Sanitation Policy for Somaliland
A study on a concerted approach towards hygiene and sanitation

» by Volker Hüls

This report is based on an analysis of the structure, coordination and practice of hygiene and sanitation promotion in Somaliland. It is the result of consulting a wide variety of actors in this sector and attempts to reflect the current thinking of everybody involved in improving the sanitary conditions of the Somaliland people. While the analysis originally focused on training in the hygiene and sanitation sector, in its course it turned out to be indicative of how the Somaliland government and the development partners in the country interact, and, due to the relevance of local government structures for the sector, a paradigm for decentralisation of the state and local governance.
Educating the Somaliland population, in particular the rural population, in matters of hygiene and sanitation proves to be a major challenge for improving their living conditions. Numerous approaches have been and are being used, ranging from simple public campaigns conveying general messages to long-term participatory training in individual villages or towns. In rural areas, where access to information is poorest, the latter has shown to be the most promising and sustainable approach. Less intensive methods make sense in predominantly urban public awareness campaigns, but continue to be used as the only form of education in many rural interventions. This happens for a variety of reasons like mandates, funding or security restrictions. However, some organisations have demonstrated that long-term participatory methodologies are feasible and practical in Somaliland. The sector is therefore characterised by a wide variety of methodologies and a common approach remains to be established.

To facilitate this, Caritas Switzerland and Caritas Luxembourg, in a consortium as ‘Swiss Group’ and funded by the European Union, have adapted the existing PHAST methodology for the Somaliland context. Based on PHAST they have also developed the CHAST approach for educating children in hygiene and sanitation, and have productively applied both in their projects. The Swiss Group experience continues to be shared with other development partners through training courses and workshops. However, these efforts until today have not been sufficient to achieve common standards. Two main reasons for this are identified in this paper. Firstly, the international development partners do not interact sufficiently amongst themselves or with all practically relevant levels of the Somaliland government. Secondly, the government not only lacks capacity but also the legal instruments to ensure a common approach. Both shortcomings are not new, nor are they particularly surprising. They continue, however, to impede sustainable development in all sectors, not only in hygiene and sanitation. The interaction of development actors with each other and their host government is at a status quo that is not as productive as it could be.

More than coordination is needed if a common approach should be achieved. Somaliland is a functioning state, notwithstanding its international status, and its government and not the international community should steer the development of the country. As opposed to mere coordination this has significant merit. Firstly, a proactive government can use its local knowledge about what the people of the country need to direct organisations to areas that are most in need. Secondly, a knowledgeable government can advise the development actors on which approaches are most suitable. Everybody consulted in this study supports the notion of a more rules-based nationwide approach to hygiene and sanitation promotion and hygiene and sanitation in general. It is felt that if the government set clear standards for training methodology and contents (and beyond this for the whole sector) a common approach would develop even without the need for enforcement. Similarly, a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government would improve the application of such common standards.
A strategic common approach to hygiene and sanitation training and hygiene and sanitation in general could be achieved at different levels of stringency. A 'Best Practices' paper could certainly be a good basis, and national standards for all aspects of hygiene and sanitation, including training, could build on such a basic document. A national hygiene and sanitation policy would be the most stringent document.
Such Policy appears to be the most suitable instrument to tackle the structural problems in the sector, and it would be able to build on and expand the successful establishment of policies in the water and the health sector. Beyond hygiene and sanitation this will further strengthen a government that still lacks capacity and has the potential to empower local government.
It is doubtful that the 'lesser' documents that have been suggested will achieve a concerted approach for hygiene and sanitation (promotion) as well as a policy can. It is therefore recommended to pursue the formulation of policy to further structure in the hygiene and sanitation sector in Somaliland.

© Volker Hüls / Caritas Switzerland 2005.

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