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SEI working paper

Sanitation and Hygiene: Policy, Stated Beliefs and Actual Practice: A Case Study in the Burera District, Rwanda

This case study compares policy and practice on sanitation and hygiene in Rwanda, where these issues are government priorities, and a range of guidelines and standards are prescribed for toilet technologies.

Marianne Kjellén, Stacey Noel, Madeleine Fogde, Nelson Ekane / Published on 21 December 2012

Ekane, N., M. Kjellén, S. Noel, M. Fogde (2012). Sanitation and Hygiene: Policy, Stated Beliefs and Actual Practice: A Case Study in the Burera District, Rwanda. SEI Working Paper 2012-07.

The paper looks specifically at the guidelines and standards for urine diversion dry toilets (UDDTs), as well as those on the use of treated human excreta as fertilizer, and on pit latrines (“drop and store”). It then describes how these guidelines and standards are enforced at the community level – specifically in the Rugarama sector, Burera District, one of four Rwandan districts where the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is carrying out a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme.

The paper presents the prevailing sanitation and hygiene norms and practices and, using qualitative research methods, evaluates how and why they differ from the prescribed guidelines and standards. In fact, the study shows, health, hygiene, convenience, and safety aspects of sanitation in the study area remain unsatisfactory.

Most of the toilets in these communities are neither properly constructed nor properly used. Reasons for the contradictions between prevailing practice and national guidelines and standards include the following: people do not place a high priority on toilets; financial constraints limit household investment in toilets; there is a lack of proper understanding of prescribed sanitation and hygiene guidelines and standards; and there are challenges in carrying out sanitary inspections.

For the productive sanitation system in particular, poor understanding of how the system works was identified as the main cause of the mismatch between standards and practice. This study posits that a common understanding of prescribed guidelines and standards at all levels of society is vital to ensure health and safety, improved livelihoods, and to maintain minimum hygiene and sanitation standards.

Furthermore, improved understanding of the importance of having properly constructed and well maintained sanitation and hygiene facilities will, undoubtedly, create a demand for such facilities irrespective of the economic hindrances reported by most community members.

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SEI authors

Madeleine Fogde
Madeleine Fogde

Senior Project Manager

SEI Headquarters

Nelson Ekane
Nelson Ekane

Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

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