Danida helps improve Vietnam’s rural water supply, sanitation

Activities in Vietnam have helped experts from Danida understand that some water supply and sanitation works in rural areas do not operate after being built or were used improperly, which is both a waste in investment and leaves the living standards of people in rural areas stagnant.
     After many discussions, the Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) method has been chosen, helping narrow the gap between knowledge and practical ability of users. The main objective of the method is to encourage the community to manage the water supply and sanitation works and improve hygiene and sanitation methods to prevent diarrhoea.
     The Book ‘PHAST Gradual Guide’ explains methods to help the community in identifying and analysing issues, choosing water supply and sanitation works, developing, examining and evaluating plans. A useful tool for the method is a set of diagrams, which help the community to discuss issues more easily.
     The first programme, in which the PHAST method was applied, is the programme on community’s awareness education and water supply in Viet Tri.
     At first, the programme was expected to be implemented in five communes in the suburb of Viet Tri city, but other communes have also proposed to apply the method. To date, the PHAST method has been applied in 37 villages in seven communes. The toolkit, including a set of explanatory diagrams and a PHAST guidebook has been used for training participants at the communal and village levels in Ha Tinh and Dak Lak provinces since June 2002.
     About 490 people in six communes in Ha Tinh province, and about 300 others in Dak Lak province have joined the training courses. Trainees and the local people have highly praised the method. In Viet Tri, local people have prepared plans and invested in upgrading sanitation works and water wells. Good hygiene and sanitation practices have also been encouraged in Ha Tinh and Dak Lak provinces.
     In March, 2004, the project renewed its funding mechanism by seeking nearly-poor households (VND 80,000 (US$5.095) to VND 100,000 (US$6.369) per month per capita) that account for a large number of homes. Accordingly, these households will receive subsidies of 60 percent of overhead costs, while poor households will receive 80 percent. Meanwhile, non-poor households can borrow up to 80 percent for overhead costs and the rest must be paid in cash or in working days. The fact that users will have to pay all operation and maintenance costs in the future is also a new feature.
     For on-the-spot sanitation works, subsidies for poor and nearly poor households are similar to subsidies applied for small-sized water supply works. The difference is that non-poor households now can build sanitation works whereas in the past this was not possible due to high interest rates of bank loans. The method is applied for nearly-poor households, instead
of subsidies of 60 percent of overhead costs.
     For concentrated small-sized water supply works in non-poor villages, the project provides subsidies of 40 percent of overhead costs and supplemental subsidies of 40 percent for poor households joining cooperatives. Water supply and sanitation works for schools and medical centres in non-poor villages will receive subsidies of 80 percent of overhead costs. Schools and relevant communities will then have to contribute the remaining 20 percent.
     Subsidies for works in remote and poor villages can reach up to 90 percent of total overhead costs. Water supply works will receive subsidies of 100 percent of the costs for information, education and propaganda, field studies, and exploration drillings.
     According to experts, the new mechanism is quite clear to the beneficiaries of the project. With the application of this mechanism, alongside increasing awareness of PHAST, the Danida-sponsored project is proving its effectiveness in changing the community for the better.

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