East Meets West (EMW), Vietnam Women's Union (VWU) and other stakeholders in water supply, sanitation and public health met at a conference on December 5 to evaluate two years of implementation of the Community Hygiene Output-Based Aid (CHOBA) Programme in 10 provinces.

As many as 74,000 households have benefited from improved sanitation, speakers at the meeting revealed.

Local government partners attending the conference included national, provincial, and district-level representatives from VWU, Vietnam Health Environment Management Agency (VIHEMA), Vietnam Bank for Social Policies, the National Target Programme for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Phase III, Centre for Preventive Health, and staff from international non-governmental organisations.

The programme aims to help disadvantaged households in rural areas gain access to improved sanitation and promoting hygiene behaviour change.

It is currently implemented in 496 communes of 10 provinces: Ninh Binh, Hai Duong, Thanh Hoa, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, Dong Thap, Hoa Binh and Soc Trang.

The programme was designed in line with the goals of the National Target Programme for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Phase III.

Tran Thi Huong, vice president of the Vietnam Women's Union, said: "This project has deep social meaning because it brings practical benefits to the community, helping the poor to improve hygiene. Additionally, it has helped build local capacity in skills such as hygiene promotion, project management, communication, and IT.

She said the project, if successful, would contribute to achieving 10 percent of the targets for the National Target Programme for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Phase III.

Key to the success of the CHOBA programme is its Output-Based Aid (OBA) approach.

OBA is a type of results-based financing well-known for improving the delivery of basic services when users are not able to pay the full cost of access to services and where performance-based rebates to complement or replace user fees are justified.

EMW has successfully pioneered the OBA approach in clean water, sanitation, and education since 2007.

EMW's OBA approach in rural sanitation works rewards independently verified results with cash.

Poor households that purchase latrines and demonstrate usage receive a rebate, and rural communes that reach milestones in sanitation coverage receive a financial award.

Grassroots promoters also receive a cash payment for successfully promoting latrine construction and arrange financing for poor beneficiaries.

"We greatly appreciate the OBA approach. It has demonstrated its impact and effectiveness. Consequently, VIHEMA is collaborating with EMW to expand this model for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Output-Based Aid (WASHOBA) programme, currently being carried out in Binh Dinh, Bac Giang, Thai Nguyen and Ben Tre provinces," said Nguyen Huy Nga, the director of VIHEMA.

At the conference, delegates shared their experience and lessons learned from the programme.

More specifically, delegates discussed the engagement of local authorities, regulations on grassroots democracy, transparency in public financial management, socialisation, effective monitoring and evaluation systems, innovative methodology and dedication of volunteers and programme staff.

Vo Thi Hien, director of EMW's Sanitation Programme, said: "We want to share these valuable lessons in order to strengthen our work to fulfill an objective of the National Target Programme for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Phase III – which is to see that 65 percent rural families, especially poor families, build hygienic latrines."-VNA