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More than one third of the global population needs basic sanitation. About 10 percent do not have clean water. Rotary International, one of largest humanitarian service organizations globally, and USAID, the world’s largest governmental aid agency, are partnering to make an impact.

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Rotary USAID Uganda Aber Mercy bw 2022-03-17

Building monitoring and evaluation skills

One of the main reasons Rotary is partnering with USAID in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is to leverage USAID’s strength in monitoring and evaluation (M&E), which allows the professional development agency to measure progress and use a database of evidence to improve interventions for longer lasting change.

“Inherently, Rotary members want to know if their time and effort have made a lasting impact,” said Jonathan Annis, head of USAID’s Uganda Sanitation for Health Activity (USHA) which is partnering with a consortium of more than two dozen Ugandan clubs in a three-year nation-wide program to establish sustainable WASH services in 44 schools and 18 health facilities in ten districts across the country.

To this effect, in January 2022, USHA organized a major three-day M&E training event for a group of Rotary members representing various clubs but all dedicated to the monitoring and evaluation of newly built, Rotary-funded water sources in schools and health centers. “Access to water supply is not a one-off activity, but a service that needs to last,” said Annis, explaining that monitoring, measuring data on the performance and management of WASH systems and services, and using the information to improve can only lead to better results and impact.

“I had little or no knowledge on M&E,” said Sandra Olweny of the Rotary club of Seguku. “We were taken through how to set and process targets and indicators,” added Aber Mercy (seen in the photo on the left) of the Rotaract Club of Kitgum. The measurement indicators—which the partners agreed on following a consultative process—include standards of WASH services delivery, usage, functionality and operations and maintenance of systems, and governance of water and sanitation committees.

The partners compile and share this data on a digital monitoring tool used by USHA, which allows users to survey, photograph and map water sources and sanitation facilities using their phones. “We downloaded the software on our mobile phones,” said Mercy. Trainees immediately put their new skills to practice by deploying with their digital survey tool to evaluate and map newly constructed water sources funded by Rotary in schools and health centers.

“The data collected was based on both personal observation and interview questions,” explained Mercy, describing her inspection of the boreholes at Kkoba Primary School and Aywee Primary School. She added that the information she collected included borehole functionality, operation and maintenance, estimated number of users, challenges and the status of WASH friendliness in the school (including basic handwashing, basic sanitation and menstruation hygiene management). “In all the visits, I found it easier and faster to collect information using the digital tool, this is a marvel! It has eased the sharing of information.”

The data aggregates into a cloud-based dashboard where it can be analyzed and used by both USHA and Rotary to address ongoing challenges and improve practices and interventions. “We trained the participants on how to analyze the data rapidly, coupled with qualitative notes,” explained Patricia Namakula of USHA’s Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning team. “Any challenges/malfunction can be fixed in real time without waiting for a meeting, etc.” This is possible because the contact information of key stakeholders responsible for a particular water or sanitation system are stored in the dashboard, which is accessible to all involved in the partnership.

“Longitudinal data collection as is being done for the water point surveys provides a historical record that people are drawn to and interested in,” explained Annis. “It’s a conversation starter and prompts many ‘why this’ and ‘why that’ lines of inquiry, which naturally lead to forward looking discussions about areas of improvement and applying lessons learned.”

Some Rotary members are already applying their newly-gained knowledge and skills in M&E to ongoing service projects. “I learnt the need for frequent field visits and community mobilization and, within my club, we have already started using the knowledge we acquired in the M&E training to apply to the school and Health Centre where we intend to do WASH projects and so far, we are on track,” shared Olweny.

Reporting by RI’s Mohamed Keita with contributions from Rotary members Aber Mercy and Sandra Olweny and the facilitation of Rotary member Roselynn Muzaaki

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