Capalonga, Camarines Norte is one of the ten municipalities where the integrated safe water, sanitation and hygiene (iWASH) approach had been pioneered in 2015 It is one of the target municipalities within the ongoing GoAL WaSH programme.. Capalonga, with PhP 41.7 million (US$ 817,647) average income, is considered an underprivileged municipality in the Philippines. It has a very limited budget for the development and provision of social services; making access to safe water and open defecation a greater challenge.

Before the implementation of the iWaSH approach, environmental scanning and scoping assessments were completed to gather baseline data. From the assessment result of the 355 households surveyed in Capalonga, 128 households confirmed that their source of drinking water is a developed spring, 92 buy from water peddlers, 40 get their water from deep wells, while 37 from shallow wells. Based on the water tests conducted by the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Capalonga, these water sources not safe to drink due to the presence of e-coli. In terms of sanitation, only 76% have toilets; the remaining 24% either share toilets with the neighbor or practice open defecation.

From these data, it can be deduced that the problems in Capalonga that need to be addressed are its water sources, mostly Level I, which are prone to contamination caused by open defecation. Prior to the programme, the LGU has already initiated to increase households’ toilet facilities by distributing free toilet bowls to its constituents. However, not all beneficiaries built their toilet facilities; some of them used the toilet bowls as pots for plants or as chicken eggs storage. The LGU’s initiative on promoting toilet construction and sanitation marketing was not complemented with advocacy towards behavior change and practice of proper sanitation.

According to Dr. Carolina Madera, Capalonga Municipal Health Officer, “The main issue lies on the fact that people don’t understand what the problem is and why is there a need to construct sanitation facilities. As long as they don’t understand the problem, they consider open defecation as normal.”

The iWaSH approach

“With iWaSH, we work hand in hand in addressing the problems on sanitation and water. Addressing the issues on water means addressing the issues on sanitation, too. There is water, but how sure are we that it is safe, that it is potable to drink? There are supplies for sanitation but if there is no water, how could we sustain the cleanliness? That’s where iWaSH comes in,” said Dr. Madera.

The iWaSH approach is a complete package of interventions consisting of social preparation, community organizing, construction of water supply, sanitation and hygiene facilities, behavioral campaigns, water safety, and governance of water, sanitation and hygiene. It ensures joint implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene; and recognizes that sanitation and hygiene programmes will not be sustainable without safe water, and vice versa.

In 2015, the idea of implementing an integrated approach to safe water, sanitation and hygiene started to materialize through the Joint Programme on Promoting Water, Sanitation Access, Integrity, Empowerment, Rights and Resiliency (PROWATER) and is now being continued through the iWaSH Governance Programme, an initiative that is led by DILG and UNDP and is supported by the Stockholm International Water Institute and the GoAL WaSH Programme. Issues of water scarcity, open defecation, and fragmentation within the implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene projects were addressed through capacity building activities, community organizing, and construction of water infrastructure and sanitation and hygiene facilities, among others.

The interventions

The interventions of the iWaSH approach have been widely adopted in every beneficiary community because of the changes it brought. Some of these interventions include capacity building activities for municipal and community officials, conducted by the Regional Water and Sanitation Hubs (RHub). The RHub, composed of partner state universities, water districts, non-government organizations and civil society organizations, are organized to assist in mainstreaming iWaSH in their local plans and budgets. They are also tasked to support the government, specifically the WASH programmes of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), in preparing the waterless communities (or those with no access to safe water) to develop local projects on establishing, improving and expanding water and sanitation systems and facilities.

Local government officials are grateful of the support of the RHubs in terms of planning, coaching and mentoring, as well as in organizing water and sanitation associations of the communities where water supply facilities will be constructed. Through the guidance of the RHub, WASH targets were prioritized during the development of the iWaSH Sector Plan, a comprehensive document reflecting the targets and goals of the municipality in terms of increasing access to WASH facilities, capacitating the local stakeholders in the planning, implementation, decision-making, community organizing, policy formulation, financing, and monitoring and evaluation.

“Because of the RHubs, we learned to accept what’s missing. What are our shortcomings with the communities? We realized there are still plenty of things to do such as the augmentation of the allotted budget for water and sanitation. We thought the allotted budget is already enough, but then we realized it was not. Also, how could we sustain the efforts if there will be a change in municipal and local leadership? The RHub has provided us with support in all those aspects, especially on proper education and information dissemination with the communities” said Dr. Madera.

