Waste Perspectives from Pakistan Part I: Rashid Hameed*, a sanitation worker living in a slum



This World Environment Day sees a global call to beat plastic pollution. In this three-part series, Solomon Khurrum (previously Director of Operations for Tearfund partner Pak Mission Society) and I share three perspectives on plastic and waste from Pakistan. In part one, we hear what life is like for a sanitation worker living in a slum.

Rashid Hameed is 51 years old and lives in one of Islamabad’s 34 urban slums. Islamabad – Pakistan’s capital city – had an estimated population of 1.74 million in 2009. Over a third of these residents live in illegal slums with no civic facilities.

The slums are mostly inhabited by religious minorities (often Christians) who have migrated from Punjab and other provinces to Islamabad in search of a better future. Mr Hameed migrated with his family from his village to Islamabad in the 1980s. He has lived in the slum with his wife, daughter and three sons ever since.

Rashid shares his experience of life there: [Read more…]


Waste of Olympic proportions a potential golden opportunity for the poor

RS77670_BRA_2016_EMB_0060-mdaAs the 2016 Rio Olympics close, Tearfund’s Senior Economics and Policy Associate, Richard Gower, reflects on the potential prizes to be won for athletes and the poor from valuing our waste better.

As pollution tainted Rio’s picturesque setting and the UN advised athletes to spend ‘as little time in the water as possible’, the wider issues – and surprising opportunities – arising from humanity’s waste problem came under the spotlight during the Olympics.   [Read more…]

Let’s remember Central African Republic this Christmas and beyond

Fighting, pain and bloodshed. These are definitely not gifts that anyone would want to receive. Sadly this is exactly what happened to 2.5 million people in the Central African Republic (CAR) last year in December. Far from a month of peace and goodwill, instead fighting broke out and the country descended into chaos.

Violence between Seleka and anti-Balaka groups  forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, while thousands were either killed, abused or trapped in enclaves for their own safety. The crisis overwhelmed the capacity of CAR, a country that has been largely devoid of any state functions and neglected by the international community for decades.

Empty streets – Fear of attacks has driven many people from their homes in Bangui. Photo: Hannah Maule-ffinch

Twelve months on the conflict is ongoing and half the population needs emergency assistance. One in ten of CAR’s ‘pre-crisis’ population are now refugees in neighbouring countries. The situation remains precarious and deadly despite an international intervention to respond to humanitarian needs and protect civilians.

Without a serious commitment from the international community to provide the necessary human, financial and political resources to stabilise the country and prevent the continued suffering of civilians – CAR will remain exactly where it has been since independence – lost, in the heart of Africa.

The landlocked country in the heart of Africa is considered one of the poorest and least developed in the world, with the UNDP Human Development Index 2014 positioning it 185th out of 187 countries. Despite being resource rich, with vast amount of diamonds, CAR has struggled to break out of poverty due to conflict and the mismanagement of its resources by numerous leaders.

With such a bleak environment it is hard to see a way out. However even within such desperation and darkness there is hope and there are opportunities for breakthrough in the country.

Tearfund has been responding to the humanitarian crisis since the start of the year. To date we have been part of the humanitarian community’s efforts to transform lives as we have:

  • Provided food distributions to 3400 internally displaced people.
  • Distributed seeds and tools and provided agricultural training to 1000 households.
  • Trained 31 000 people on hygiene promotion to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases like diarrhoea.
  • Distributed 7 565 000 litres of potable water.
  • Built or rehabilitated 370 latrines and 168 showers and 162 hand washing facilities.
Delivery of jerry can full of clean water at an IDP camp

Delivery of jerry can full of clean water at an IDP camp.  

However we know that humanitarian response alone is not enough. What is required in the CAR is long term political stability, good governance, and peaceful cohesive communities of all faiths and none. This is where advocacy can play such a crucial role.

In October 2014 Tearfund hosted the parliamentary visit of Baroness Berridge and Lord McConnell to the CAR. It was a short but productive trip with a schedule that included visits to IDP camps and meetings with high political officials such as the interim President Catherine Samba Panza, Diane Corner deputy head of the UN peacekeeping force, and the interfaith delegation comprising of the Archbishop of Bangui, Chief Imam and the Head of the Evangelical Church. Lord McConnell’s blog was particularly popular in the Parliament blog-sphere and challenged the negative label that CAR has been given as a ‘pointless country’.

