WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) programs are being implemented in more than 90 countries to improve water supplies and sanitation facilities. Palms for Life’s USAID-funded project in Swaziland addresses many of these same issues in 120 local schools, impacting 42,000 children and their families in surrounding communities.
Situations on the ground are often different from what you will find in a project document, and factors of everyday life can often be neglected when we are first designing a project. During the field work in the schools in Swaziland, we observed that in order to have any sustainable impact in the areas of health via improved toilets, washing of hands, and the preparation and eating of food, we need to look into a vast array of related issues that, if neglected, will jeopardize the expected results (results that can be measured in terms of the change of behavior). These issues include:
1- To provide water is not enough: we need to know how to use this resource it in a sustainable way
2- To provide water for cooking and drinking is not enough: we need to ensure it is safe all the time, and that kids and families are safe from parasites.
3- To provide water for hand washing is not enough: we need soap and ideally, a towel to wipe hands dry.
4- Implementing water management systems are not enough: we need funds to ensure their maintenance.
5- Providing toilets is not enough: they need to be kept clean in an environmentally safe way, and a supply of toilet paper and menstrual pads must be maintained.
6- To provide menstrual pads is not enough: we need ways to dispose of these in a sustainable way
7- Knowledge is not enough: we need actions, actions, actions! In school, on the streets, and at home.
8- Actions are not enough: they need to be sustained and monitored and in some cases enforced.
This list can go on and on and on. Our main message here is one of hope but also of caution: so many issues are interconnected and they all play an important role in ensuring the success of WASH projects. If taken into account, we can achieve success; if not fully addressed, or simply ignored, the project will fail. This is our lesson.
The Palms for Life, USAID-funded project in Swaziland constitutes a very good opportunity for people to learn and contribute. Volunteers, professionals in WASH, and those experienced in community development are welcome to join us in Swaziland on the ground. For more information contact: [email protected]