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Leveraging Gains in Improved Access to Rural Sanitation

Working in three diverse settings—India, Indonesia, and Tanzania—the Water and Sanitation Program’s (WSP’s) Global Scaling Up Rural Sanitation is addressing critical challenges to improving rural sanitation at large scale. A global lesson based on project implementation to date is that the enabling environment must be developed at both local and national levels to ensure that programmatic approaches are well supported and contribute to long-term sustainability.  Key questions include how to safeguard momentum and how to ensure that local government funding and institutional commitment to  new approaches will be sustained. Hard evidence that documents progress may help.

In East Java, Indonesia, communities are empowered to lead behavior change to end open defecation. As active participants in the process, communities monitor their progress towards achieving open defecation. On a periodic basis, the data is verified by district health workers, recorded on a form, and input into a database. This approach has demonstrated that communities are willing and able to monitor their progress.  But when the number of triggered communities has increased into the thousands, the manual process of data collection became burdensome. A new, more efficient strategy was needed.

Managing the Flow of Monitoring Information to Improve Rural Sanitation in East Java, a new Working Paper by Nilanjana Murkherjee, Djoko Wartono, and Amin Robiarto shows how the project has linked community-based sanitation access monitoring  in real time with district and province level databases. A key innovation has been the development of a monitoring system that uses cell phones, SMS-text messaging, and a central database to transmit and store information reported from the field. According to a district-level health worker in Jombang, the system reports “quickly and easily” and is cheaper than a paper-based system. Twenty-one out of twenty-nine districts in East Java have installed the program and some have begun to operationalize it.

“This pilot demonstrates that real-time monitoring data can be collected efficiently, at scale, even from very remote areas,” says Djoko Wartono, WSP senior water and sanitation specialist and task team leader in Indonesia. Regarding long-term sustainability, Wartono highlights two factors. “First, capacity building is a critical component because district-level institutions need people skilled in data management and program analysis. Second, district and provincial monitoring systems will be sustained only if there is an ongoing demand for sanitation access data from the national government level.”