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Ian Ross

Sanitation in Bangladesh – improving programmes through Value for Money analysis

Yesterday saw the opening of the South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This conference, which aims to accelerate progress in sanitation and hygiene promotion in the region, comes at a crucial time, coinciding with the kick-off of the recently ratified, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ambition of Goal six – ensuring access to water and sanitation for all – is laudable, and features heavily on the agenda at SACOSAN.

A key aspect of accelerating progress and working towards this goal is making sure that the greatest return on investment in sanitation is achieved. Value for Money (VFM) analysis of sanitation interventions in South Asia can help ensure this achieved. The VFM-WASH team, supported by DFID, has been working on sanitation in Bangladesh, primarily with UNICEF. A summary of our study of VFM in UNICEF’s SHEWA-B programme is available here.

VFM analysis is essentially an analytical tool that programme managers can use to get useful information about the way in which their WASH programmes are delivering results. Managers can then use this information to make informed decisions to help maximise the positive results of their programme. Importantly, VFM analysis can be applied at all stages of the project cycle – from planning and design, through implementation and monitoring and evaluation.

In Bangladesh, for example, project managers noted patchy performance by some Community Health Promoters (CHPs) involved in sanitation and hygiene programmes. As a result, UNICEF appointed two experienced NGOs (WaterAid and Plan International) to support the local NGO providers to train CHPs and promote standardised reporting. While this increased the overall indirect programme support costs, it had a positive effect on the quality of promotional work, which in turn increased its effectiveness. This shows that thinking about value for money isn’t the same as thinking only about money: improved outcomes and impacts doesn’t necessarily mean lower costs.

We’ve launched a video for WASH practitioners which helps explain this, through practical case studies and interviews with our project team. The video is available on Youtube below:

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