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We talk a lot about Water and Sanitation (WASH), but in most cases it is the water topic that catches most of our attention. After the World Water Forum in South Korea (which gathered people from all over the world – all interested in WASH issues), another conference took place: AfricaSan. This event brought together about 500 people from governments, NGOs and the private sector from all over Africa to discuss sanitation issues for three days.

The main achievement of the conference was the ‘Ngor Ministerial Statement’ that reiterates the commitment of African ministers and other players in the sector to sanitation for all and an end to open defecation.

On behalf of Akvo I attended this 4th AfricaSan meeting (25-27th of May) in Dakar, Senegal, together with my new colleague Bert Diphoorn. In this blog I would like to take the opportunity to introduce to you first of all Bert, and secondly Akvo’s experience in Africa in the sanitation sector. These two components together will help me explain why Akvo attended AfricaSan.

A “newcomer”: Bert Diphoorn
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Above: Bert Diphoorn (second from left) takes part in a session at AfricaSan. 

The Akvo team has grown quickly in the past years, and with this growth we also see a young organisation moving to adulthood. Growing up means becoming wiser. To keep up the speed of expansion in our partnerships in a large number of countries requires a lot of knowledge and experience, and a large network. That is what Bert is particularly well qualified to help with. His experience in operational management, technical assistance and policy advice spans regional development banks, development foundations, the UN, and donor country agencies in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. It’s great to have his support and advice and it was very interesting to have his perspective at AfricaSan.

Akvo and sanitation in Africa

In recent years Akvo has worked in the sanitation sector in a growing number of countries using our mobile data collection tool Akvo FLOW. Preparing for AfricaSan was a good opportunity to take stock of the experience we have gained over the years thanks to these partnerships. Examples include:

  • In 2014, data collection at the household level started in 11 countries in Africa and Asia within SNV's SSH4A programme funded by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID).
  • In Tanzania we have technically supported a nation-wide baseline survey of sanitation indicators in households, schools and health centres. 50,000 records were collected in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Water and the Ministry of Education.
  • In Zambia our experiences in the sanitation sector (SSH4A) and in the water sector (waterpoint mapping) lead to discussions with the Ministry of Local Governments (MLGH) to support national sanitation monitoring. Sanitation data is already being analysed with the DHIS2 tool (link). Together we are working on the integration of this tool and Akvo FLOW to build up a strong system based on data collection with Akvo FLOW and advanced analysis in DHIS2.
  • In Nigeria we are supporting the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) to build up its first ever national WASH database. 120,000 data points have already been mapped relating to household and public sanitation facilities, water points and water supply facilities.
  • In Benin we started to work in 2014 with the National Directory of Public Health (DNSP) of the Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF. Pilot data has been collected in four municipalities in schools, health centres, market places, bus stations, event locations and at the household level. The information on latrines will be shared on a website. The learning from the baseline and monitoring processes will be captured in a study for up-scaling to national level.
  • In Mauritania we are in the start-up phase to build up a national monitoring system on sanitation with the Direction of Sanitation (DA).

AfricaSan was a good moment to share results from these projects with organisations such as AMCOW, African Development Bank, AfWA WSSCC, WSP, UNICEF, IRC and SNV. Follow-up meetings have been planned and will keep Bert busy for the coming time.

One important outcome of the conference was the underlining of the importance of mobile technologies for monitoring of sanitation services. It was good to note that the use of mobile tools like Akvo FLOW was welcomed and appreciated. Looking back with Bert on a busy and dynamic conference, while enjoying the ocean view in Dakar, I realised that the story and history for Akvo in the sanitation sector has just begun…

Dagmar Verbeek is regional manager, West Africa. You can follow her on Twitter @verbeekdagmar.