Water Journal : Water Journal September 2015
water SEPTEMBER 2015 44 Feature article Communities with rainwater tanks indicated that they were reliant on the implementing agency for ongoing support – although it was not clear to what extent this was related to the approach taken by the implementing agency. For four of the five rainwater systems, the implementing agency continued to play an ongoing role and undertake almost all maintenance. While the management of rainwater tanks is not complicated, it seems to be a struggle to get households or communities to take responsibility for these assets. System quality assessed how well the infrastructure was designed and built in the first place. The study concluded that sustainability of water supplies in rural PNG is constrained by the social systems within communities rather than by the infrastructure itself. sanitation and hygiene The study looked at toilet use in 17 of the 21 communities, and found that sustained use of toilets ranged from high to poor. Importantly, there were households in every community that were continuing to use and maintain a toilet. In the top seven communities more than 80 per cent of households still had toilets, while in the bottom six, toilets were available in fewer than 20 per cent of households.5 The toilets were almost all simple, dry-pit toilets with self-constructed slabs. The study’s strengths-based approach meant that the sample communities most likely represent a better outcome than the average for communities generally in PNG. Very few households (five per cent) had a hand-washing facility and in only one of these was soap available. Discussions with community members, however, suggest that the initial uptake of handwashing facilities was likely to have been quite poor, indicating that this result was more related to programming quality than sustainability. From the community perspective, the study found that four factors most influenced sanitation and hygiene outcomes – subsidies, quality, access and attitudes. Within the study communities a mix of subsidy and non-subsidy approaches for toilets had been used. Neither approach was found to be significantly more sustainable than the other. Where communities had received a subsidy to build their toilets, this had tended to generate an ongoing demand for subsidies, undermining market-based approaches and presenting challenges for scaling up to a national level.6 The mixed results suggest that further investigation of this issue is required to inform development of well-targeted subsidy approaches for PNG, which support vulnerable households without stifling household initiative and ownership. With respect to quality, all communities had been encouraged to build ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines with durable materials, but approximately half the toilets observed were simple pit toilets. These are unhygienic, harder to keep clean, provide lower amenity and are more prone to break down – all of which are potential barriers to sustainability. In terms of access, while shared toilets are not uncommon in PNG, community members were more likely to sustain a toilet of their own than one they shared with their neighbours. In communities with low toilet coverage, high rates of shared toilets were observed. Overarching these other factors, the study found that the attitude of community members is critical. In the seven high- performing communities community members were convinced of the value of toilets and continued to invest in them. In the six poor-performing communities, most households that built toilets after the intervention in their community reverted back to open defecation once their toilets became unusable. Changing mindsets and generating a genuine demand for better sanitation is central to achieving sustained change. The same applies to hygiene behaviours such as handwashing, and this remains a significant challenge in rural PNG. aPPlying the study findings The study findings were shared and discussed with government leaders at the national level and will feed into future efforts to drive WASH sustainability through the new national WASH policy and investments by World Bank, EU, ADB and others development partners. Overall, the study affirmed the importance of building ownership of WASH infrastructure, systems and outcomes at the community level, while ensuring back-up support system are available when required. A series of recommendations for implementing agencies and for government at the national and sub-national levels were made. 5 There was a correlation between the high performance of water supply systems and high performance of sanitation and hygiene systems. 6 The experience of handwashing facilities, where subsidised materials were used as water storage containers rather than for handwashing, highlights the sustainability risks associated with providing free materials. Maintenance challenges in Gufin community, Nawaeb District in Morobe Province. Discussing the system with community members in Avani Village, Henganofi District, Eastern Highlands Province.
Water Journal August 2015
Water Journal November 2015