Baroness Berridge and Lord McConnell meeting with interim President of CAR, Catherine Samba-Panza

Baroness Berridge and Lord McConnell meeting with interim President of CAR, Catherine Samba-Panza

This visit was much more than just seeing people in poverty and meeting officials. Both Members of the House Lords, along with MPs in the House of Commons, have remained committed to the cause. Through their support and those of their colleagues in both the Houses, parliamentary scrutiny approved the extension of EUFOR – the EU peacekeeping force to support the UN as it was facing a shortfall in civilian protection troops.

There is still a long way to go. Advocacy is about the long game – building the steps for a better future. Within a complex political emergency like the CAR this is even more complicated. However Tearfund, like many other humanitarian organisations, is committed to seeing this nation reach its potential. In particular we are calling on the international community to;

  • Increase political engagement and support: Ensure the crisis remains on the regional and international political agenda by providing sustained support to an inclusive, comprehensive, and accountable peace process that links local-level with national-level dialogue and reconciliation and takes into account CAR’s refugees in neighbouring countries.
  • Increase funding: Announce new commitments to the humanitarian response, channelling resources to underfunded sectors including early recovery, protection, nutrition, education, and shelter/non-food items.
  • Invest in basic state services and development: Commit resources to reinforce and expand state services, and encourage and support the expansion of development activities.
  • Support the UN peacekeeping troops – MINUSCA: Identify troops and police contingents and mobilise necessary material resources, to ensure that MINUSCA reaches – and maintains – a fully operational capacity.

As we come up to one year on since the upsurge of violence many of the displaced people still live in constant  fear of reprisals. Security remains unpredictable as armed robberies continue on a daily basis in and around Bangui. Overall the nation is sitting on a time bomb and the constant threat of a further decline into violence and conflict lingers. Let us ensure that CAR does not slip into the neglected crises list.


The Battle for Water – Access to water pays double dividends in conflict-affected states

Guest blog by Nathanial Mason, a Research Officer in ODI’s Water Policy Programme

This blog has also appeared on Alertnet here – http://bit.ly/11r9AiG


Maper, on the outskirts of Aweil Town in South Sudan, is a host community in South Sudan, under stress from the influx of returnees from Sudan. Women return home after collecting water (2011, Layton Thomas/Tearfund)

‘Who is the government? Who are they? I have never seen them. They have not brought schools or clinics to the village.’

Frustration expressed by a Chef de Village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the lack of government-led development. Instead he turns to NGOs for help. But his questions also challenge NGOs, as well as aid agencies and the governments they aim to support. Immediate needs in a war-torn country like DRC are vast, and urgent.

In the long term these needs – for drinking water, sanitation, healthcare, and education – can only be met by a government that is trusted and able. Similarly the benefits of a water point, latrine or clinic can be undone if the local, root causes of conflict and peoples’ vulnerability aren’t addressed.

So how do you secure the double dividend: meeting immediate needs while making a positive contribution to peace and stability?

At the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) we’ve been working withTearfund, an NGO willing to ask this difficult question. It’s not the first time it has been asked, but good answers are few and far between. The question is also back on the table in a big way, thanks not least to the peacebuilding and statebuilding Goals agreed by some of the most fragile countries.

Funded by Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), we asked the question specifically for water supply and sanitation, drawing on evidence on the ground in South Sudan as well as DRC.

Today is World Water Day – it’s theme is ‘water cooperation’. Our researchfound that water, and water services, can exacerbate tensions in communities: for example in North Kivu, DRC, resentment sprang up between host communities and the army about who contributed to the maintenance of facilities. But through careful negotiation, encouraging the army’s constructive participation, Tearfund’s staff were able to address this.

In and of themselves, water supply and sanitation are no cure-all. Meeting other needs, such as for education and rule of law, provide more obvious routes to supporting peaceful, stable societies.  But there are local windows of opportunity in the way that water supply and sanitation are delivered.