Another intervention is the provision of safe water infrastructure through the partnership with DILG’s programme Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig para sa Lahat (SalinTUBIG) to address water scarcity. The communities, together with the RHubs, conducted water testing to all its water sources. They found out that all water sources of Capalonga are positive with e-coli. The communities were also taught about water chlorination and other water treatment solutions such as boiling of water before drinking.

The programme also mobilized the communities to completely end open defecation through Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). The Barangay Tanawan of Capalonga, where a certain percentage of the population belongs to the indigenous peoples of Kabihug Tribe, is now a candidate for Zero Open Defecation (ZOD). Prior to the programme implementation, only 40% of the population had toilets. The Barangay Captain and the Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council) also built a communal toilet for the Kabihug Tribe to address the sanitation challenges of the barangay.

According to Dr. Madera, “when we started the CLTS, we have stirred the curiosity and interest of the barangays. Before the programme, the LGU had already initiated on the distribution of toilet bowls but the constituents were not availing it because they have a counterpart to do such as purchase of steel bars and other materials and labor cost. It was really a challenge to educate the barangays, to let them understand that open defecation is a problem that needs to be addressed.”

To promote and adapt behavior change at the community level, one of the strategies employed is to engage a member of the Kabihug Tribe to become one of the Barangay Health Workers (BHW). The role of this special tribe member is to echo the importance of having safe water, improved sanitation facilities, and proper hygiene to his/her fellow Kabihugs. This approach has been a triumph.

“One of the major results of the programme, and we are very thankful about it, is the improvement of the lives of our people. We now have toilets. Although the water supply is still a challenge, our constituents no longer defecate in the open. The implementers of the iWaSH have opened our minds and let us understand the importance of having sanitation facilities in maintaining healthy lives and clean surroundings,” said Ramil Raviz, Barangay Captain of Tanawan.

Addressing sustainability

The previous joint programme established social institutions for water and sanitation that facilitated community organization and ownership, and provided an effective guarantee for the sustainability of the project especially with the increasing number of local women participating and leading these institutions. These social institutions include local water and sanitation teams, barangay water and sanitation associations, integrity monitors, water and sanitation councils, and regional hubs.

It is also important to note that strengthening the regional hubs to build capacity among communities and civil society organizations is another factor in ensuring the sustainability of the programme. At the community level, the assistance of the hubs in crafting policies and ordinances on iWaSH has also ensured the continuity of the initiatives despite possible changes in leadership. Moreover, to sustain the hubs, a business model in collaboration with private partners will be developed to guarantee financial soundness, good management, and competent human resources.

Target (5-10 years period)Investment Requirements
LGUWASH Existing Condition (Access)WASH Supply/Sanitation HygieneWater Supply (Php)Sanitation and Hygiene (Php)Capacity Development (Php)
Capalonga, Camarines Norte42%
(US$ 1.47M)
(US$ 234,200)
(US$ 80,000)

In Capalonga, the LGU has a strong mandate to increase the coverage on sanitation access. Hence, procurement and distribution of toilet bowls to the households were a priority and were allocated with a huge amount of investment. Although this facilitates in increasing household access in sanitation, this does not guarantee that those given sanitation facilities actually utilized them.

The contribution of the programme is the introduction of behavioral change campaigns such as the CLTS and GDHH (Goodbye Dumi, Hello Healthy) campaign to ensure that communities understand the benefits of proper sanitation and hygiene, and the risks posed by the lack of it. In addition, sanitation marketing was also introduced as an alternative to expensive (construction of) sanitation systems that will be more suitable for rural areas. In return, this facilitated in maximizing the LGU’s existing budget for sanitation infrastructure.

The LGU through the programme continues with the monitoring and construction monitoring of its iWaSH facility (expansion of the water system to Level III) in six barangays that will benefit a total of 13,382 individuals. The LGU has also committed to increase their WASH access to 85% (sanitation & hygiene) and 90% (for water) in 10 years based on the developed iWaSH sector plans that were also facilitated under the programme.

The iWaSH approach will be used as the overarching guide in implementing the GoAL WaSH programme in the Philippines. The framework will guide UNDP in mapping out how coordination can be improved at the national, regional, and local levels in implementing basic WASH in an integrated manner. It will also guide key players at the regional and local levels to increase the number of households, schools, and health centers with access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene; and to increase the number of women, girls and children, as well as those with disabilities and living in difficult and rural areas, to have access to safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The framework will also aid in developing and improving policies and instruments for iWaSH governance. At the local level, the programme will maximize the expertise of the RHubs in delivering the needed capacity building products and services related to iWaSH Governance.