Southern Africa WASH Learning Event discusses challenge of sustaining WASH services

Southern Africa Regional Learning Event participants

More than 100 representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs), local governments, ministries and aid donors met in  Harare from 5 to 8 May 2015 to share learnings about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects being delivered in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Lesotho and Mozambique by World Vision, WaterAid, Plan, Red Cross, Welthungerhilfe and Concern Universal.

The four-year projects are funded by the Australian aid program’s Civil Society (CS) WASH Fund and are set to directly benefit almost 1.2 million people in the region through improving sustainable access to drinking water sources, sanitation facilities and knowledge of hygiene practices.

The theme of the learning event focused on how project teams are working with local ‘transformation agents’, such as government, private sector, local water authorities, for a long-term sustainable impact. An expert in this area of WASH, Mr Harold Lockwood, presented and facilitated sessions throughout the four days. “External aid delivered through CSOs can bring many benefits, introduce innovation and support community participation. However, in the long-term it is national and local governments that must ensure lasting and permanent services. Therefore it is critical for CSOs to ensure that their programmes are designed to support, rather than undermine, local government capacity. This is a critical long-term exit strategy for aid.

The keynote address was given by Mr Kudzai Chatiza, the Director of the Development Governance Institute in Zimbabwe, who presented various delivery models in local government-civil society roles in a number of SADC countries.

The Southern African CS WASH Fund projects aim to improve conditions for women and girls by helping to embed gender-sensitive approaches and greater representation by women in the sector.  Bronwyn Powell, Knowledge and Learning Manager, Civil Society WASH Fund commented that, “Women and girls have the most to gain from improved WASH services. When water is delivered to the house, hours are saved in collecting and carrying water. Holistic planning is essential for sustainable WASH services: involving both women and men in decision making is a step towards addressing both hygiene behaviour change as well as infrastructure itself.”

In addition to supporting the WASH needs of women and girls, the Fund also aims to give voice to the specific needs of people with disability by helping to establish policies and inclusive service delivery.  Through the Fund, Mr Ishmael Zhou of the Federation of Disabled People of Zimbabwe is working closely with World Vision in its efforts to address the WASH needs of people living with  disabilities in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Ishmael, who is vision impaired, participated in the event to share learnings of the work being done in Zimbabwe to meet these needs.

Learning and knowledge sharing are key components of CS WASH Fund. Bringing people together to learn from one another improves the sustainability and reach of Australia’s investments in improving WASH conditions across the region.

View presentations and resources from the Southern Africa Regional Learning Event