So, as Alertnet has urged, let’s get in the spirit of World Water Day with some ways water (and sanitation!) can help reinforce cooperation within communities, and between society and the state.


A first window of opportunity is in thinking through who is seen to deliver services. NGOs need to brand themselves to be accountable to communities. But where expectations are building for the government to lead service provision, they too need to play a visible role.

We found this in South Sudan, where the people interviewed tended to point to NGOs as their first point of call when things stopped working, rather than local government. In countries like DRC, where the state may be seen as absent at best, and predatory at worst, this is an even tougher dilemma. Still, gradually increasing the visible role for the state can be a goal in many situations.


Potential tensions and trade-offs can arise when NGOs and donors are seen as most visible in delivering services. Aweil Town, South Sudan (2011, Layton Thomas/Tearfund).

A second window we identified is around the scope for collective action and collaboration. In more stable parts of South Sudan, Tearfund has adopted a ‘Church and Community Mobilisation’ approach. The aim is to engage local people and church leaders to lead communities in finding solutions to their own problems. The research suggests this community-driven approach is working.

Again, we’re not talking panaceas here: these approaches take time, which may be of the essence in emergencies. The long term impacts, in terms of better services and stronger community relations, need to be tested further.


A third window of opportunity is to carefully manage the thorny issue of who is included and who is not when services are delivered. People move around in the aftermath of conflict and disasters, and we found the challenge was especially great in areas where displaced people and longer-term residents are living side-by-side.

As one resident in the Apada returnee camp in South Sudan put it, ‘the government has forgotten the returnee communities’. This points to the need to plan as best as possible for different users’ needs, but to remain responsive to the fact these needs change over time.

Many NGOs and relief agencies have good practice principles to minimise negative side-effects of their work. But we also need to consider the potential for positive side-effects, for local cooperation and community relations. Humanitarian organisations are rightly cautious about the messy politics involved – engaging too much with the wrong type of government, or stepping into community conflicts, can lead to loss of legitimacy or be seen as mission creep.

But there will always be a murky space between responding to humanitarian emergencies and longer-term development efforts. Tearfund have attempted to shine a light on this space, and their own practices.

The lesson for ‘water cooperation’? There will always be places where water resources themselves are at the root of conflict and cooperation, but it’s often the human part – the way water, and sanitation, are delivered – which we need to address.


How to follow our blog

Happy New Year!  Enough time off – now back to work.  To mark the start of 2013 we’ve made some changes to Just Policy, so that it’s easier for you to follow the items you’re interested in.

If you’d like to receive all blog posts, then please follow us by email (sign up in the box to the right).

If you’d only like to receive blog posts only on a particular topic(s), then please sign up to the relevant RSS feed on the right.  [See here for a brilliant explanation of what RSS is, and why it’s useful – h/t Owen Barder.]  Our current topics are as follows:

  • Aid
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For the most part, our regular authors are also on twitter.  If you’re interested in following us, our twitter handles are as follows:

1LauraTaylor,  (cross-cutting)

RichardJWeaver, (environment)

sueyardley, (water and sanitation)

GrahamGordon4, (governance and corruption)

TFSamB, (politics)

JKfoodie, (food security)

steffygill, (water and sanitation)

Climatemouse, (environment)

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RosanneWhite23 (politics)

And myself, at 1SarahHulme (food security)

You’ll also find mini profiles of each author to the right (click on the photo squares), which will tell you a bit more about who we are.  At the top of each blog post you will find who posted that blog, and what their speciality is.

We’re trialling this, so please do comment below with any bugs/kinks you find – and of course any other suggestions you’ve got!

Do global partnerships work?

Five years on from the launch of ‘Sanitation and Water for All’ – which is a global partnership to increase the political and financial priority on water, sanitation and hygiene –  and I’ve just been with 100+ other participants from around the world to take a bit of a stock check on progress.

With World Toilet Day today, it acts as a global reminder of the need to focus on the critical but highly neglected issue of water and sanitation and it’s both timely and important to consider whether Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) is the right mechanism to help deliver what its name declares.

