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IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre

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RSS Vsivarajan

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I agree with Sumita Ganguly’s statement, especially as she hits the nail on the head in reference to infrastructure development priorities such as roads, bridges, culverts, etc. She also makes a good point by highlighting that local governments shy away from making demands and wait their turn to receive funds versus proactively seeking funds for improving school infrastructure. Where my organization works, this is all true in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic. Especially in Haiti where the government’s first priority is to address dysfunctional or nonexistent funding due to recent weather-related disasters, the local government may recognize WASH as a priority but when it comes to implementation, “urgent” or more visible needs are to deal with the fact that most citizens still don’t have a proper home, their businesses are still in ruin, roads impassable, etc. When the national government can turn its attention to schools in need, a first priority may be to ensure that the school’s building is in place, that the students have desks, books, and the teachers are paid and showing up everyday. Thus, WASH priorities falls to the bottom of the list.

In addition to considering if local governments will be able to meet policy obligations, this depends on where the communities are located. Looking at the Dominican Republic, my organization works with marginalized communities—Haitian refugees that are displaced from the DR by 1 or 2 generations to work as laborers in privately owned sugarcane fields. These refugee communities develop their own slums/neighborhoods known as bateys—and the local nor national government considers these communities to be proper citizens of the country, and will turn a blind eye to their needs. If the government does not even consider these communities to be country residents, that in itself poses a difficult challenge for external donors or WASH implementing organizations to work alongside the local government and ultimately, for local governments to ever be able to meet policy obligations.

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