Crossfire: ‘We need to fund first those who don't have access rather than fund maintenance for those who already have access’
In this issue’s Crossfire, Rolf Luyendijk and Catarina Fonseca discuss funding priorities and who should be responsible for financing maintenance in order to make WASH services sustainable.
The importance of safe handling and disposal of child faeces given its potential role in disease transmission are increasingly recognized. Household surveys demonstrate that the burying of child faeces (‘dig-and-bury’) is common in several countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South-east Asia. Disposal with garbage is widely practised in middle- and high-income countries and is becoming increasingly common in urban areas of low-income countries. The safety of these two approaches is difficult to assess given the limited evidence available and we therefore sought the opinion of experts in the field of sanitation to support advocacy around the topic. We report the findings of an anonymous expert (Delphi) consultation on the safety of these two child faeces disposal methods. There was almost unanimous agreement these should be considered neither safe nor improved. A range of arguments was provided to support this position, including proximity of solid waste and burial sites to the home and children’s play areas and that neither practice would be acceptable for adults. The consultation also highlighted gaps in the current evidence base that should be addressed to gain a fuller insight into the risks involved in these two forms of sanitation with a view to providing both programmatic and normative guidance. In particular further work is needed to assess the potential for exposure to faecal matter in solid waste in low- and middle-income countries and to elucidate the predominant practices of child faeces burial including proximity to the home or infant play areas as well as depth of burial.
Measurement of handwashing behaviour in Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys and Demographic and Health Surveys, 1985–2008
With this paper, we aim to describe handwashing worldwide, as measured in Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in low- and middle-income countries between 1985 and 2008, and to explain the strengths, weaknesses and evolution of this data collection to inform future survey development. We searched reports of DHS and MICS conducted before 2009 and analysed data on handwashing measurements. We examined data according to geographic region, as well as demographic characteristics such as wealth quintile, education of the household head, and rural/urban location. Before 2009, eight MICS and 40 DHS included handwashing-related measurements, using a variety of self-reports and rapid observations. Internal triangulation of findings from surveys that collected multiple types of measurement shows that self-reports to closed questions overestimate behaviour. Observation-based data suggest low handwashing rates in many low- and middle-income countries with high prevalence of water and sanitation-related diseases, and high inter- and intra-country disparities. However, due to the widely disparate nature of the pre-2009 handwashing-related measurements, much of the data cannot be compared between countries, and only an incomplete picture of global rates can be formed. Efforts to increase the prevalence of handwashing with soap and water need to be strengthened in many low- and middle-income countries, especially among poorer, rural populations and where the household head has less formal education. Closed questions asking for self-reports of handwashing behaviour should be avoided. Findings support instead the inclusion of uniform observation-based measurements, as were integrated as core modules of MICS and DHS in 2009.