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In its plainest terms; when donors directly fund WASH programmes they are assuming the responsibility for service provision, undermining the governance of public institutions. One consequence of is that community groups as well as local and national government become less and less accountable for the delivery of services and are “let off the hook” from fulfilling their public service responsibilities. The accountability of donors on the other hand often finishes at the point of project closure and a governance vacuum will remain, with services are unlikely to be sustained.
The problems outlined above are, if anything, more acute in the case of WASH in schools. This is because the responsibility to finance and maintain school WASH services is often complex and spread across a wide range of stakeholders from educational and health sectors, community organisations and district and national government. In this context the major challenge to donors is ensuring that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and that key stakeholders are committed and accountable to users. Putting infrastructure in place is the easy bit!
In the vast majority of cases, for the delivery of adequate WASH services to be sustainable - they must continue for a long period after donor funding has been withdrawn.
Therefore infrastructure put in place must be affordable to the socio-economic context and projects financing infrastructure development must co-ordinate with local, district or national institutions and take into the account the costs of operation, maintenance and eventual renewal of infrastructure. If infrastructure installed is inappropriate to the context and local and national governments cannot maintain them, ownership and commitment will be further undermined.
Direct donor financing may deliver infrastructure and short term gains in childhood welfare, however for these benefits to be sustained donors must seek to generate and reinforce the commitment of government stakeholders by ensuring that the project is aligned with government strategies, that there is local ownership of the projects, with clear avenues of responsibility and accountability defined after the donor withdraws.
IRC WASHCost Researcher
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