Influencing Government Latrine Subsidies in Rural Bangladesh

Habitat for Humanity | Sophie Cooke from Habitat for Humanity, on 15/11/2017 13:38 AEST

In rural Bangladesh, the Union Parishad (lowest level of local government) receives an Annual Development Budget allocation to provide subsidised latrines to the poorest of the poor in line with Government of Bangladesh’s Pro-Poor Strategy for Water and Sanitation.  The allocation of subsidies is managed by voluntary Union WASH Committees.  In practice these WASH committees are often inexperienced and inactive, and it’s all too easy for subsidies to be misallocated, and for rings and slabs that are distributed never be used to construct latrines.

Under Habitat for Humanity’s project, members of Community WASH Committees established and trained by Habitat, have successfully gone on to be elected into Union Committees.  This has helped to increase the WASH skill base of the Union committees, better link the Union to community articulated needs, and bolster the sustainability of Habitat’s committees in the longer term.

In recent months, Habitat along with the Community WASH Committee representatives were able to successfully influence the Union’s planned subsidised latrine distribution.  The key aims were to improve the technology used in the subsidy program, ensure latrines went to those most in need and were appropriately constructed.  To this end, Habitat engaged one of the sanitation suppliers they have been working with under the project as well as community members to advocate to the Union on the value of using an improved SaTo pan, instead of the basic pan without water seal that has been used in the past.  After several discussions, the Union engaged the sanitation supplier to install 20 improved latrines, with a commitment for 150 additional latrines and ongoing use of the SaTo pan technology.  The Community WASH Committee prepared a list of families without latrines who met the requirements of the Government’s Pro-Poor Strategy.  This list was verified by the Union, members of a community-based organisation involved in the project and Habitat, and a joint monitoring committee has been established to monitor the installation of the latrines.

In the latrine distribution ceremony the Upazilla (sub-District) Executive Officer Mr. Salim Ahamad said: “Using improved latrine technology is a great initiative for using the Annual Development Budget  allocation. This is first time I saw SaTo pan, which is a really a nice sustainable hygienic system. I will ask the other Union Parishad chairman to use this technology in their budget allocation latrine”.

The Chairman of the Union Parisad Mr Murshedul Alom Jahangir said: “At first I was not ready to use this improved technology, because I thought it is complex and costly and that may reduce the quantity. To us quantity was more important than quality because we think about winning votes in the election, but now we understand quality should be the first priority, otherwise it will just be a waste of resources. In future we will not compromise quality. This is the first time we selected real poor people because the list came from the community. Earlier we did not maintain this type of process, so we saw many latrines remain uninstalled because they were not going to those who needed them”.

Anjuara Begum, one of the latrine recipients said, “We’ve had no latrine for many years.  We wished for our own latrine but it was not possible with our income to install a latrine by ourselves. Now I am happy that I received a latrine and we will install it very soon. I would like to thank the Community WASH Committee members for listing my name and Chairman for giving me the latrine".