Innovative tools for Water Supply Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) a priority for Fiji schools
Pacific island nations are among the most vulnerable to a changing climate as threatened natural resources, like water, are increasingly linked to social and economic development. Climate impacts on fragile freshwater resources, such as extended drier seasons and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, are just some of the exacerbated risks the Pacific is facing, in addition to achieving its own aspirations toward sustainable livelihoods and development. In 2013 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) through the regional office for Asia and the Pacific office released a report highlighting the gap between the Pacific and the East Asia region in comparison to the world in the provision of basic water and sanitation. The 2013 report underscores the need for Pacific island nations and leaders to prioritize efforts to improve water resources and their sustainable management.
As the lead UN agency in the Pacific tasked with the rights of children, UNICEF Pacific in collaboration with Fijian Teachers Association (FTA) have embarked on a pilot initiative that will apply the Three Star Approach, a framework for improved hygiene behavior in water and sanitation in schools. The initiative will help practitioners and educators understand some of the key links between water and health for schools in Fiji. Water Supply Sanitation and Hygiene, commonly known as WASH, is a pressing issue for schools across the Pacific as changing climate conditions impact the availability, quality and quantity of water for sanitation and drinking. In schools where water and sanitation services are lacking, at-risk behavior such as open defecation and poor hygiene are critical factors in water and health.
The situation in Fiji is indicative of the disparity in access to water and sanitation across select countries in the Pacific, many of whom lack accurate and timely data. Using the Three Star Approach, the WASH in-Schools (WinS) Fiji program will look at positive behavior change by 1) ranking schools according to regimented hygiene behavior, 2) supporting sustainable actions for good hygiene, and 3) using schools and communities as change agents. Key to the approach is a clear understanding of the benefits and causal pathways for schools, students, teachers, and communities to think differently about water and health. Cross cutting issues such as the use of schools as disaster evacuation centers are important to the findings of this initiative as most primary school facilities in Fiji are used as evacuation centers during a state of emergency.
The initial groundwork will involve working closely with stakeholders to generate collaborative learning experiences for schools, communities, state, and non-state actors and partners involved. In undertaking the data collection for the WinS initiative, UNICEF Pacific has also employed the use of mobile phones using Akvo; a unique data collection and online monitoring tool to collect and display real-time data about water and sanitation in schools. Through applications like Akvo-FLOW, the WinS work has completed its baseline survey of pilot schools and will commence program implementation from February to August, 2015. The collection of real time data through the use of mobile platforms such as tablets, and mobile devices will allow for rapid data gathering and display of key results. It is hoped that this will drastically improve the planning and implementation of the WinS approach through available and transparent data collection and sharing. The results and key findings are expected to be released by late 2015, and it is hoped that the pilot initiative will lead to nationwide action in Fiji on WinS and eventually the Pacific.
For further information contact:
Marc Overmars, UNICEF WASH Specialist
UNICEF Pacific Suva, Fiji Islands
Preliminary information and data on the WinS initiative is available online: http://unicefpacific.akvoapp.org/project/2752/