Due to the high demand on WASH expertise, a specialised WASH Unit – hosting a number of WASH experts – was set up in Caritas Switzerland’s Office in Nairobi, Kenya in 2005. Through the WASH Unit, the Nairobi Office provides professional assistance to Caritas Switzerland’s programme in Kenya and Country Offices in Somaliland (Hargeisa), South Sudan (Torit), and Ethiopia (Addis Ababa). It also provides services to other Caritas programmes (e.g. Mali, Egypt) and partners in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The main aim of the Unit is:
- To contribute to an effective, high-quality and sustainable implementation of water, hygiene and sanitation projects in East and the Horn of Africa;
- To assure knowledge management and best practice sharing;
- To setup technical standards and mandate the formation of monitoring frameworks for WASH projects;
- To facilitate coordination, cooperation and know-how transfers in the WASH sector; and
- To engage in research on different WASH topics
The key product of Caritas Switzerland’s long-term experience has been the development of the Children’s Hygiene And Sanitation Training (CHAST) methodology. CHAST was developed in 2002 by Caritas in Somaliland out of a need for hands-on materials and lesson plans to provide hygiene education to children. The approach is based on the fact that children can be change agents within a community and inculcating good habits in them will not only be beneficial presently but also for the posterity. Through the use of posters, games, role plays, songs and puppets, the hygiene message is passed on to children below the age of twelve in an interactive and fun way. This methodology and its tools are nowadays used and highly appreciated by various international organisations working in the WASH sector in many different countries.
Other methodologies and trainings currently being used by the WASH Unit also include:
The Participatory Hygiene And Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) was developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1998. This method involves getting communities to take leadership in planning their own water and sanitation projects by assisting a selected community planning group to decide: what changes they would like to make in community behaviour, where they would like water points sited and how they will go about getting sanitation coverage. The WASH unit has played a key role in strengthening the capacity of stakeholders at various levels on facilitation, implementation and monitoring of the PHAST activities. It has also reviewed the original training materials to reflect the local contexts of the respective intervention areas.
The Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) methodology is an innovative methodology for mobilising communities to completely eliminate open defecation and was developed in Bangladesh following an end of project evaluation by Dr. Kamal Kar focusing on sanitation improvement. Communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation and take their own action to become open defecation free. By raising awareness - that as long as a minority continues to defecate in the open everyone is at risk of disease - CLTS triggers the community’s desire for collective change. It propels people into action, encourages innovation, mutual support and appropriate local solutions and thus leading to greater ownership and sustainability. The WASH Unit is currently piloting the use of a hybrid approach borrowing best practices of PHAST (that has been traditionally used by Caritas Switzerland) and CLTS approaches to achieve optimal results.
Community-Based Water Management
The WASH Unit supports the process of building sustainable community managed water facilities. It provides support in terms of infrastructure improvement, strengthening of the management and financial systems, operation and maintenance. The Unit has previously organised operation and maintenance trainings and monitoring visits to various project sites to ensure that the water systems established by the project for communities function sustainably.
Malaria Vector Control and Other Health Issues
The WASH Unit has been instrumental in designing and supporting the implementation of projects aimed at preventing and controlling malaria in South Sudan, Tanzania and Somaliland. Among the main activities carried out by these projects include:
- Distribution of Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs);
- Capacity building of key stakeholders (including ministry of health staff);
- Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) of dwelling shelters;
- Environmental manipulation for vector control;
- Awareness raising through diverse communication channels; and
- Approaches for various target groups and strengthening coordination among key actors in the sector
The Unit has also led and given guidance on the implementation of Knowledge, Attitude and Practises (KAP) surveys and in conducting the end of project evaluation for South Sudan.
Over the years, the WASH Unit initiated pilot projects on the use of alternative or new WASH technologies and approaches (as SODIS, ceramic filters, biosand filters, and CLTS). Furthermore, local capacity for operation and maintenance of complex water systems is built and technical assistance on water system construction in (semi) arid areas is provided as well as a range of sanitation options for rural and peri-urban areas. The Unit has spearheaded mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS in the Somaliland programme by facilitating trainings for stakeholders aimed at raising awareness on the facts about HIV/AIDS. In addition, the WASH Unit plays a key role in the established Swiss Water and Sanitation NGO Consortium, which covers 27 projects by eight Swiss NGOs and funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation.