Sanitation dialogues between more than 35 African countries

This year more than 35 countries are reporting on the African sanitation commitments established with the Ngor Declaration. As an IRC associate, in partnership with UNICEF, I have worked with the AMCOW secretariate and partners to establish a new monitoring systems for the Ngor Declaration Commitments, pilot the system in Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal and finally support the baseline monitoring exercise.

IRC has been working with AMCOW and UNICEF in this process since 2016 to design and validate the indicators with African countries for each of the Ngor Commitments. My colleauge Alana Potter wrote about our reflections on the needs of the monitoring system based on the monitoring of eThekwini Declaration.

Soon sub-regional meetings will take place for countries to exchange with peers on their sanitation commitments and the actions they are taking to strengthen the enabling environment for sustainable sanitation in their country. We are now checking each country report, generating report cards and identifying focus areas and mutual strengths among country peers. This should lead into an exciting country dialogue process and culminate this monitoring round next year in February 2019 at the AfricaSan 5 conference.

Are national WASH M&E system important for accountability and transparency?

When policy and the roles and responsibilities of service providers and government are unclear, it is difficult for civil society to advocate  and tackle issues of accountability. Who is ultimately responsible for ensuring basic and safely managed WASH services, in rural areas and small towns were clear contractual arrangements are not necessarily well defined or sustainable? When these are clear, are there agreed measures of service performance and who is measuring and communicating results? It is crucial to hold parties accountable for their actions and promises.

Sometimes civil society may fill the evidence gap but then the agreed level of performance becomes a moving target. Government and service providers may choose to discount the methods used and results on the basis that they are not ‘approved’ or even ‘wrong’.

Establishing a national WASH M&E system is complex  and it requires clarifying a matrix of roles and responsibilities so that it is clear who is reporting what and why. Using and communicating results is an important step in holding sector stakeholders accountable .

Indeed, for change and improvement at all levels, there is a need to engage in dialogue around sector performance in WASH service delivery.

A backbone for WASH service data

There are increasingly improved data, information and knowledge resources available for our work on water and sanitation. Examples include the open WPDx repository, Wikipedia and Wikidata, country WASH portals and data collection and dashboarding tools such as Akvo and mWater and cross-sector tools. WASHNote is committed to accelerating this movement and ensuring we have the required data and knowledge infrastructure to achieve universal basic and safely-managed WASH services.

I have been fascinated by information sources available through the internet and computers since the 80s. Amusingly this was originally in the form of the video games I played which were recorded on audio tapes and would mix game text, digital images, and analog audio. The amazing thing is that audio tape could load a game onto my Tandy TRS-80 machine and also play audio during crucial moments. Indeed, a simple machine that could only produce beeps, when connected to a tape machine was still able to trigger a multi-media experience. This led to my interest in connecting devices and coding my own games and experiences, starting with BASIC on the TRS-80.

Radioshack TRS80-IMG 7206.jpg
A TRS-80 Model 1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRS-80