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Breaking down the barriers to water and sanitation in Uganda and Zambia

An ongoing project on equitable services in Uganda and Zambia is focusing on the challenges for older people.

WASH Matters

The project

Undoing inequity: WASH programmes that deliver for all in Uganda and Zambia is a project that aims to understand the barriers and opportunities that disabled, chronically ill and older people (collectively referred to as ‘vulnerable’ in this article) face in relation to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.

The work began by collecting baseline data from one ward in Zambia and in two districts in Uganda where there is limited access to safe WASH. The data was analysed in a participatory barrier analysis with stakeholders from the community, district and national levels (see below).

Barrier to access and inclusion in Zambia and Uganda

The solutions formed the inclusive WASH programme, which is being implemented this financial year. Findings from the project are being used to influence key policy-makers, decision-makers, and practitioners to mainstream inclusive WASH in development. An evaluation will be conducted two years after the intervention to assess the impact.

Addressing environmental barriers

In both countries, partners and community members have developed accessible latrines. Toilets have space inside for a wheelchair to turn, raised toilet seats and handrails. Challenges faced include the high cost of solutions in Zambia, where the seats are static and made of cement. Both countries have developed lower cost, moveable wooden toilet seats that they are now promoting.

Accessible water points have been constructed, which have ramps and a wider apron to allow room for a wheelchair user to turn. In Zambia the team carried out accessibility audits with vulnerable members of the communities. Using the feedback from the audits, the team added a t-bar to the India Mark II handle and a water point resting stand. Vulnerable people said the designs are easier to use, and that their participation in the project has increased their self esteem and respect.

Addressing attitudinal barriers

As a result of the participatory barrier analysis, awareness about the needs of vulnerable people at the community level has increased. In Uganda, cluster heads independently put a table inside the newly constructed wash room so that people who are unable to bend to the floor to wash can use the facility with ease.

In Zambia, Esther, who is blind, explained how she used to be shunned by the community because she could not wash regularly and often smelled bad. With access to water she can now wash regularly and people now eat with her, which has increased her social interaction.

Addressing institutional barriers

Over the next few months, the teams will develop and produce accessible IEC materials (eg accessible design guidelines/flash cards and a step-by-step guide to facilitating a meeting in an inclusive way) to address information gaps. We will train the private sector and district governments on the inclusive WASH approach and improve the targeting of our influencing work to disseminate key messages and encourage the buy in of key stakeholders.

For an overview of the Uganda programme, see this short video:

Undoing Inequity - Investigating the Cost of Inclusive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Service Deliver