AfricaSan is now five! And we are learning fast

This blog was jointly produced by John Butterworth (IRC Ethiopia Country Director) and Nick Dickinson (IRC Associate / WASHNote). It was posted on IRCWASH.org.

AfricaSan5 just like a five-year old, reflects a sanitation and hygiene sector that is nowhere near mature, but is growing up fast and is full of ambition. And when you get to five, we know you have a good chance of going all the way in life and achieving great things. We need to grow up quickly to answer the call in the Camissa Statement, where the conference stakeholders “call upon Heads of State of the Africa Union to declare an Africa-wide state of emergency on sanitation and hygiene and to be sanitation and hygiene champions in their respective countries.”

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

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.

Country-led monitoring toolkit

WASHNote supported the creation of the country-led monitoring toolbox that was a developed under a partnership of UNICEF WCARO, IRC and Akvo with support of DGIS. It provides a systematic approach to develop national WASH M&E plans based on a participatory assessment of 12 components of national WASH M&E systems.

The country-led monitoring toolkit has tools that support a participatory process of evaluating the entire M&E system and developing an action plan based on participant recommendations.
The country-led monitoring toolkit has tools that support a participatory process of evaluating the entire M&E system and developing an action plan based on participant recommendations.

For reference, the national M&E asssessment and the draft monitoring plan from Sierra Leone are available here:

You can find a link to the dropbox with the tools here and we’ll update the link with links to the resource pages of IRC in due course:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nosyhlumal6mah5/AADrCQGCglifOF-GDGTPiiUMa?dl=0

This presentation provides some initial findings from the assessments and M&E plans in 8 countries: