Access to Safe Water and Sanitation in Bangladesh

Adolescent Girls Group
Adolescent Girls Group

Quick Background

Since June 2010, CARE Bangladesh has been implementing a Water and Sanitation project for the urban poor in Dhaka, improving water, sanitation and hygiene services for 1,000 households of the Kalshi Slum in the Mirpur area of Dhaka.

With little access to affordable and safe drinking water or sanitation facilities, most of the population had used unhygienic hanging latrines or openly defecated, polluting the whole environment. In this situation, severe health concerns are prevalent: diarrheal diseases and other water-borne diseases are very high; infant and child mortality is a constant threat; and pregnant mothers face the very real risk of maternal mortality, suffering from diarrheal diseases during pregnancy.

September-December 2011 - Latest Achievements 

Installation of Water Points and Sanitary Latrines: Construction work has neared completion, as two water points and six communal latrines in the Kalshi Balur Math and Kurmitola Relief Camp slums have been developed. A latrine and drain construction remains to be completed. 

In step with the construction, all formalities to establish a legal water connection from the local water municipality  have been completed. People are now using legal water from these sources.

Women in particular have expressed their gratitude. The time and physical hardship in collecting water from distant resources have both decreased significantly. Women can give more time to their families. And importantly, because the communal latrines are in place, open defecation has gone down; the community is living with dignity.  

Construction of Drains: Previously in the slum, dirty household and rain water would collect because drains were non-existant. Four main drains - about 315 meters long - have been completed, thus improving the entire drainage system. 

Hygiene Promotion Sessions: CARE has conducted intensive hygiene promotional sessions, focusing on handwashing and using soap. During this quarter, women, adolescent girls, and children attended specialized sessions, often attending in the courtyard of group households, at home, or at schools. To date, CARE has organized 180 one-on-one and group sessions on proper and safe hygiene, reaching 1,600 participants.

Skill Development Training for Adolescent Girls on Health and Hygiene: During this quarter, CARE conducted one skill development training for adolescent girls, with 33 participants ages 11-16 attending. Using a highly participatory methodology, the goal of the training was to inform girls about health and hygiene issues, and develop their capacity to problem-solve issues related to their peer group. Specific objectives included: 1) Participants know about personal hygiene and menstrual hygiene; 2) Participants know the importance of hand-washing and can incorporate it into their daily lives; 3) Participants can identify problems and determine how to solve them; 4) Participants know the  necessity of an Adolescent Girls group and how these groups can function to achieve common goals.

The girls enjoyed the training a great deal. They were very spontaneous and actively participated. Moreover, they fully understood the importance of hygiene promotion and their role to disseminate that importance to other peers and community members.

Leadership Training for Potential Women Leaders of the Community: Over two days in December, CARE conducted one leadership training for 27 women. The main objective of the training was to develop the leadership skills of key community women, so that they can lead the hygiene promotional work at the community level. A secondary, but vital, objective of this training was to provide some introductory skills on negotiation, coordination and womens' rights to facilitate the women's growing roles as leaders in their community. 

The main issues discussed in the training were: 

  1. Health and Hygiene and women’s role of hygiene promotion at the community level
  2. Women’s rights and the role of women leaders
  3. Negotiation skills
  4. Leadership and what constitutes women's leadership
  5. Participation and how to increase women’s participation in development work
  6. The role of women in organizations, especially Community-Based Organizations
  7. What is women's empowerment? What does it mean to empower a woman?
  8. What are causes of violence against women, and can we reduce it?

Maintenance Group Training: For each infrastructure constructed as part of this project, two community members have been selected to lead maintenance. Thus, 16 people are charged with looking after the community latrines and water points. In this quarter, CARE conducted one refresher training for the Maintenance Group, to impart practical techniques on repair and maintaining the infrastructure. Participants learned the importance of maintenance, how to take effective action against identified problems, how to collect funds from community members and pay the water bills, and how to best communicate with and get support from the government agencies in charge of water access in the area.

Improve the Garbage Management System of the Slums: To improve the garbage management system of the slum, two vans were provided to two CBOs. A Local Ward counselor, Mr. Abur Rauf Nanu, handed over the vans to CBO secretary Mr. Zoynal. The CBOs will be maintain these vans and collect household daily garbage from each house and drop those to an official dumping point. They will collect a fixed amount of money from each household to pay the garbage van collector.

ABC News Sharing Workshop: In late December, CARE hosted a sharing workshop for a number of stakeholders, including: ward officials, CBO and NGO representatives, city officials, and representatives from the Dhaka water association. A very productive conversation ensued, as many spoke about the achievements reached through this project.

Abu Sayed, Secretary of DCC Ward # 5, said: "I have been working with many organizations, but they don’t provide integrated packages like hardware and software. We are glad to know that with the help of the ABC News fund, CARE Bangladesh has provided latrines, water points, a van for waste management, drains and hygiene behavior messages. All will be very helpful for the community people. When we conduct the ward sanitation taskforce meeting, we promised to continue the services."

Conclusion: The support of those associated with this fund has enabled CARE to implement a comprehensive water and sanitation initiative for poor people living in two slums of Dhaka. Without such generous support, it would not be possible to meet all of the needs around infrastructure and personal hygiene awareness in this area.

New Latrine and Water Point
New Latrine and Water Point
Adolescent Girls Training
Adolescent Girls Training

CARE Bangladesh is implementing a project for the urban poor to improve water and sanitation services in Dhaka. This project directly improves access to better sanitation, improved hygiene awareness, and safe water services on a sustainable basis for 1,000 households in the Kalshi Balur Math and Kurmitola Relief Camp slums of Mirpur.

Background: In December 2010, CARE hosted a crew from ABC News, filming a series of segments for its “Be the Change, Save a Life” program. ABC News interviewed a female community participant named Parvin, a 35-year-old woman who lost her 3-year-old son due to diarrhea. The story on Parvin aired on ABC News on December 17, 2010, and as a result funds were raised to support Parvin’s slum community, providing long-term solutions for clean water and sanitation.   


Up to August 15, 2011, CARE Bangladesh has completed the following activities.

Hygiene Promotion Sessions:

In the two slums of Mirpur where CARE is focused, CARE is changing the hygiene behavior of targeted slum dwellers, providing intensive hygiene promotional sessions for women, adolescent girls, and children. To date, CARE has organized 55 hygiene promotion sessions, involving 1,135 participants. 

The main objective of these sessions is increase awareness on the importance of personal hygiene, especially hand washing with soap. Different methods were used to disseminate the information – using flip charts, flash cards and playing games with the children. These sessions were conducted at the courtyard of the households, at their homes and sometimes in schoolrooms. 

Note: Some hygiene promotion sessions were also conducted one-on-one, especially if male participants were involved. 

Health and Hygiene Education Training for Adolescent Girls:

A daylong training session for adolescent girls was organized on May 4, 2011 at the Caritas training venue – 43 girls ranging from 11-16 participated. With this session, CARE aimed for the girls to self-identify the health/hygiene issues of importance to them, and form adolescent groups within their communities to proactively solve problems.

CARE Bangladesh provided the following during the training, which was delivered in a participatory way: 

  • Information on personal hygiene and menstrual hygiene;
  • The importance of hand washing, and techniques of hand washing;
  • How adolescent girls can self-identify issues and subsequently address them;
  • How to form Adolescent Girls Groups, and how they can function.
  • How adolescent girls can play a larger role in their communities on health promotion.

Problems that the girls identified included:

  • No separate toilet or bathing places in the community;
  • No sufficient water for bathing;
  • No safe water for drinking;
  • No health service facilities specific for adolescent girls;
  • No income opportunities;
  • No education opportunities;
  • Prevalent sexual harassment;

During the evaluation phase of the session, the girls stated they enjoyed the training immensely. During the sessions they were spontaneous and active participants. They demonstrated that they understood the importance of good hygiene promotion, and were willing to use their voices to disseminate to others what they had learned. 

Child Sessions on Hand Washing:

CARE organized child gatherings in two slums on May 24, 2011; almost 600 children attended. The major objective was to increase awareness among the children on personal hygiene, and orient them on how and when they should wash their hands. The children were enthusiastic participants, and developed a wall mural on which they wrote poems, stories, and created messages on water and sanitation.

