The Myanmar Humanitarian WASH Project

Water for Women partners with WaterAid to improve WASH access in vulnerable communities and community-managed schools in Myanmar, reaching an estimated 33,000* vulnerable and marginalised people. 

Context 

Water for Women is investing $ AUD 1.3 million between July 2021 and December 2022 to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) access for approximately 33,000 vulnerable and marginalised people in Myanmar.

Following the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February 2021, Water for Women has concluded its WASH and healthcare project, “Supporting Safer Births Project (SSBP)”, and with its key partner, WaterAid, in collaboration with local civil society organisations (CSOs), has begun supporting people in need of humanitarian WASH.

The Myanmar Humanitarian WASH Project is being delivered in two locations, Yangon and Ayeyarwady, where people are experiencing vulnerability due to lack of access to WASH services, exacerbated by COVID-19 and the political turmoil caused by the military coup d’état.

The project has been designed to promote COVID-19 preventative hygiene behaviours in communities, provide emergency support for drinking water, and promote hygiene, including menstrual hygiene, through the supply of hygiene kits and support inclusive WASH infrastructure in community-managed schools. There is a strong focus on gender and socially inclusive WASH to ensure marginalised people such as women, girls and people with disabilities (PWD) are reached in all aspects of the interventions.

There has been significant progress in expanding access to WASH services in Myanmar. However, coverage remains lower in rural areas than urban centres, and there are considerable differences in access in different parts of the country. Under the umbrella of the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan-MSDP (2018-2030), the Government of Myanmar is committed to achieving universal access to safely managed WASH services by 2030.

Progress in rural sanitation lags behind the milestone of 80 per cent access by 2020 set by the Rural WASH Strategy.  As with water supply, there are huge variations in access across the country, with open defecation still common in some locations.  Regarding institutional WASH, it is estimated that half of the schools in Myanmar and more than half of health facilities are deficient in WASH services and the systems to effectively manage and monitor them[1]

 

52% per cent of respondents in Yangon reported facing difficulty in accessing drinking water. 

The main reason given for this was a loss of income following lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil. 

A lack of hygiene supplies including soap and sanitary pads was a challenge reported by 38% and 24% of respondents respectively.

 

The project was informed by rapid assessments in the project locations, including a mobile survey in Yangon and WaterAid Myanmar staff visits to rural locations, which found that 52% per cent of respondents in Yangon reported facing difficulty in accessing drinking water. The main reason given for this was a loss of income following lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil. 

Furthermore, a lack of hygiene supplies including soap and sanitary pads was a challenge reported by 38% and 24% of respondents respectively.

Community-managed schools were identified as an appropriate entry point for rural humanitarian WASH to reach target groups without the need to engage with government representatives at this time. Education institutions are critical mechanisms to instil lifelong hygiene behaviours in children, who in turn can become agents of change in their communities to prevent the spread of diseases.

Myanmar has a large number of community-managed schools such as monastic education schools, church-based schools, and madrasas which are run by community members. Currently, 1,487 monastic schools are providing education to around 300,000 students. While a few faith-based education schools have some financial resources to manage basic needs, other community-managed schools run with basic infrastructure with support of irregular donations from communities. WASH facilities are therefore limited, and safe water supply is often inadequate. Students at these schools tend to be from low-income families and those who have been most marginalised.

 

Drinking water supply & child friendly hand washing facility at Kawi Myitzu Nunneries School

Drinking water supply & child friendly hand washing facility at Kawi Myitzu Nunneries School

WaterAid / Aung Htay Hlaing

 

Aim

The primary aim of the Humanitarian WASH Project is to support vulnerable and conflict-affected communities to gain access to water and sanitation, reduce exposure to WASH-related health risks and improve their resilience.

In addition, through the project Water for Women aims to strengthen the capacity of local CSOs and WASH stakeholders.

The WASH Humanitarian Project is directly improving WASH in community-managed schools and households in Yangon and Ayeyarwady.

Specific targets include:

  1. Improvements in WASH access, including COVID-19 prevention practices and menstrual hygiene management, for approximately 27,000 people in urban communities and five monastic schools in two townships in Yangon peri urban areas.
  2. Improvements in WASH access for approximately 5,000 people in five rural community-managed schools and communities in two townships of Ayeyarwady Region, which are vulnerable to water scarcity and poor WASH due to climate change.

Regional map of Myanmar areas of operation

  

[all communities] frequently faced water shortage issues in the summer season and none of the villages were able to solve these issues despite trying different approaches to access water. However, with WaterAid’s support for a long-term sustainable water supply system as well as WASH access through establishment of the necessary facilities under the Water for Women project, water is now available during all seasons, the communities also feel empowered and happy to have received the support that was much needed.

- Naw Paw Paw Htoo, Operation Manager, Pathein-MyaungMya Association 

Outcomes

This project has four target outcomes:

  1. Increased access to improved, inclusive WASH services among target communities in Yangon and Ayeyarwady.
  2. Improved awareness of COVID-19 preventative practices and menstrual hygiene practices among target communities in Yangon and Ayeyarwady.  
  3. Staff have enhanced capacity to deliver and support inclusive WASH in community-managed schools.
  4. Increased documentation and dissemination of knowledge, best practices and learning from the Humanitarian WASH Project.

 

The project is achieving these outcomes by providing equitable access to improved gender and socially inclusive humanitarian WASH services, including emergency drinking water and hygiene kits in urban areas, improved water supply, accessible handwashing facilities and gender-segregated, accessible sanitation facilities in community-managed schools. The project is promoting improved hygiene practices for communities, particularly women, children and people with disabilities living in vulnerable situations due to COVID-19 and the deterioration in the political, humanitarian and economic situation in Myanmar.

 

Since GSI inclusive hygiene trainings were provided with practical demonstrations as well as through support for WASH facilities in schools to support activities, schoolchildren could learn and apply these concepts since the beginning of their childhood life. The communities will definitely incorporate GSI concepts in future community development plans.  This is great achievement under this project.

- Naw Paw Paw Htoo, Operation Manager, Pathein-MyaungMya Association


 

GSI inclusive sanitation facilities at Hlaingdama Sitagu Nunneries School

GSI inclusive sanitation facilities at Hlaingdama Sitagu Nunneries School

WaterAid / Aung Htay Hlaing

 

 


[1] WaterAid Myanmar (2021). Meeting MSDP Goals for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): Challenges and Opportunities

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The Australian aid program is supporting Myanmar through WaterAid's Humanitarian WASH Project. Water for Women is proud to be partnering with WaterAid Myanmar, WaterAid UK and project collaborator, Panthein-MyaungMya Association.

*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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