Tearfund helped campaign for the creation of SWA as we recognise these issues are low down the political and financial priorities of both donor and national budgets, despite the numerous commitments and platitudes of how essential water and sanitation are for any pathway out of poverty.

The achievements from the second High Level Meeting are impressive and you can find out more from my previous blog and the SWA website.

So how is the partnership doing over all? Below are a few of my reflections

1.    Political aspirations should reign over technocratic objectives – don’t lose sight of the original vision

When we assess progress on anything it’s easy to get a bit over zealous and want to change direction, bring in new objectives etc. While new approaches may be needed, we need to hold true to the original and bold vision and not shrink back to aims that can be easily measured, but lack political aspiration. Measuring the success of the long term change we wish to see can be difficult and slow going, but we must resist the temptation to move away from the vision towards short term, more easily controlled objectives.

2.    Patience

Political change, and the increased investment that needs to follow, takes time but we won’t see large scale investment and a world where everyone has the basic right to clean water and somewhere safe to go to the toilet, without it. Progress can be frustrating, but SWA is doing the right thing in not setting up a global fund and instead trying to get finance ministers in developing countries to recognise the need for increased investment in water and sanitation. Furthermore, any support to help strengthen national plans and policies (to aid confidence for increased investment), will be country-, rather than donor-, driven.

3.    A partnership is the sum of its partners

A partnership will only be as strong and active as its partners are. As civil society we identified clear actions in support of SWA that we committed to but this needs to be reflected across all the partner constituencies. Donor membership, whilst reflective of a large proportion of the main donors on water and sanitation, is still limited and there seems to be hesitancy in committing actions and resources to the partnership. But what donor engagement there is, including by the UK, is encouraging and can be cultivated.

4.    Communication, communication, communication

There is often high turnover of personnel involved – be it from developing country governments, donors, development banks or NGOs, so it’s great that SWA is beginning to increase its own investment in communication. It takes a long time to build understanding, buy-in and to become known outside of the circles of those working on water and sanitation – so investment in this area is crucial.

So, in my view, yes global partnerships do work – but they need commitment and action from its partners and at Tearfund we’ll continue to support SWA to ensure it delivers on its vision.

Why I support Global Handwashing Day

Addise Amado is Water and Sanitation Manager for one of Tearfund’s partner organizations, Kale Heywet Church, Ethiopia. He is currently completing a Master’s degree in water and environment management in the UK before returning home.

In the UK hand-washing is a perfectly normal thing to do. There’s nothing remarkable about seeing someone wash their hands. However, in many rural communities in Ethiopia, like the one I grew up in, washing your hands is not the norm. The normal thing to do, the accepted thing, is to defecate in the open because there isn’t a toilet, and not to wash your hands afterward.

So why the difference between these two countries? I believe that education is a huge part of the answer. Without knowledge, without understanding the impacts on health, habits won’t change.

Teaching someone to wash their hands sounds a simple enough task, but trying to change behaviour patterns or habits is always challenging. The need for hand-washing can be clearly demonstrated – washing your hands with soap and water reduces the risk of diarrhoeal diseases by nearly 40%. But although communities in Ethiopia know first-hand how destructive these diseases can be, they may not realise the connection with hand-washing.

People need to know the critical moments for hand-washing (e.g., after going to the toilet, before handling food, after cleaning babies’ bottoms) and understand why it is important. You need soap and water. When I was a child soap was something that we saved for clothes, it wouldn’t be ‘wasted’ on hands. People also need to dry their hands; wet hands are a perfect breeding ground for germs.

But why should anyone listen to people from outside their village, just because we claim that this is a better way to live? The approach that we use within Kale Heywet Church is to involve the community at every stage.

Community groups are created, they assess current practices and analyse what needs to change. Then they are the ones to work out solutions and implement them. Our role is to support and facilitate this process. And to provide the expertise needed, like with hygiene promotion.

But this process, village by village, takes time, and without follow-up and encouragement people can easily slip back into their old habits, even if they know they shouldn’t. For example, I conducted some research into hand-washing in one village: 60% of inhabitants said that they washed their hands with soap after going to the toilet; observations showed that only 10% of them actually did so.

