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Mapping sanitation facilities in Bangladesh

26 April 2012

Joseph Pearce and Sue Cavill, of SHARE's partner WaterAid, were in Bangladesh in April 2012 to pilot the SHARE-funded Sanitation Mapper - an online tool to map sanitation facilities. Read the blog below about their experiences piloting the low cost and participatory sanitation monitoring tool.

The Sanitation Mapper consists of a data collection sheet, which is then translated into a series of maps. The tool has been designed to provide both area-based mapping (e.g. village level coverage) and point-based mapping (e.g. for instance shared latrines in slums). The pilot will test both scenarios. The tool is intended to provide useful information that will feed into both decision-making and planning at district and sub district levels but also information on access to sanitation that communities and NGOs can use for advocacy and accountability purposes.

When finalised, the tool will be freely available from online sources including this website,  and The project represents a collaboration between two SHARE partners: WaterAid - both in the UK and Bangladesh - and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B).

If you are interested in this research or have any questions or comments about the project, please do feel free to get in touch with Joseph and Sue at and

Day 1: Meeting our partners and training the urban data collectors

Day 2: Collecting data from urban slums

Day 3: Training the data collectors in rural Matlab

Day 4: Rural sanitation mapping - data collection in Matlab

Day 5: Monitoring the urban data collection

Day 6: Debriefing with the urban data collectors

Day 7 to Day 10: A country-wide hartal

Day 11: A break in the hartal for Sanitation Mapper Training

Day 12: Discussions on how the Sanitation Mapper can support decision-making

Day 1: Meeting our partners and training the urban data collectorfemale toilet sign, Bangladesh
Today, Sunday 15th April, our first meeting was with Dr Khairul Islam, WaterAid Bangladesh Country Representative, Aftab Opel, WaterAid Bangladesh Research Manager, and Dr Sirajul Islam, of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh ( ICDDR,B). We discussed our plans to pilot the Sanitation Mapper in both Dhaka and Matlab over the next two weeks together with our hope that the final product would be highly useful for practitioners working with urban and rural sanitation interventions.

The Bangladesh government has recognised sanitation as a key health issue and declared that it would ensure 100 per cent sanitation by 2015. We also saw potential benefit of the mapper for those working in the health sector, for instance by mapping cholera outbreaks in relation to coverage levels of improved sanitation.

In the late morning we began the training for the eight enumerators and one data collection manager selected to perform the urban data collection - all highly experienced and qualified professionals already working in the sector. The training, at WaterAid Bangladesh office, covered introductions; aims and objectives of the Sanitation Mapper pilot; the data collection sheet; GPS device use; and appropriate information sources for populating the data collection format.

In the afternoon we drove to the office of WaterAid's partner organisation Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK) . DSK was formed in 1998 by a group of local doctors that wanted to find better ways of providing community health care to the poor in the slums of Dhaka. With many patients suffering from diarrhoea they realised that improving the health in slums meant setting up better water supply and sanitation first. At the DSK office we collected the detailed information on the location and size of Dhaka's slum settlements we required for the data collection exercise. We trialled the data collection sheets in a slum close to the DSK office called Tekbari, first as a large group, before dividing into teams for the full data collection. In doing so we were able to learn much from each other's interpretations of the questions on the data collection sheet. Several recommendations were made by the data collectors on how we could make the data collection form easier to understand.

Back in the WaterAid Bangladesh office we finalised the data collection sheet to encapsulate our experiences and new understanding from the afternoon.

Day 2: Collecting data from urban slums
To ensure the data collection began smoothly Opel, Sue and Joseph visited the data collection team as they began work in Abuler Bastee, in Ward 15 of Dhaka to discuss any issues and advise on any technical or logistical matters.

The data collection was progressing well and by the time we managed to cross town in Dhaka traffic 45 latrines had already been surveyed. The team had found data collection a faster process than had been anticipated, largely owing to the similarity of sanitation approaches within the community. The reason for this similarity was partially based on the physical environment, where the community had formed around a medium-sized water body – an ideal location for the disposal of excreta – and partially on the slum ownership and management, where a few landlords had constructed over 350 households specifically for small families. The rent, which includes access to shared hanging toilets, was 1,200-1,500 Bangladeshi Taka per month (£9-11) per family.

In the afternoon Sue and Joseph met with Dr Islam at the impressive ICDDR,B centre in Dhaka, and travelled together to Matlab Thana in Chittagong. Most of the journey was travelled by car, until a final crossing of the Matlab River by boat, followed by cycle-rickshaw to the ICDDR,B Health Research Centre in Matlab Bazarre.

By the time of arrival the sun was sinking into the distant Chittagong rice paddies.

The evening was reserved for a meeting to plan the training and site selection for sampling with Dr Islam, Zaci Hossain, our data collection manager, Sue and Joseph.

Day 3: Training the data collectors in rural Matlab
The data collectors arrived for a prompt 8:30am start. With excellent translation services from Dr Islam, Joseph gave the enumerators the background to the Sanitation Mapper research , our aims and objectives for the rural part of the data collection and then facilitated the training session Sue delivered on the data collection sheet. Dr Islam ensured full participation in the debate as the group discussed the pilot version of the rural data collection sheet and its appropriateness to this area of rural Bangladesh.

We all set off on foot to test the modified data collection sheet. For the first Sanitation Mapper data collectors, Bangladeshhousehold the whole group joined in to complete the sheet, resulting in a wealth of interesting questions and ideas for yet more modifications. The greatest challenge we faced was how to categorise the latrines in family compounds that weren't available for everyone to use. For example in the first household we visited one latrine was kept locked and only for use by the adults in one family.

