The South Asian Conference on Sanitation is returning to Dhaka. After the first inspiring conference in 2003, the Government of Bangladesh is hosting SACOSAN VI from January 11-13, 2016. It is also the first international exchange by the Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation, as it was recently created in recognition of the Government of Nepal's commitment to strengthening WASH sector capacity for service delivery.
SACOSAN, a government led biennial convention held on a rotational basis in each SAARC country provides a platform for interaction on sanitation and sharing of good practice. As all successfull initiatives, SACOSAN leads to commitments to adapt policy and practice. Thus it supports a Regional Agenda on sanitation, enabling learning from past experiences and setting actions for the future.
The Government of Nepal has set a target to achieve universal coverage of water supply and sanitation by 2017. The aim of the water supply and sanitation sector is to improve the health and dignity of people and raise national productivity. While earlier annual promotional activities created an interest in improving sanitation, the formulation of the Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan 2011, was a milestone that generated a strong people's movement for an Open Defecation Free Nepal and total sanitation campaigns in collaboration with stakeholders. The Constitution of Nepal 2015 has included people's right to safe water and sanitation as a fundamental right under the Right to Health. Realization of these rights are facilitated by various laws and policies, and are incorporated in the draft WASH act and policy 2015. The 2014 WASH Operational Directives further provide guidance to the sector and the public, and raise accountability.
The SACOSAN process has certainly helped us. Nepal has been an active supporter of the process right from the beginning and we are now seeing the benefits. In 2000, just about 25% of households, mainly in the urban areas, had access to a toilet. In 2015, this figure has risen to 70%, with many rural households and communities now enjoying the use of a toilet. Out of 75 districts, 27 claim ODF status. And from 217 towns, 81 have declared ODF. Still a good way to go, to ensure sustainability, move towards total sanitation, and take care of fecal sludge (see also below). Embedding good hygiene behaviour takes time as well, but it is certainly improving. The Nepal SACOSAN VI country report can be downloaded here.