Beyond the Finish Line: Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All

Water for Women partners with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) in the delivery of Beyond the Finish Line - Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All in Bhutan to provide equitable, universal access to safely managed sanitation and hygiene for more than 214,500* people.



Read SNV's end of project brief

Bhutan: 100% open-defecation free


Bhutan is home to over 800,000 people with one of the lowest population densities in the world.  Bhutan has made significant progress in improving rural sanitation and hygiene, supported by high levels of ownership, uptake of innovations and an emerging water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector.

The Public Health Engineering Division (PHED) of the Ministry of Health (MoH), along with SNV from 2008, has developed the national Rural Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene Program (RSAHP) which has reached half of the Bhutan’s 20 districts 2018.  To date 39 sub-districts and 1 full district have achieved 100 per cent household access and usage of basic sanitation.

Unfortunately, evidence shows that these successes have not yet yielded equal benefits for poor households and disadvantaged groups, while there are further inequities related to income, gender (e.g. female-headed households) and remoteness.

Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 - for safely managed sanitation - is also a challenge in Bhutan, and there is some way to go in achieving universal WASH. 

While an estimated 57% of rural households have access to basic sanitation services, 39% of these still have unimproved services while a further 4% have only limited services.


Only 35% have access to basic sanitation services.

55% have unimproved sanitation.

8% practice open defecation.

Poor hygiene practices result in diarrhoea being among the top five communicable diseases.

Stunting rates remain high (nationally 21.2%; rural 26.1%).





Water for Women partners with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation to deliver Beyond the Finish Line - Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All.  The outcomes of this project have been designed to align with the Water for Women outcomes, the Sustainable Development Goals and Bhutan’s own upcoming Five Year Plan and National Key Results Areas.

Project Goal: To contribute to improved health, gender equality and social inclusion and well-being of people in rural districts of Bhutan through strengthening the performance of the national rural sanitation and hygiene programme, systems and actors to increase equitable access to and use of safe sanitation and hygiene, by 2022.

Objective: To strengthen the capacity of national and local governments, private sector, and CSOs to develop sustainable safely managed sanitation and hygiene services for all, with greater emphasis on gender equality and social inclusion and climate change resilience that will directly benefit at least 214,500* people in rural and urban Bhutan.

Regional map of Bhutan

The project will target eight districts of Bhutan: Samtse, Chukha, Dagana, Punakha, Zhemgang, Pemagatshel, Trashigang and Lhuntse.

The project builds on a proven approach that incorporates climate change resilience, gender and social inclusion and sustainability.  Further, the project will look beyond households to support access and usage in schools, health care facilities and address intra-household issues.

The project will use a combination of technical support, evidence-based advocacy and knowledge and learning processes to strengthen the capacity and performance of three national and eight sub-national government authorities and civil society partners. 

Leveraging political commitments, decentralisation and cost-sharing mechanisms, the project will seek to achieve area wide access and usage for all, across four underserved rural districts, their small town centres and expand the approach beyond households to schools and institutions (monastic schools and nunneries), basic health care facilities and as yet unserved informal settlements, including construction workers’ camps.

It will further support another four districts currently within the national program through a second phase, to look beyond the finish line of open defecation free status, including to addressing safe emptying and institutionalise strategies to ensure duty bearers and services have improved capacity to identify, reach and respond to potentially disadvantaged groups including for people with disabilities, female headed households, the elderly and poorest households.


“Bhutan will require strong leadership and investment not only from the development partners but also from the government. This means prioritising sanitation and hygiene in budgets, in plans, and in the minds of our local leaders. If we can do that, we can achieve, universal access to safely managed sanitation and hygiene."

 - Mr. Rinchen Wangdi, Chief Engineer, PHED of Ministry of Health, Bhutan


The project has five outcomes;

  • Inclusive WASH Governance and Investment
  • Sanitation Demand Creation
  • Social and Behaviour Change Communication
  • Responsive Sanitation and Hygiene Services and Supply Chains
  • Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning

sustainable sanitation and hygiene diagram


The Expected benefits of Beyond the Finish Line - Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All by 2022 are:

  • 110,000 additional people use basic sanitation services (SDG 1.4) that meet their needs
  • 54,000 additional people use safely managed sanitation services (SDG 6.2) that meets their needs
  • 65,000 additional people practice hand washing with soap and water at home (SDG 6.2)
  • 17,000 boys and girls use basic disability accessible WASH facilities at school
  • 8,000 additional female students are able to practice safe menstrual hygiene management in schools and monastic institutions
  • 40 health care facilities with basic disability accessible WASH facilities.



Innovation and Impact


In 2021, this project was awarded an Innovation and Impact grant to further strengthen the use of new evidence, innovation and practice in sustainable and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and, in doing so, contribute to improved learning and practice globally.


This Innovation and Impact project is being led by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation in partnership with the University of Technology Sydney, Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS-ISF), CBM Australia, Bhutan Network for Empowering Women and Ability Bhutan Society. This project will build more sustainable WASH outcomes through strong partnerships, developing capacities and strengthened leadership.


Learn more


 A water and WASH response is a COVID-19 response


In 2020, the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene was underscored as the globe grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from Australia's Partnerships for Recovery, our partners pivoted their projects and worked collaboratively to support countries in their COVID-19 responses and to embed COVID-19 preparedness into their WASH projects.


As an immediate response in early 2020, SNV Bhutan installed 25 public hand-washing stations as requested by the Minister for Health (MOH).


SNV's longer term response aimed to strengthen and expand COVID-19 prevention and behaviour change communication in Health Care Facilities (HCFs) and improve local government and national health system capacity to ensure sustainability of COVID-19 measures. Targeted activities improved the capacity of 200 government Health Assistants, 160 local leaders (Gups and Tshogpas), 7 District health officers (DHOs) and 80 school health coordinators in 7 districts, benefitting an estimated 92,000 people (50% of the population) who access HCF services within the 7 target districts.


SNV collaborated with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Religion and Health Programme, local governments, Ability Bhutan Society (ABS), Disabled Persons' Association of Bhutan (DPAB), WHO and UNICEF in delivering a rapid and strategic COVID-19 response.


Australia continues to support COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery activities across the Indo-Pacific region to secure our region's health, wellbeing and stability in these challenging times.


An unprecedented crisis requires a coordinated response. Through our water resources management and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects, we are not only delivering safe, equitable and sustainable water and WASH, we are also building healthy, inclusive and resilient societies. We're supporting individuals, communities and countries to endure, and recover from, the COVID-19 crisis as well as to future extreme events and natural disasters. 



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SNV Netherlands Development Organisation

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*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress.

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