Progress monitoring Healthy Village Ethiopia

Recently, our Data and Monitoring expert Remco Geervliet visited our programme areas in Ethiopia, joining the Ethiopia team and partner organisations in a joint supportive supervision visit.

Monitoring our progress on the 22 key indicators at community-level is crucial for our Healthy Village approach: we want to ensure that our programmes are effective by finding out what works and what doesn’t, to help create as much long-lasting impact as possible.

In Bangladesh, our Healthy Village programme areas saw a 51% decrease in stunting, and we aim for a large decrease of the current stunting rates in our Ethiopian programme areas, currently 30% of children under 2, and 36% of children 6-23 months, as well.

Through the course of multiple days in various communities, our team explored the status of WASH, and Food and Nutrition security, as well as the recently made changes and implementations. They visited many families, businesses, and communities to find out about their aims, successes, and challenges.

One sanitation entrepreneur for instance, had already sold 9 concrete latrine slabs since opening his business a few months prior. Having latrines and proper WASH facilities is a priority for many households in the community. Those who can afford it eagerly try to purchase one, and others are saving for it.

However, the entrepreneur claimed that people’s lack of means to pay is a huge challenge for WASH adoption in the community. In line with his thoughts, we found that 51% of households have unimproved sanitation, and 37% of the people practice open defecation. This is a large problem, as it increases the risk of chronic diarrhea in children – which is currently at 29% of children under 2.

That’s why we were excited to see the proactive nature of schools and health centres in implementing improved WASH. In one primary school, public latrines were installed, which were separated for male and female students and included wheelchair accessibility. Most notably however, was the handwashing station at the front of the lavatories, where soap was also present. This is not yet very common for handwashing stations in our programme areas, and only 6% of have access to handwashing stations with water and soap.

The school is so invested in keeping WASH held to a high standard that Fridays are now called “sanitation days”. On these days, student-run WASH club clean the lavatories together.

General awareness on the importance of WASH and nutrition seemed to be on the rise already. The Max Foundation team joined in on a VESA (Village Economic and Social Association) meeting –  a group of 30 women that was formed late in 2022. Each time they meet, once every fortnight, they save around 40 Birr (€0.70). So far, they have saved 6,870 Birr (€120). The members of the VESA can borrow this money to invest in improved latrines for their families, and pay back over time.

During a life skills meeting, the women were given vegetable seeds and poultry as a one-off, and now the women say they are encouraged to use this to supplement their income and buy more seeds the following year. VESA members have also started learning about child feeding practices and have participated in cooking demonstrations to improve their child’s nutrition, as well as their own.

We hope that this will encourage more vegetable garden usage, which can help in decreasing the food insecurity rate of 17%.

The Health Centers already have small gardens planted outside, to grow vegetables to use in cooking demonstrations for the community. They also provide various counselling sessions for malnourished children, as well as ante- and post-natal care for new mothers. This is extremely important only 4% of women of reproductive age (15-49) reach minimum dietary diversity, and only 2% of children 6-23 months old reach the same.

We’re also eager to see the results from the newly built water reserves. At one that Remco visited, 2 springs are connected to one storage point, which flows to 4 water points with 4 taps for each point. Ideally, this will be able to service between 200-300 households!

We hope that with services like these, we will be able to raise the rate of households with access to improved water, which is currently only 54%.

Overall, the team’s visit to the programme areas and the progress already being made around the baseline data make us hopeful for improvement, especially after seeing the engagement of the communities and the businesses. We look forward to creating midline and endline numbers, and continuing to let data inform and shape our programmes and solutions keeping our motivations on data driven solutions.