For me, one of the best things about working in hygiene, sanitation and water is the way the community can get involved. Empowering a community to see the solutions to the problems they face doesn’t have to be finance intensive as they are supported to carry out the analysis, problem-solving and implementation themselves. They can take control of the situation.

Seeing the health benefits that come from improved hygiene is immensely rewarding, but so too is seeing members of a community take on leadership roles in their hygiene, sanitation and water projects.

The situation is improving across Ethiopia. Kale Keywet Church works in 23 districts across four regions of the country. However, greater advocacy and resources are needed if the simple, life-saving message of hand-washing is to reach every person. Global Handwashing Day may not mean much in the UK, but for millions of poor communities around the world it is a day that draws attention to the ongoing need for investment in this critical field.

Mission impossible? How can WASH services contribute to peace and stability?

Conflict and fragility are holding back development efforts and the poorest and most vulnerable people are at the sharp end of the impact.

Despite the current investment of 30% of all international aid into ‘conflict-affected and fragile states’ (CAFS), not one has achieved a single MDG. Development progress and results are being achieved, but not at the scale and pace needed and are hampered by insecurity and weak governance, to name but two.

But there is renewed interest and energy to tackle this. A New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States was launched last year by the G7+, whereby many countries classed as CAFS are seeking to work in partnership to “reform and reinvent a new paradigm for international engagement”. DFID’s practice paper ‘Building Peaceful States and Societies’ outlines the desire to tackle conflict and fragility head on through development efforts, to include peace-building and state-building in a mutually reinforcing manner.

All great stuff, but what does this mean in practice?

I’ve been thinking about the implications for addressing conflict through the delivery of basic services, such as access to clean water and basic sanitation. To what extent and in what ways can peace and state building be improved through increasing access to water and sanitation? To find out Tearfund teamed up with ODI to carry out research in eastern DRC and South Sudan, with the help of DFID funding and advisory input from conflict specialists SaferWorld. The reports will be available at the end of the year, but I shared some initial reflections at Stockholm’s World Water Week recently and do so below:

We need to be realistic but aspirational. The causes of conflict in both countries are complex and contributions from organisations such as Tearfund to the peace efforts will be minimal at a macro level. But opportunities do exist at the local level and these small efforts, across sectors and combined with other non-state actors, are vital for maximising peace building and state building efforts.

But there would be significant implications for the way we work -such as the skill set of our staff, the time frames we work within and the modality of WASH service delivery used – and donors need to be prepared to support this new way of working

Building the state means tackling visibility. In one project area in DRC, for example, Tearfund was seen as the visible service provider, while the government was not regarded as having the capacity or legitimacy to provide services.  Although Tearfund aligns its work with government priorities and helps to build the capacity of local government officials, in efforts not to create parallel systems, communities can still take a very different view. As one respondent shared ‘Who is the government. Who are they? I have never seen them. They have not brought the schools or clinics to the village.’

ImageThis research also touched on another common debate – how to improve the transition between relief and development work and raises the question at what stage is it appropriate to bring in peace and state building elements? However, in reality the relief/development dichotomy is often an unhelpful distinction. It’s rarely about agencies exiting once the relief efforts have been met and new development agencies coming in – we’re often the same agencies. The relief-development relationship is rarely, if ever, linear. It can be cyclical and a bit messy and as NGOs we need to be able to be more flexible and blend and mix approaches appropriately.

Flushing money down the toilet?

So Bill Gates has actually been flushing his money down the toilet – as the BBC reports here! In between addressing malaria, TB and other killer diseases, Mr Gates has been trying to re-invent the toilet – an endeavour that has received a good deal of media coverage recently, with good reasons too.

The current flush toilet doesn’t make a lot of sense –about 10 litres of drinking water are used when flushing a toilet and then the waste has to be filtered out. This is followed by the challenge to then clean up the water again to a quality that can be drunk – or flushed down the loo once more…

The competition stipulated that designs did not require running water and was especially aimed at countries where piped water to that volume is a constant challenge. The entries to the competition were quite something – with the winner being a solar-powered toilet that can generate hydrogen gas and electricity.

