Research published by UCL in 2021 highlighted synergies between sanitation and all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Despite this many water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) actors operate in isolation, with few opportunities for learning from across sectors. Over the years, here at the Sanitation Learning Hub, we’ve explored the intersections of WASH with some closely-connected fields, such as WASH and nutrition, gender transformative WASH, and climate change and rural sanitation.
Recently, we commissioned four studies to further explore the intersection of sanitation and hygiene with different sectors. Our hope was that the findings and recommendations would bring new perspectives and potential solutions to the table. The result is four IDS Working Papers authored by colleagues from across the IDS and partners drawing on their experiences and current research in their respective fields.
Social protection and WASH
SDG 1 (among others)
As the authors, Keetie Roelen and Karol Rodriguez point out, there are clearly lessons to be learnt from social protection programming. The Working Paper assesses the impact of a comprehensive social protection programme in rural Haiti on sanitation outcomes. The authors highlights policy implications for both the WASH and social protection communities including the need to:
- Implement ‘bundled’ interventions which are adapted to specific contexts.
- Learn from gender-sensitive social protection experiences to avoid placing too many burdens on women in households.
- Move forward with more cross-sectoral learning on areas of real overlap, such as targeting, identification, behaviour change, needs assessment and monitoring.
Accessible sanitation in the workplace
SDG 8 (among others)
In recent years, there has been quite of lot of guidance and learning in the WASH sector around disability. However, this Working Paper takes a different angle, focusing in on disability-inclusive employment in Nigeria and Bangladesh, based on work on inclusive employment. The authors present the findings of a literature review and a participatory roundtable which concluded that there are pressing issues around accessible sanitation in the workplace. Their recommendations included:
- Employers must provide accessible sanitation as per national laws and the UNCRPD, and governments should prioritise the issue and make sure anti-discrimination legislation is acted upon.
- Investments of time and money are needed so representatives from organisations of people with disabilities (OPDs) are prepared to be called upon as subject experts.
- All decisions to be made in collaboration with OPDs, including an encouragement for OPDs and WASH NGOs to work together and demonstrate best practice with inclusive hygiene facilities.
- Guidance and support should be given to people with disabilities to realise their rights with regards to accessible sanitation and employment.
WASH and Health in pastoralist communities
SDG 3 (among others)
This Working Paper explores access to water, sanitation and health services for pastoralist communities in Northern Tanzania. The authors, Violet Barasa and Linda Waldman, offer an intersectional analysis of water and sanitation needs, showing how structural discrimination influences the sanitation and health needs of pastoralist men, women, boys, and girls. This takes the form of a lack of appropriate infrastructure, a range of sociocultural norms and values, and individual stratifiers. Their recommendations included:
- Apply intersectionality as a tool to help identify the most vulnerable groups.
- Incorporate people who may be disadvantaged and who are not usually involved in policy processes.
- Push for the integration of pastoralist priorities in the Tanzanian National Sanitation Campaign, such as water supply, livestock health and livelihoods.
- Research and develop pastoralist-specific WASH strategies that are sensitive, avoiding language around shame, and acknowledging taboos around mixed-gender sanitation practices.
The water-energy-food nexus in humanitarian settings
SDG 11 (among others)
This Working Paper draws on a study undertaken for UNHCR on multi-sector programme planning for the Rohingya refugee crisis and suggests that sanitation is a key (but often ignored) element of the water-energy-food nexus. Recommendations include:
- WASH innovations should be grounded in the particular contexts, needs and locations, to ensure positive outcomes across the nexus.
- Connect protection, security and wellbeing to the design of services and innovations.
- Work with both host and refugee communities, investing in positive social interactions and in community ownership of resources.
Beyond these four Working Papers, the UCL study cites numerous examples of the centrality of sanitation and hygiene to the achievement of the SDGs, such as:
- The impact of menstrual hygiene access on girls’ education (SDG 4).
- A lack of access to sanitation causing diarrhoea and malnutrition (SDG 2).
- The role sanitation plays in protecting environmental resources (SDG 14 and SDG 15).
The Working Papers all highlight the importance of developing context-specific interventions which actively engage with and listen to communities who currently lack accessible WASH services either at home, in communities or in their places of work. The studies also further highlight how sanitation and hygiene impacts the specific issues of gender empowerment, inclusive workplaces, health and water, energy and food.
For those working across development, the Working Papers we’ve commissioned highlight how central sanitation and hygiene services are to achieving the SDGs. Our aim for these papers is to help foster further cross-sectoral learning and networking, and we hope there’ll be more learning to come in the form of papers, dialogues and partnerships. For those of us working within the WASH sector, we hope that the Working Papers offer inspiration to look beyond our usual sources of evidence and learning.