WASH knowledge management strategy in disaster risk management

2015 earthquake Kathmandu. Source: Wikimedia

In disaster risk management, preparedness action is also important. The probability of harmful consequences or expected losses (deaths, injuries, property, livelihoods, economic activity disrupted or environment damaged) can be mitigated through implementing a simple knowledge management (KM) framework.

The 2018 report of World Health Organisation (WHO) accounted that globally, 829,000 people die each year due to diarrhoea, which is most likely a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation, and hand hygiene. To mitigate the risk of disease, a global initiative has begun, particularly, in the area of WASH (that stands for water, sanitation, and hygiene).

One such approach can be to integrate WASH-related strategies in activities carried out for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The sixth goal of the SDGs provides a new context for the WASH sector. The ultimate target of the goal is to increase the life expectancy of the people around the world, particularly for the children of the developing countries. It is expected that a reduction in WASH-related disease will increase the life of both urban and rural habitats in the world.

The WHO has developed six WASH strategies to minimise WASH-related risks. This includes universal access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for all, improved water quality, the efficiency of water use, integrated water resource management, and protection as well as restoration of the ecosystem as the key strategies to achieve the goal.

However, these strategies are related to dissemination of the information and enhancement of knowledge on WASH among the general public. They focus on standards and regulations at a national level, particularly for drinking-water safety, effective surveillance approaches, recreational water quality, sanitation safety, safe wastewater use, WASH in health and educational facilities, and WASH monitoring to enhance the knowledge and awareness of WASH among the general public.

But, knowledge management tools can be applicable measures for increasing efficiency in both advocacy and capacity-building process of the general public, thus encouraging a reduction in the WASH-related risks.

Based on the strategies of the WHO, we can discuss WASH knowledge management, in urban and rural contexts, to minimise the risks. The following possible activities can be effective to advocate as well as make people aware of the WASH in urban Nepal.

The framework of WASH KM strategy can be presented as:

  1. WASH KM programme: The WASH programme provides expected framework and makes viable recommendations on operational strategies in the areas of knowledge management, participatory communication, social mobilisation, and behaviours to strengthen the WASH status in different communities. It further outlines the necessary budget, capacity-building communication materials and media campaign to reach the target audience.
  2. Coordination and collaboration: It develops partnerships, coordination and collaboration with communities, governments, civil societies, private sectors, academia and media as a means of developing, reviewing and promoting the evidence-based knowledge management and communications strategies and plans to provide technical support as required. It promotes knowledge exchange and diffusion of good WASH practices among partners in the WASH sectors. It also promotes collaboration among government officials, community leaders, the UN, private sectors, academia, media and bilateral agencies and NGOs in the organisation of activities, operational research, advocacy, and exchange of information, and ideational support to enhance knowledge management and dissemination strategies.
  3. WASH knowledge products: The WASH knowledge products organise and manage the formative research, development, pre-tests, and production of culturally relevant and evidence-based WASH knowledge for its end-users from proper channels.
  4. WASH support system: It includes developing training materials and activities to build capacity in knowledge management and dissemination strategy. The people involved in planning, implementation and evaluation phases of the programme knowledge management and communication intervention, in support of programme sustainability can become its capacity.
  5. WASH communication materials: The WASH knowledge management system needs to develop communication materials. The communication materials ensure effective and efficient programme delivery, including facilitating behaviour changes, wherever necessary.
  6. WASH alert system: The WASH alert system provides different information that needs to be addressed immediately. For instance, they alert the people who are facing the problems of drinking water in emergency situations like floods, earthquakes, and other types of natural disasters. The alert system captures the information provided by the users from any region and then automatically alerts the respective body or personnel.
  7. WASH social media campaign: The WASH social media campaign is used to provide necessary information through different social media platforms. Be it through short video clips regarding hand wash, or sanitisation etc., the platforms make the general people aware and help avoid the diseases that can arise from the lack of WASH practices.
  8. Monitoring and evaluation system: This system analyses and evaluates data to ensure compliance and achievement of objectives and recommend corrective actions, wherever necessary, to meet programme objectives. Monitoring and evaluation reports should be prepared in accordance with the established guidelines, methodologies and procedures.

This system evaluates the WASH programme and provides necessary feedback and suggestions to the government agencies and development partners.

The framework of WASH knowledge management strategy helps address the issues including drinking water access, quality and safety, sanitation and wastewater management. It also focuses on the WASH in healthcare facilities, investments in the WASH sector, integration of the WASH programme into other programmes of the government, and emerging issues of the sector. Thereafter, through awareness of WASH, the government can make the general public aware, through the knowledge management products and communication materials to increase lifespan people.

The WASH knowledge management strategies demand technical assistance to the programme and particularly focuses on systematically-generated evidence from the field. The evidence then converts findings into advocacy, approaches, and tools to change the behaviours of all communities and WASH-service providers as well as policymakers.

Paudel is a knowledge management expert.

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Paudel is a knowledge management expert.

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