed in sanitation access and use between previously declared ODF areas and newer ones. There was no major reported difference in sanitation access levels between economic and social groups, indicating a trend towards more equal access to improved sanitation for the poorest and ethnic minorities
  • A main recommendation is to strengthen local WASH committees in areas previously declared ODF to formulate plans for ODF re-verification and sustainability activities that are updated every three to five years

Under the guidance of the National Sanitation and Hygiene Coordination Committee (NSHCC) and leadership of local governments, the Global Sanitation Fund programme in Nepal (executed by UN-HABITAT) targets 696 Village Development Committees (VDCs) and Municipalities in 19 districts.  Since 2010, ODF status has been achieved in four districts supported by the programme, with strong advances in other districts and VDCs. But how sustainable have actions and initiatives been?

Last year, UN-HABITAT commissioned an independent study to verify the continuity of the access of sanitation facilities and people’s behaviour change after reaching ODF status. Involving nearly 2,000 households from 28 ODF VDCs, the ‘Sustainability of Open Defecation Free Campaign in GSF-supported Programme Districts, Nepal’ study aimed to:

  • identify continued use of properly maintained toilets and handwashing facilities
  • explore factors supporting or obstructing the sustainability of ODF
  • identify the benefits of ODF status and associated economic, environment, health and social impacts
  • identify gaps and lessons
  • assess the effectiveness of financing mechanisms

The study reports that of all surveyed households (1,927), 97% continued to have access to toilet facilities. Toilets are seen by communities as a symbol of prosperity, status and dignity and people consider toilets an integral component of promoting health and wellness.

Of the 134 households with unimproved toilets, 10% fell into the highest income range whereas only 7% fell into the lowest income range, which indicates a trend towards equal access to sanitation across income groups and caste/ethnic boundaries.

Findings reflected that the ODF campaign became a strong social movement with increasing involvement and support from government, civil society, and private sector actors, spreading to other sectors including health and education. However, while there is active community empowerment and mobilisation in leadership of WASH Coordinating Committees (CC’s) during the ODF campaign, this becomes less active after ODF status is achieved.

The study indicates that the amount of time lapsed after ODF declaration is an important factor. In the ‘older’ VDCs, or VDCs declared ODF longest ago, 5.1% of households had no toilets, whereas 1.9% of households in the ‘intermediate’ VDCs and 1.7% of the ‘newest’ VDCs had no toilets.  A main recommendation is to reactivate and strengthen WASH committees and formulate plans for ODF re-verification of along with sustainability activities every three to five years to prevent slippage. This also encompasses the apparent limited administrative and budgetary support for the WASH CCs.  Potential post-ODF sustainability activities include increasing access to durable and disaster resilient facilities, locally managed public toilets, pro-poor financing mechanisms, and locally managed faecal waste systems.

The report also explores access to sanitation financing (disaggregated by ethnicity/caste), usage of sanitation facilities as reported by households, and the adoption of key hygiene practices, such as handwashing with soap and menstrual hygiene management.

For full findings, analysis and recommendations, please download the study here.