ASHPP’s delivery model impresses Geneva

A recent mission by one of the Programme Officers from the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, Rita Bonomally ended on a good note with a debrief to the Plan International Malawi Management Team in Lilongwe on 22 July 2016. A few days earlier, Ms. Bonomally had an opportunity to appreciate the Accelerated Sanitation Hygiene Practices Programme (ASHPP) through a series of meetings with different stakeholders at various levels.

From these meetings, a number of things came out to the delight of the mission, one of which was how well-coordinated the delivery model of the programme was at the district level.

Ms. Bonomally was particularly impressed with how Nkhotakota District was implementing ASHPP activities and it was not surprising for her to hear that the district was the first to declare two Traditional Authorities (TA) Open Defecation Free (ODF).

“For you it is such a normal structure, but for other people outside the programme, it is something worth learning about to understand how this structure operates and how it is successful. This will help the programme as a whole.

“We should look at how we can document this and share it through the newsletter or the website so that others might learn from the programme in Malawi especially this structure,” said Ms. Bonomally.

At the central level, the Ministry of Health is responsible for overseeing implementation of ASHPP through the Programme Coordinating Mechanism (PCM) – a subset of the National Sanitation and Hygiene Coordinating Unit (NSHCU). Coordination is done by the Executing Agency i.e. Plan International Malawi.

At the district level, implementation is coordinated by the District Coordinating Teams which comprise staff members from the District Council and various WaSH partners. The DCT works in close collaboration with the sub-grantees to ensure quality projects in the district. The DCT, led by the Director of Planning in the District Council, is responsible, among other things, to do initial verification of villages before the National ODF Taskforce come with the ultimate verification. They also work hand in hand with the sub-grantee to conduct training and other monitoring activities at the village level.

On the ground, entry into communities is through the TA and his ADC. ADCs are formed by representatives from VDCs – development committees from groups of villages. VDCs work in collaboration with natural leaders and government extension workers, and field facilitators from the sub-grantee to engage households. In some cases, there are sanitation committees or ODF task forces that coexist with VDCs and natural leaders to fast-track ODF attainment.
The healthy working relationship of these structures is sustained by Plan International Malawi, the Executing Agency (EA), and the Programme Coordinating Mechanism (PCM).

Latrines beyond ‘basic’

Apart from the delivery model of the programme, several other positive aspects were noted by the mission. Among them is the fact that even though Malawi is not on the elite list of ODF achievers among the GSF supported countries, one thing appreciable from afar is the effort locals are putting into constructing beautiful latrines for their homes.

“We count them as basic latrines but they don’t qualify as such, they are beyond basic. They are really well made; they have everything to be considered improved latrines.

“We count them as basic latrines, yet when we compare with other countries in terms of what they consider as basic latrines, you are way above that. Which is a real shame when you look at the figures across the 13 GSF countries, your number of improved latrines is low compared to other countries where basic latrines are way below the standard here,” said Ms. Bonomally.

Basically, most latrines in Malawi have brick walls and thatched roofs. The walls and floor are smeared with clay soils. Instead of using a door, however, privacy is accorded with an ‘L’ shaped wall that covers the entrance.

By government standards, nonetheless, these latrines are not considered improved because they do not have an impermeable (concrete) floor.

Sub-grantees must do more

On the flipside, the mission expressed concern over the partnership between sub-grantees and DCTs which, in some cases, apparently reduces the former as a mere fund manager at district level. According to Ms. Bonomally, it was rather concerning that sub-grantees were not doing much apart from ensuring that funds are available for the DCTs or extension workers to carry out activities in the communities.

“The way it came out, it is as if the District Council organizes activities like capacity building trainings and the sub-grantees bring the resources. I am sure they are doing more, and it is a shame that that’s how it comes across for an external visitor,” said Ms. Bonomally.

Responding to the comments, Plan International Malawi Country Director, Ms. Lilly Omondi assured the mission that the observations were noted and the team will use the information to improve the programme.

She however clarified that the SGs playing second-fiddle to the DCTs at district level is a deliberate move to ensure that the sanitation and hygiene agenda is sustainably carried on even after the partners leave the areas. DCTs are established structured that are pioneering sanitation and hygiene activities and will have to continue beyond ASHPP.

The week-long GSF Geneva mission to Malawi was carried out between 18 and 23 July 2016 to appreciate the implementation of the ASHPP on the ground, especially the way the District Councils were working with different WASH partners including GSF Malawi sub-grantees and communities at village level. The mission visited three impact districts of Chikwawa, Nkhotakota and Ntchisi and held meetings with sub-grantees, District Coordinating Teams (DCTs), extension workers, chiefs, and men and women in different communities.