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Towards a cleaner Bangladesh: Safe water, sanitation, and hygiene for all

Qimiao Fan's picture
 The World Bank
Bangladesh has made progress in recent years in the field known as WASH -water, sanitation access, and hygiene. Image courtesy: The World Bank

Community-Led Total Sanitation might be the greatest Bangladeshi export you’ve never heard of.  In countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, a consensus has emerged that the best approach is Community-Led Total Sanitation, which is widely credited with changing people’s behavior around the world to no longer defecate in the open, which has greatly improved global health.

Bangladeshis can take plenty of pride in these far-away accomplishments. That’s because it is Northern Bangladesh - more specifically the Mosmoil village in Rajshahi district - that pioneered this approach seventeen years ago. Its success at home led to its widespread adoption abroad.

Safe drinking water is a right and proper sanitation is dignity of the citizens. Proper management of freshwater ecosystems and access to safe water and sanitation are essential to human health, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. Water and sanitation are at the core of sustainable development critical to the survival of people and the planet. Goal 6 of Agenda 2030 not only addresses the issues relating to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, but also the quality and sustainability of water resources worldwide.

The ‘Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment’ by World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) reported that in 2012 about 40% (2.6 billion) of the world’s population was without access to safe water. Approximately 4 billion cases of diarrhea each year causes 2.2 million deaths, and majority of them are children under the age of five. This situation in Bangladesh is also challenging. A study by Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) wing of the World Bank reveals that Bangladesh incurred a loss of Tk295.48 billion in 2010 due to inadequate sanitation, which is 6.3% of the GDP.
Indeed, there is much to emulate in Bangladesh’s remarkable progress in recent years in the field known as WASH -water, sanitation access, and hygiene. Today, 98 percent of the population gets drinking water from a technologically improved source – water which comes from a manmade structure– up from 79 percent in 1990.  Bangladesh also largely succeeded in providing access to basic sanitation. It is estimated that only three percent of the population practice open defecation, down from 34 percent in 1990, thanks to behavior change campaigns and the building of many new toilets. 

But, much has yet to be done. Bangladesh has still a long way to go to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of providing universal access to clean water and sustainable sanitation by 2030. The World Bank recently completed a study, the WASH Poverty Diagnostic, which examines the remaining challenges in ensuring access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene. The findings are startling.

Adding to existing MDG drinking water data for the SDG world

Libbet Loughnan's picture

This blog is part of a series accompanying the Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2017In response to frequent questions from those trying to gain familiarity with the monitoring method of SDG target 6.1, we use this blog to elaborate on the overview presented in the Atlas.

Here we are looking just at the new water indicator: 'The percentage of the population using safely managed drinking water services', defined as an MDG-style improved drinking water source, which is:

  • located on premises
  • available when needed, and
  • compliant with fecal (zero E.coli in 100mL sample of the household's source of drinking water) and priority chemical standards

These changes reflect evolving global consensus on what can best be monitored to support development. They are designed to denote opportunities: representing the full water cycle and fecal-oral chain, quantifying issues that were less visible through MDG-lenses, and informing action to meet domestic targets as well as the World Bank Group Twin Goals and the SDGs. That is, so long as the data is collected.

Until household surveys integrate the additional measurements, data constraints mean that only limited insights are yet possible on how the shift to the SDG framework will play out in various countries. As outlined in a recent blog, an initiative led by the World Bank's Water and Poverty Equity Global Practices - called the Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Poverty Diagnostic - is supporting rollout of the new SDG measurements. The Diagnostics have helped not just highlight evidence gaps but also successfully developed partnerships collecting critical SDG measurements in Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Nigeria, DRC, and West Bank and Gaza, as well as Ecuador.

The Diagnostic has also been engaging with countries to help relate their historical data to the new framework. As with the data production, this is mutually informed by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), helping ease uptake of the results in official SDG monitoring.

There are straightforward elements to this: MDG-style "improved" drinking water, the "on premises" component of the MDG-period "piped water on premises", contribute some of the building blocks of SDG classification "safely managed".

Many countries also have some data on whether a drinking water source was within 30 minutes roundtrip versus farther afield. Although not part of the binary SDG indicator, this will routinely be used to distinguish "basic" from worse drinking water. Imagine that your daily life relied on water fetched from over 30 mins away!

"Available when needed" and "compliant with fecal and priority chemical standard" are new to the global monitoring framework.

Self-Help Women’s Groups in India help change behavior around diets and toilet use to improve health

Vinay Kumar Vutukuru's picture

Sushila Devi, a mother of four in the rural Rohtas district of Bihar, India, has no significant assets and depends primarily on casual labor for income. She recently was able to take out a bank loan of INR 12,000 (US$180), which she used to construct a toilet in her family home

It was the Self-Help Group (SHG) in her village that persuaded Sushila of the importance of sanitation for her children’s health and nutrition, and helped her get the loan she needed. SHGs generally consist of 12 to 15 rural women, grouped into larger federations. They engage with formal financial institutions to help unbanked households access financial services, acting as platforms for standardized large-scale sensitization of community members on a variety of subjects.

Sushila’s actions are part of a larger change driven across Bihar by the recently launched Bihar Transformative Development Project (BTDP), commonly known as JEEViKA-II. This joint initiative of the Government of Bihar and the World Bank covers 300 (56 percent) of the blocks of rural Bihar. The project is working through SHGs to deliver awareness, training, finance, and monitoring on sanitation and nutrition in an integrated manner.

Are you being served? The gap between effective and nominal access to infrastructure services

Sumila Gulyani's picture
 Sumila Gulyani / World Bank
Amina and her family in Dakar, Senegal have a metered private water tap in their yard, 
but they don’t use it. (Photo: Sumila Gulyani / World Bank)

Amina and her family had recently moved to their new house on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal. It was built by the government to relocate families from low-lying and flood-prone neighborhoods in the city. The house was small for her extended family of ten, but it was water that she worried about. I was puzzled. Usually people complain that water connection costs are too high, but she received that connection for free—the meter and tap were right there in her front yard.

Why did she worry?