The data collectors split into their male/female pairs and trialled the format in a few households each. Afterwards, the group met to discuss the learning and experiences, and make final revisions to the data collection format: several questions were simplified or else made more specific to the context in the district.

In the afternoon we repeated the exercise to ensure all the data collectors were confident in completing the final version of the form. At the end of the day we all met in the village close to the ICDDR,B Cholera Hospital to discuss the findings and close the data collection training.

Day 4: Rural sanitation mapping - data collection in Matlab
We spent the morning with our team of data collectors in the villages of Matlab to Latrine Adapted for the Elderly, Bangladeshinspect latrines, provide on-hand support in the implementation of the questionnaire, answer any questions that arose and check the completed questionnaires. Of particular interest was a latrine we saw with an adaptation for an older person in the household who had difficultly squatting.

Before returning to Dhaka in the afternoon, we visited the offices at the ICDDR,B cholera hospital to see the shelves of records kept on the health, demographic and social characteristics of the 225,000 inhabitants of Matlab. We met the Rural Sanitation Mapping Data Collectors in Matlab Village, BangladeshData Manager for the Health and Demographic Surveillance system who explained that this database provides the information needed to plan and perform public health intervention research. We then took a speedboat from the ICDDR,B to visit a surveillance site where water quality is regularly monitored remotely to inform a cholera early-warning system.

The sight of patients lying on cholera beds at the hospital served as a stark reminder of the importance of sanitation but we left encouraged by the example of ICDDR,B in using better information to help improve health of people living in Matlab as well as the whole of Bangladesh - also our ambition for the Sanitation Mapper.

Day 5: Monitoring the urban data collection
We drove across the city to Ward 15, where Mehdi, our Urban Data Collection Manager, was providing floating support for the four data collection groups. Today our urban data collectors were tackling the Vashantek settlement – the largest slum area in Ward 15 – with an estimated 2200 households. After sitting in Dhaka's notorious traffic jams, we arrived late morning, by which time 45 latrines had already been surveyed – just another 135 remaining! We discussed progress with Mehdi, collected the completed data collection sheets from the 7 smaller settlements and began our slow journey back across the city to the WaterAid office in Banani.

In the afternoon we met with Opel, WaterAid Bangladesh's Research Manager and invaluable support to the Sanitation Mapper pilot, to discuss the progress of the data collection and other logistical matters. Afterwards we headed back to the guesthouse to begin the long process of encoding the completed data sheets into the Sanitation Mapper software.

Day 6: Debriefing with the urban data collectors
We managed to complete the urban data collection process today. We met the data collectors in the canteen of the CRP (Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed) Hospital - during the data collection exercise the canteen served as a base for the data collectors to conduct briefings and have lunch. Our team of data collectors spent the last 5 days collecting data on all the public and communal latrines in 8 settlements in Ward 15, Dhaka city - 379 latrines serving nearly 30,000 people. Data collecting on sanitation in Dhaka's slums was a difficult job - it was smelly, disgusting and hard work, especially in the exceptionally hot weather. One data collector said: “The places were so dirty that it was hard to breath."

Day 7 to Day 10: A country-wide hartalSanitation Mapping Data Entry Form
For the next 3 days there was a country-wide dawn-to-dusk hartal (or strike) in Bangladesh called by the opposition party (BNP) in protest at the ‘disappearance’ of an official.

The hartal meant we were confined to our guest house. We made the most of these days by encoding the information from the 379 urban data sheets into the sanitation mapping data entry form, formatting the photos taken by the data collectors of each latrine and refining the Sanitation Mapper tool. We kept our fingers crossed that the training on the Mapper could go ahead as planned.

 Day 11: A break in the hartal for Sanitation Mapper Training
Today, Joseph delivered an all-day training session on the Sanitation Mapper for 12 participants Sanitation Mapper Training Workshop, Bangladeshincluding representatives from WaterAid Bangladesh and Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority. After installing Google Earth and a Sanitation Mapper pack onto each participant's laptop, Joseph gave a presentation on the research project and delivered training on the Sanitation Mapper tool using the data set collected in Dhaka.

 Participants were particularly interested to see the range of data displayed in the information bubble on each toilet surveyed - which shows a summary of the data sheet of Sanitation Mapper Tool showing Dhaka, Bangladeshthe Sanitation Mapper.

A group discussion session concluded the training. This enabled the participants to contextualise how the technology could be used to inform their planning and monitoring progress over time and some specific interventions for dealing with improved sanitation. It was agreed the Sanitation Mapper would be very useful for WASH implementing agencies in Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Sue met with Dr Sirajul at his office in the Environmental Microbiology Laboratory of ICDDR,B both to discuss the rural data collection process and to collect the rural data collection sheets from Zaci Hossain - who had made the journey from Matlab to Dhaka by boat because the hartal had closed the roads. Khairul Islam, one of the Enumerators from the rural data collection team, gave a report on his fellow Data Collectors’ experience. This feedback will help us improve the data collection process in the future.

Day 12: Discussions on how the Sanitation Mapper can support decision-making
Today we met to discuss the results of our data collection with the WaterAid Country Representative Dr Khairul Islam, colleagues from WaterAid Bangladesh as well as Dr Sirajul Islam and Zaci Hossain from ICDDR,B.

We talked about how the analyses provided by the Sanitation Mapper can help managers and planners better understand where increased access to sanitation is needed. This information can inform present and future decision making. We also discussed some of the challenges faced by decision makers in using GPS to manage, map and analyse access to sanitation to meaningfully support management decisions.

Over the next month we will be working hard to process all the data we have collected, in order to finalise the Sanitation Mapper, as well as writing a User’s Guide. The tool will then become publicly available here on the SHARE website.



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