Installation of Water Points and Sanitary Latrines:

The construction work planned under this project is in full swing – already, CARE Bangladesh has completed six of the planned eight units of planned. Four community latrines, two water points and two drains have been constructed. One water point and one drain are not yet completed.

Along with the construction work, the processes for confirming a legal water connection have been completed. CARE anticipates the water connection will be ensured legally from Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) very soon. Additionally, CARE has developed coordination between Community Based Organizations and DWASA, so that the CBOs can easily get access for support beyond CARE’s direct involvement.

Infrastructure Maintenance Group Training:

For each infrastructure, two community representatives have been selected for maintenance. Therefore, 12 people are in the maintenance group, to look after the community latrines and water points. Two meetings and a training session were held to form the user maintenance groups.

The major objectives of the training were:

  • Training participants will understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the importance of maintenance of the new infrastructure;
  • Training participants understand the bill payment system for connection to the Dhaka water system and can collect funds to maintain the system;
  • Training participants are trained in the techniques and methods of maintenance of the infrastructure (e.g. desludging, tube well repair, etc.);
  • Training participants will be able to take effective action to solve identified problems.

Participants gave their commitment that they will keep the infrastructures in hygienic condition and perform maintenance when necessary to sustain the water points and latrines. This group will be provided refresher training in next month.

Challenges and Lessons Learned:

  1. Due to heavy rainfall, water logging and flooding occurred in the slums, worsening the water and sanitation situation.
  2. As it relates to this project, the heavy rainfall delayed some construction work, and some of the hygiene promotion sessions.
  3. Adolescent girls in particular are affected by poor water/sanitation systems. Clean water is scarce and maintaining personal hygiene is very difficult.
  4. Managing the legal intricacies of the Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) is very difficult.  Although there is a Low Income Community (LIC) Unit at DWASA, the process is too lengthy to reach the target within a short timeline.
Adolescent Girls Training - 2
Adolescent Girls Training - 2
Children's Training Session
Children's Hygiene Awareness Session

Project Overview

The Water and Sanitation initiative aims to directly improve access to improved sanitation, better hygiene and safe water services on a sustainable basis for 1000 households (5,000 marginalized slum dwellers) of Kalshi Balur Math and Kurmitola Relief Camp slum of the Mirpur area of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The overarching goal contributes towards achieving Millennium Development Goals #1 and #7, by reducing poverty in the peri-urban setting of Dhaka and by halving the proportion of Bangladeshis without access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation.

This project emphasizes installation of water points and hygienic latrines, as well as hygiene awareness sessions.


Recent Project Activities and Results 

Installation of water points and sanitary latrines: Infrastructure construction has begun, with a thorough cleaning effort at the point of construction, and removal of unhygiencic latrines. While construction is underway, the water connection will be ensured legally from teh Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA). The construction work is being managed and implemented by the community, through the formation of a Community-Based Organization (CBO). The CBO is now in full command of the construction efforts, and an agreement has been signed between CARE Bangladesh and the CBO.

Video documentation: CARE Bangladesh has filmed a video to give a sense of "before" and "after" efforts in the community.

CBO Capacity Building: CARE has worked with the CBOs to outline WASH objectives and ensure sustainable management of water sanitation facilities. (All water and sanitation services provided to participation will be ensured by the CBOs. Four trainings have been conducted for CBOs, with 130 participants participating.


Successes and Challenges

 Key Results:

  • Hygiene sessions have been conducted for different groups (children, adolescents, etc.) successfully.
  • Adolescent girls are more open to share their problems, not only related to water/sanitation, but also the social problems they face on a daily basis.
  • 108 children now know about handwashing and its importance.

Lessons Learned: 

  • The adolescent girls have a platform through the hygiene promotion activities where they can share their problems, get solutions and express their goals. They are motivated and involved, and have taken ownership of their group.
  • Community people are aware about the importance of safe drinking water and sanitary latrines; however, the lack of physical facilities has hampered a full-scale change in behavior.


