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Monitoring to understand, identify and address problems

Published on: 12/08/2013

In March 2012, UNICEF and WHO announced that the Millennium Development Goal for water had been met. But that's just the start. 

The goal of reducing by half the the number of people without access to safe drinking may have been achieved, but an enormous challenge still lies ahead: 783 million people still have no access to safe drinking water, while populations continue to grow. In addition, an estimated 30% of the water points do not function.Comprehensive monitoring and reliable data about water services are important building blocks towards ensuring that pumps, pipes and taps continue to provide clean and reliable water to everyone. In many countries these data are either lacking or fragmented. Consequently, it is almost impossible to know what and where the problems are and to decide how to allocate resources to solve them.

An innovative approach in Ghana

Triple-S is doing pioneering work to improve sustainability of rural water services. These efforts towards ensuring a vision of 'everyone forever' are also relevant for others looking for ways to monitor sustainability.

To plan, regulate and provide water services that last, it is not enough to count how many systems have been constructed. In Ghana, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA, link below) and Triple-S have developed four additional indicators to assess and monitor the sustainability of rural water services.

1. Functionality

2. Level of service provided (in terms of quantity, quality, reliability and accessibility of systems)

3. Performance of Service Providers

4. Performance of the Service Authority

 Another innovation is that district-level CWSA staff collected the data on mobile phones, using a system called FLOW (Field Level Operations Watch). The costs of data collection were about US$ 0.12 / per capita.

Status of rural water services in Ghana

 Ghana baseline by Triple-S/IRC reveals functionality bottlenecks (Source: Jeremiah Atengdem, Triple-S/IRC, May, 2, 2013)

Baseline data collected in three districts (Akatsi in the Volta Region, East Gonja in the Northern Region and Sunyani West in the Brong Ahafo Region) revealed that:

  • >30% of surveyed infrastructure was not functional, and only 20 % of people received a basic level of service (relating to reliability, quantity, quality, accessibility).
  • > 50% of the community-based water service providers did not meet benchmark indicators.
  • All service authorities (responsible for planning, supervision, support, coordination and regulation of water service providers) failed to meet the benchmarks.

The baseline reveals the extent of problems and underlying reasons for systems not providing the service intended. Having a water and sanitation committee does not guarantee that water points provide even a basic level of service. Financial management, availability of spare parts and skilled mechanics, monitoring and technical support are critical additional enablers for lasting services . The presentation (link below) gives highlights of the baseline survey methods and results.

 From fire-fighting to informed corrective action

This work has already catalysed action: from repair of boreholes and training of mechanics, expanding the monitoring system into other districts, to revision of the national District Monitoring and Evaluation System (DiMES). Monitoring water services is critical for planning and directing sector investments, as Vida Duti, IRC Ghana country director, and former Ghana coordinator for Triple-S explains in this video.

Disclaimer

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