Video: innovative WASH initiatives in Asia-Pacific

Water, sanitation and hygiene remains an important topic through the Asia-Pacific region. UNICEF’s Sanjay Wijesekera, global chief of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), recently visited Cambodia to learn about UNICEF’s work in the region to help keep children clean and healthy.

Sanjay reflects the potential impacts UNICEF’s work has on WASH in Cambodia and in the East Asia and Pacific Region. Innovative ways of bringing water, sanitation and hygiene to children and their communities remain an import part of UNICEF support to governments in the region and globally.

Better WASH in Asia-Pacific

UNICEF continues to support countries in the Asia-Pacific region to help all children and communities enjoy safe water supply, good sanitation in a clean environment and healthy hygiene practices. But, while much has been achieved, there is still work to be done. 864 million more people in the region use improved sanitation in 2012 than in 1990. However, 669 million people are still without access to improved sanitation.

Around 721 million more people use improved water supplies now than in 1990. However, 184 million people in the region still do not have access to improved water supply. In particular, poorer and rural households are much less likely to have access than richer households.

However, as Sanjay saw in Cambodia, with UNICEF support Governments are making great strides towards achieving universal access to clean water and sanitation.

From Cambodia to Lao PDR

Lao PDR is another good example. For the first time, UNICEF supported the Government to bring together ministries and partners to discuss achievements and aims to help get safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene to more children. The event was opened by UNICEF Laos Representative Hongwei Gao and the Vice-Minister of Public Health Dr. Som Ock Kingsada.

The challenges communities still face are profound. Just over half of the Lao population live in households with access to improved sanitation facilities, and there are huge differences in access when we compare those in rural and urban areas, and the rich and the poor. But the meeting has set targets high.

At the ‘joint sector review’ meeting, the Government laid out their vision to ensure all households, schools, communities and health centres have equitable access to improved WASH services. They also looked at how they could organize themselves to monitor and report progress in realising their vision.

Having worked in Lao PDR more than 15 years ago, I recall the early efforts towards more open and joint work planning, progress reviewing and reporting for improved WASH by the Lao Government, UNICEF and a few partners. Bringing together close to 18 donors, NGO, UN agencies partners and Government Officials from several key ministries to discuss ways of monitoring and reporting on the whole WASH sector shows the huge strides made in Lao PDR. The timing could not be better – right at the ‘birth’ of the new Sustainable Development Goals which places an emphasis on ending open defecation, and to offer sustainable, equitable and universal WASH services.

I commend the efforts by the UNICEF staff in Cambodia, Lao PDR and of course Sanjay. If you would like more information on their innovative works in their respective countries please feel free to contact them:

The author
Chander Badloe, Regional Adviser WASH, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific

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