Lauren, what is the current situation in Sheohar?
The ‘Clean India Mission’ of the national government has achieved some good results over the past years in the state of Bihar. But there are still major difficulties: the quality of water is poor and public awareness of good hygiene practices are low. The public health system seriously struggles with waterborne diseases and infections. Moreover, Sheohar has an extremely high mortality rate for children under the age of five. This could be prevented by improved access to clean water and sanitary facilities. In fact, things would already improve if the local people were able to wash their hands with soap regularly and correctly.
What are the greatest challenges for this project?
Sheohar is a remote region with a lack of services. The groundwater table here is very high, which raises the risk of flooding. The local water and sanitary facilities must be adapted to the conditions. Aside from the high groundwater table and the corresponding risk of floods, the main problem in Sheohar is that the water is contaminated with bacteria and iron.
What exactly does the Sheohar project involve?
The project, which our partnership with METRO made possible, takes a holistic approach both in its planning and implementation. Fostering community and partnerships with regional and state governments is crucial for lasting change. Our work focuses on the One Drop ‘ABC for Sustainability’ model (editor’s note: Access, Behaviour Change, Capital). We improve access to water and sanitary facilities for private households and public institutions such as schools, day care and health centres. At the same time, we collaborate with microfinance institutions that provide financial support, and we teach farmers to manage their income and livelihoods. We also offer training courses for small and medium-sized sanitation companies. To improve public awareness of good hygiene practices, we apply the SABC method (Social Art for Behaviour Change) developed by One Drop, which uses multidisciplinary shows, film screenings, street theatre and interactive stories as teaching media.