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23 September 2019
Keeping momentum in policy rollout is crucial Print
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 16:06

Innovative and visionary thinking combined with inspired leadership and mobilisation can go a long way in bringing relief to Africa’s poor. But is that enough?


Take the case of Ethiopia’s Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR), where poor hygiene and sanitation are the main causes of ill health. In 2003, the region’s Bureau of Health launched a community health strategy that aimed to educate households on hygiene and sanitation and promote the building of household latrines.


The (relative) success of the programme can be attributed to a number of factors, chief among these decisive government leadership and local participation. Paid health extension workers and volunteer community health promoters were employed for the community outreach component of the rollout. The initiative gained momentum during the country’s 2005 national elections, with rallies serving as a political launch pad to advocate for it. Furthermore, the strategy was communicated to the public in brief, non-technical terms, educating people on the necessity for hygiene and sanitation. What also made it different to the way things had been done previously was the government’s approach of no longer providing households with latrine slabs, setting construction quotas for local government instead.


Did it work?


In 2006, Ethiopian researchers undertook research into the initiative on behalf of the five-year DFID-funded Research-inspired Policy and Practice Learning in Ethiopia and the Nile region (RiPPLE) programme. RiPPLE was led by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in partnership with College of Development Studies at Addis Ababa University and others.


And, yes, they found that eight times more households now had latrines. Eighty-two percent had hand-washing facilities. Fewer people defecated in the open and the practice was starting to be frowned upon.


But by 2009 some latrines had collapsed and many were fetid and crawling with flies. Only six percent of household hand-washing facilities had been installed near the latrine and people seldom used soap. Resources and incentives were lacking for the health extension workers and community health promoters, resulting in despondency.


A policy strategy has emerged from the RiPPLE programme and a meeting series has been established. The programme is now working with the Ministry of Water Resources (MOWR) on ways of making the series more self-supporting and sustainable.


So, the best research, policies and mobilisation strategies, the most effective communication methods, most inspired leadership and best rollout plans in the world cannot guarantee success unless models are developed to sustain programmes like this in the long run.


Linda Cilliers is the Online Media Specialist for DRUSSA