WASH-BAT: six lessons for improving sanitation using sector-analysis tools

5 min read
A group of people gather for a community hygiene promotion session in Kampong Speu Province, Cambodia.
Image: Ms. Nop Mana/PDRD Kampong Speu

Planning and monitoring tools help water, sanitation and hygiene programmers to build context-specific, sustainable solutions. Sokha Mok shares what UNICEF and WaterAid Cambodia learned from six months of using sector analysis tools, including WASH-BAT – a WASH Bottleneck Analysis Tool, to support regional government work towards ending open defecation.

Between 2000 and 2017, more than half of the population of Cambodia stopped defecating in the open. This is fantastic progress, but 32% of people still practise open defecation, lacking suitable sanitation facilities and services that give them an alternative.

In 2018, the Government established a national target of achieving three open defecation-free (ODF) provinces by 2022 (in January 2020 it expanded this goal to five provinces by 2023). Responding quickly, the provinces of Kampong Speu and Svay Rieng developed Provincial Action Plans to become ODF.

Since late 2018 the Accelerating Sanitation and Water for All (ASWA2) programme, executed by UNICEF in partnership with WaterAid Cambodia, has been supporting the two local governments’ initiatives to facilitate provincial ODF planning using WASH–BAT – ‘WASH Bottleneck Analysis Tool’, a planning and monitoring tool developed by UNICEF.

Participants watch a presentation in the WASH–BAT Lite Workshop in Kampong Speu Province, Cambodia.
Participants watch a presentation in the WASH–BAT Lite Workshop in Kampong Speu Province, Cambodia.
Image: WaterAid/Dina Kuy

How we used WASH-BAT in practice

To discuss and understand the provincial water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) situation of WASH-related programmes in the province, including opportunities and challenges, WaterAid Cambodia and UNICEF staff ran a sub-national level workshop with stakeholders including the provincial rural development department, a leading WASH agency and a secretariat of the provincial working group. In addition to enabling the teams to understand the local context, the process informed and built local government leadership and ownership of the planning towards ensuring the provincial ODF target is reached.

Using the lessons from the workshop, with UNICEF we developed simplified and contextualised versions of the WASH–BAT and WaterAid’s system-strengthening analysis tools – all adapted specifically to the provinces. We translated the tools into local languages, so they could be used for analysing and understanding the current situation and strength of the WASH system to achieve ODF targets.

The planning process – which included using Rethinking rural sanitation, a set of planning resources developed by UNICEF, WaterAid and Plan – enabled us to map out the different types of communities within the target commune. The communities were categorised using the typologies of rural remote, rural on road and rural mix communities. This is important for planning the intervention programmes and the implementation approaches to be used in each community, and is considered in the ODF district plan.

Participants sit at the WASH–BAT Lite Workshop in Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia.
The WASH–BAT Lite Workshop in Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia.
Image: WaterAid/Sokha Mok

What we learned from six months of promoting sustainable WASH services at scale

  1. High-level commitment by the national Government to implement the provincial ODF target was a strong factor in inspiring local government to put more effort into and commitment towards achieving the targets set.
  2. Timing was important. The ODF planning process was organised right after Provincial Action Plan preparation, and we invited many stakeholders who had taken part in that, including provincial working group members. Through several consultation processes, participants could easily reflect and make connections between relevant activities that had been agreed in the Provincial Action Plan, and include them in the ODF plan.
  3. Building capacity takes time and resources. To ensure sustainability of the programme at scale, it needed to be government led, with the necessary institutional arrangements, motivation and soft skills in place to support it. This requires more dedicated resources, and further investment of resources and time in building the capacity of government partners to maintain momentum among programme implementers and their partners to keep using their resources.
  4. Decentralising could strengthen the WASH sector at sub-national level. District administration will be key to driving success, which needs strong engagement, commitments and good leadership to show cases and evidence of accelerating their achievements.
  5. The WASH–BAT tool was useful to structure an analysis of the sector. Provincial stakeholders who attended the workshop felt it informed them and helped them reflect on their programme situation, and directed them on which areas they should prioritise.
  6. Government ownership needs to increase. While participants – including government – recognise the usefulness of the bottleneck assessment, there are still gaps in government leadership when it comes to diverting resources and investment towards building overall system capacity and functions, rather than only focusing on building new services. The tools are good for strengthening the WASH sector, but there is a need for the Government to own and put more investment in sustaining WASH systems, rather than relying on improving service delivery work.

Challenges we faced in implementing WASH-BAT, and wider sanitation sector challenges

  1. There is limited capacity for coordination in sub-national government, particularly in the Provincial Department of Rural Development, or to understand the whole picture of sector strengthening.
  2. The tools’ approaches for addressing gender equality and menstrual hygiene management and the issues of marginalised groups in relation to WASH access are limited.
  3. Involvement of government technical and financial management teams is essential during these assessments to ensure accurate information is available.
  4. In Cambodia, some of the analysis included in the WASH-BAT tool can only be applied for national or regional level assessment; applying it at local level would deliver limited information, because it requires sector knowledge, facilitation including stakeholder engagement and capacity for applying it.

What would we do differently next time?

  1. Sensitise local partners in advance on definitions, criteria of sector building blocks and how they connect.
  2. Provide comprehensive explanations to the Government on why it needs to strengthen the sector at every level, rather than focus on just improving infrastructure and the service delivery model.
  3. Select the most appropriate participants who are fully involved in the WASH sector. They should be from departments of planning, monitoring and budgeting, and from management, and include key private sector and NGO partners.
  4. Allocate more time. Discussion and clarification consumed a lot of time; more might benefit participants’ learning.

Sokha Mok is Program Coordinator at WaterAid Cambodia.