Skip to main content

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in sub-Saharan Africa: Understanding Policy and Practice

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WaSH-UPP (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in sub-Saharan Africa: Understanding Policy and Practice)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2020-04-30

Unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene are still a major challenge in developing countries. Available statistics for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) continues to hamper development efforts through avoidable deaths and diseases. Of the global deaths from the one billion people without access to treated drinking water and 2.5 billion lacking adequate sanitation, over 83% is concentrated in SSA. The Ebola and other infectious diseases outbreaks in the region are much related to the inability to get the WaSH act right. Indeed, WaSH challenge in SSA is complicated by the inability to disentangle it from socio-cultural behaviours and religious beliefs, which in some cases are reproduced at the policy arena. This raises the fundamental question of how scientific evidence related to WaSH is communicated and translated at the policy domains in the region.

The major challenge in SSA not only rests on poorly developed WaSH policy environment and other forms of institutional arrangements; it also lies in the inability to connect domestic WaSH policies with local science and environmental contexts. In other words, why is it difficult to develop and sustain evidence-based policies in the WaSH sector? So much knowledge is produced, but much less knowledge synthesis happens in the WaSH sector. Most of the local and policy tools in the sector are either drawn from the available colonial sources or prescriptions of major multilateral organizations and international NGOs, and some scientific literature produced from a different contextual environment. More so, the political commitment to solving the WaSH sector problem hardly exists. This project represents an important first step to addressing the WaSH sector challenges by building capacity through research and public education.

The overall objective involves exploring how scientists and policy makers collaborate in addressing the various challenges associated with water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) in Sub-Saharan Africa using Nigeria and Malawi as case study countries.
Multiple research and field activities were undertaken during the project; including desk reviews of literature, national workshops and public engagement activities in the UK, Nigeria and Malawi and through social media. In parallel with this direct and online contact with the public, policy makers and others, the researcher participated in a broad range of personal and professional development courses to build on and consolidate their skill set. These included:

- Writing Research Grant Applications (University of Dundee)
- Water stewardship in Africa (Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation)
- First step to supervision (University of Dundee).
- Leadership and management of research (University of Dundee)
- Introduction to project management for researchers (University of Dundee)
- Mind-Mapping Window 6.0 Business (University of Dundee)
- Digital Image Manipulation-Photoshop (University of Dundee)
- Hydro Nation Symposium (University of Glasgow)
- Writing Grant Application-Follow-up Session (University of Dundee)
- Data Management Planning (University of Dundee)
- Ethics (University of Dundee)

These enhanced skills were brought to bear when engaging with the Black community (over 80 participants) during the Black History month Celebration at Dundee in October 2018; during which the researcher used the project to demonstrate the nexus between WaSH, public health and development in a way that raised significant awareness and interest among the black diaspora and other participants.

The WaSH-UPP message was presented at a national workshop - organised by the researcher - at Nigeria’s Federal Capital, Abuja, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources. The objective of this workshop was to build the capacity of policy makers and scientists for evidence-based policies in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) sector in Nigeria. The national workshop was attended by a range of stakeholder representatives including scientists, politicians, NGOs and CBOs, the military and paramilitary, students, the media and the general public. This, and other WaSH-UPP events were widely reported in the national, local and social / online media including The Nation (http://thenationonlineng.net/don-attributes-deaths-poor-sanitation/) Today (https://www.today.ng/news/nigeria/expert-poor-sanitation-unsafe-drinking-water-major-challenges-africa-180914). A significant analysis was published by the Premium Times in July 2020 (https://www.premiumtimesng.com/health/health-features/405945-analysis-sub-saharan-africa-must-pay-more-attention-to-water-sanitation-hygiene.html)

WaSH-UPP launched a website (https://sites.dundee.ac.uk/wash-san-africa/); is on Twitter (@washafrica); Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/washafrica/); LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/wash-africa-26b792170/); and Gmail (washafrica@gmail.com).
WaSH-UPP national workshops and a series of public engagement activities in Nigeria and Malawi significantly raised awareness and interest in WaSH as a development issue. The wider publicity as a result of these and other WaSH-UPP activities has contributed to increased awareness and involvement among the general public, policy makers and scientists (through education, research and improved policy outcomes). WaSH-UPP public events were timely and served as catalysts to achieving the goals for the presidential declaration of a state of emergency in the sector.

Work is underway (July 2020) to synthesize all the core findings from this project into a standard textbook for use in teaching and research. Consequently, post-project will be committed to further research, literature review, as well as expanding fieldwork areas/scope to further identify experiences, practices and challenges associated with implementing sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene management policies across sub-Saharan Africa. WaSH-UPP maintains a future agenda of establishing a research institute for sub-Saharan Africa and the researcher continues to actively network with institutions, experts, professionals, students, civil society groups and policy makers. The initial expectation is that WaSH-UPP will transit to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that will be committed to grant applications, research, education, knowledge dissemination, public engagement, consultancy and community services across sub-Saharan Africa with the aim of addressing the various WaSH related challenges that continue to affect society. Our long term plan is to establish a WaSH-focused development institute for sub-Saharan Africa that will be committed to long-term research, training and development. This project has been used to build a critical mass of potential collaborators and the ambition is to the build on this by targeted research grant funding bids for further research and related activities.