MCD Inc.


October 4, 2017

Meet MCDI's Experts: Rija Fanomeza, WASH

Rija Fanomeza, in green (center), speaking at a field visit during a 2016 GSF Learning Event held in Madagascar

MCDI's work globally is possible only thanks to our numerous experts in various fields of public health. In Madagascar, Rija Fanomeza is the Chief of Party for MCDI's role in the Global Sanitation Fund's Fonds d'Appui pour l'Assainissement (FAA) project, which aims to eliminate open defecation nationwide though increasing the number of people living in open defecation free (ODF) environments through the use of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), an approach which centers the communities as the leaders of their movement towards ODF. We spoke with Fanomeza to discuss his interest in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and his work with MCDI.

Tell us briefly about the evolution of your personal interest in WASH.

I started working in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in 1998 with a USAID project focused on increasing infant survival rates in Madagascar. That experience led to two more USAID-funded WASH projects, SanteNet I and the Toliara Child Survival Project. My work in both of these focused on hygiene promotion, specifically the promotion of handwashing with soap and water treatment products. These community level activities aimed to reduce diarrheal diseases among children under 5, thus reducing infant mortality. During these projects, I witnessed firsthand the positive impacts that hygiene promotion can have on infant survival, when coupled with the promotion of Exclusive Breastfeeding, Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses, and complimentary nutritional supplements (Vitamin A, de-worming medications, etc.).

I then became more involved in all parts of the WASH sector through a project with the African Development Bank, which built water towers, latrines, and water fountains across Madagascar. Supporting that project team through community outreach and education, I was able to join forces with another USAID-funded project geared toward the promotion of family planning and work with both projects to meet common goals and address common challenges.

Since 2010, I have been working with MCDI on the Global Sanitation Fund's project in Madagascar. Through this project, we hope to eliminate open defecation and to improve access to hygiene infrastructures. Components of this project include: handwashing, personal hygiene, household hygiene, and menstrual hygiene for women and girls.

Tell us briefly about your work with MCDI in WASH.

As the Country Director for Madagascar with MCDI, I work in a coordinating role, making sure that Implementation Agencies (agencies who directly receive GSF funding) are on task and correctly managing their various projects in their respective zones.

Where is this project located, and how many people are you benefitting?

The Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) project is in 22 regions of Madagascar, working with 27 Implementing Agency partners and more than 100,000 community members (community leaders, local technicians, etc.). The goal is to reach 12 million people, or roughly half of the population of Madagascar.

What are your major personal and professional satisfactions in working with MCDI?

Despite the major challenges of organization, coordination, and Madagascar's truly diverse geography that we face as we implement this project, the past 7 years have generated many personally and professionally satisfying moments. The majority of these moments have centered around communities who have come together and shown solidarity in the face of adversity, standing together to create a more hygienic space for themselves and their children.

I have also been inspired by the incredible increases in capacity that I have witnessed on my own team. In 7 years, we have created an effective movement to mobilize communities and have a lot about the best practices of doing so. We have also gotten the chance to work with and to teach other GSF grantees in Benin, Togo, Niger, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Kenya. This international experience has truly enriched my team and myself.

Do you have any "lessons learned" from your experience which might be helpful to the global community to design and implement WASH/CLTS?

My team and I have learned many things along the way as we have implemented this project. Here are a few of the most important to me:

1. Respect the principle of "community-centered development". Keeping away from "top-down" approaches is the only way to guarantee success.

2. Avoid "infantilizing" the community. Favor approaches in which the community takes responsibility, because 99% of problems can be resolved using solutions that come from the community.

3. Include everyone in the movement as much as possible. Creating a movement of many is more effective than acting alone. "Let's do it together!"

4. Focus on behavior change. Open Defecation Free villages come about by profoundly changing people's behaviors, not just by the introduction of infrastructure.

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