Sanitation, or lack of it, is a problem faced by over a third of the world’s population. The statistics about the lack of sanitation in the world are both well rehearsed and shocking – 2.5 billion people lack access to a basic toilet and around 4000 children everyday die as a result of poor sanitation from diarrhoea.

It’s easy to forget the human story behind every statistic but I was strongly reminded on my recent trip to Ethiopia. I met 30 year old Aeylech Tomas who lives in village, Kisho, about 300km south of Addis Ababa. She talked about the fears she experiences everytime she has to go to the toilet – ‘I am always afraid that someone might see me. If the boys or men see us they might attack or rape us. I feel sad; this is not a good life.’

I am pleased to see that in between reporting on the various toilet inventions the The Gates Foundation have highlighted the health impacts of the sanitation crisis and I hope that some positive public awareness comes from this. For people like Aeylech, it is not necessarily a toilet producing hydrogen gas and electricity she needs, but somewhere safe and clean that will provide her with dignity. Let’s hope that out of this competition, positive public awareness is raised and that ultimately, lives like Aeylech’s can be radically transformed.

Guest Post: What They Expect When They Are Expecting

A new rom-com about pregnancy, birth and babies is about to hit our cinema screens: What To Expect When You’re Expecting. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it looks to do well in the chick-flick charts.

The film focuses on the journey of five American couples. The same journey of pregnancy and birth that is followed by millions of women around the world each year. I say ‘same’. Actually, the reality is that what expectant mothers can expect in pregnancy, birth and motherhood differs enormously depending on where in the world they themselves happen to have been born.

My daughter, Lydia, was born almost 18 months ago in a London hospital. During the pregnancy, I remember feeling extremely privileged at the number of routine antenatal appointments and scans I had. In my work with Tearfund, I’d met many women in developing countries who were pregnant or had young children. I knew most of them had experienced no such care.

In our antenatal classes my husband and I were encouraged to write a ‘birth plan’ outlining our wishes for the birth. Looking back, it’s interesting to reflect on what our birth plan did not include. There was no mention of things such as ‘clean water and soap for hand washing’, ‘hygienic and skilled care’ or ‘access to a toilet’. These were basic expectations – ones that giving birth in the UK, we took for granted. Most mothers in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa give birth without skilled care and many are denied the basics of water, sanitation and hygiene, often with tragic consequences. Approximately 99% of all maternal deaths (about 1000 a day) occur in developing countries, and most are preventable. As many as 15% of them are caused by infections in the six weeks after childbirth, mainly due to unhygienic practices and poor infection control during labour and delivery (according to Tearfund’s Joining the Dots report).

Mari with her new baby Lydia in 2010

I won’t go into detail, but Lydia’s birth wasn’t straightforward. The ‘birth plan’ went out of the window and the whole process required a fair bit of medical intervention. After the birth, I was severely dehydrated. But I was placed on a drip and had unlimited access to clean drinking water. Lydia was moved to an incubator on a ‘High Dependency Baby Unit’ with suspected pneumonia. She was put on antibiotics, monitored and cared for in clean and hygienic surroundings. Thankfully, Lydia only stayed on the Unit for 36 hours and we were both out of hospital within a week. 17 months on, Lydia is thriving. Had she been born in a place without such care, it could have been a very different story.

And what about the differences in expectations for childhood around the globe? The statistic that stays in my head the most from my time at Tearfund is this: every day, 4000 children under the age of 5 die because of lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation. 4000 children, children like Lydia, every single day. That is outrageous.

Mari and Lydia happy and healthy in March this year

I want Lydia to grow up in a world where no woman dies due to preventable causes in pregnancy or childbirth and no child dies because they lack clean water or decent sanitation. There are 3 years left for governments to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The Goals related to water and sanitation, maternal health and child health are some of the most off-track. Governments must recognise the links between these Goals, and act with unprecedented financial and political will to achieve them.

Is that too much to expect?

What to Expect When You’re Expecting comes out in UK cinemas next Friday, 23rd May.

Mari Williams worked in Tearfund’s policy and campaigns teams for 7 years. She now spends her time looking after her daughter Lydia and working as a freelance researcher and writer.