Next Steps

  • Construction of 2 water points, 4 community latrines and 2 main drains will be completed.
  • The legal contract with the DHAKA WASA will be completed. 
  • Hygiene promotion sessions with rest of the community people will be completed.
  • CARE Bangladesh will share with other relevant stakeholders the significance of support from ABC News and its viewers.
  • A documentary on the slums will be completed.
Bangladeshi Girls Attending Learning Session
Bangladeshi Girls Attending Learning Session

CARE Bangladesh is implementing a Water and Sanitation project for the urban poor as part of a larger program in to improve water and sanitation services in Mirpur, an area of Dhaka. This program directly improves access to sanitation, better hygiene, and safe water services on a sustainable basis for 1000 households in two slums in Mirpur.

Last December, CARE Bangladesh hosted a video crew from ABC News for a holiday special on “giving back.” One of the projects featured focused on the water/sanitation project in the Kalshi Balur Math Slum. Producers interviewed one female community participant named Parvin, a 35 year old woman who lost her 3-year-old son due to diarrhea. The story on Parvin aired December 17th. ABC News producers wanted their viewership to have an opportunity to make a difference, and thus the Global Giving opportunity to raise funds began. Through the support of ABC News viewers, long-term solutions for clean water and sanitation are possible in Kalshi Balur Math.

The Kalshi project primarily emphasizes installation of water points and hygienic latrines along with hygiene promotional awareness sessions.


 During this first quarter, December 2010-March 2011, CARE Bangladesh has completed the following activities.

  • Sharing Meeting with Staff: CARE has organized meetings with all exiting Water/Sanitation project staff. The major objective was to have a common understanding about the ABC News project. Additionally, we discussed how to implement the specific Kalshi work in line with existing water/sanitation efforts.
  • Community Meeting Organized:  A meeting with community participants was held to share news about the project, and how it will be implemented. Specifics around the installation of water points and latrines were also discussed.
  • Hygiene Promotion Session with Child Group: About 500 children between the ages of 5-10 live in the area where the project is being implemented. CARE Bangladesh has organized one hygiene promotion session for these children, thus far. The session's main goal is to build awareness of the importance of personal hygiene, particularly washing hands with soap. The first meeting had 30-35 children in attendance. Before the end of the project, CARE will reach all the children in Kalshi. To encourage attendance, CARE has incorporated children-appropriate playing and drama, and used pictorial flip charts so that the children learn, remember the messages and practice regularly.

    The children of the community are disadvantaged and so deprived. They lack access to education, health services and even proper nutrition. There is no space for play and little display of affection from parents. They play in the mud and roll around in the dust of the slum. Therefore, these sessions are seen as providing hope. Attendees are enthusiastic about learning. When CARE Bangladesh team members visit, children eagerly ask, “Aunty, when will the child group have water sessions again?"
  • Hygiene Promotion Session with Adolescent Girl: Hygiene promotion sessions also conducted with adolescent girl of the Kalshi Balur Math slum. They are 10 to 16 years old. Most of them do not go to school rather involved in household work. Few of them are engaged in work for earning. They shared that we are facing lots of problem especially because of Water and sanitary latrine. They were so emotional while sharing that during menstrual period our problem is incomparable than other time. 

Group Session with Child and Adolescent Group on World Water Day: On World Water Day 2011, CARE Bangladesh arranged an event focusing on the importance of safe water and healthy hygiene habits.

Observations/Lessons Learned: 

  • Children and adolescents are unaware about healthy hygiene behavior and its importance on their health. Incorporating interactive sessions with fun games has been effective in delivering needed messages.
  • Slum dwellers, especially children, are suffering from water-borne diseases like diarrhea, hepatitis and typhoid. Malnutrition is also common.
  • Water is available but inadequate. Most of the latrines are unhygienic. The adolescent girls’ problems are most significant, especially during menstruation. There are no toilets in the slum. Girls are very shy to share what is happening to their bodies, even with their mothers. CARE Bangladesh's adolescent girls forum gives them a platform where they can share their problems. They were very happy that now they have someone to talk about their issue.   
  • After the installation of safe water and sanitary latrines, CARE Bangladesh will continue to focus on changing the hygiene behavior of the community, especially children and adolescents.
Learning Session Attendees
Learning Session Attendees

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Organization Information


Location: Atlanta, GA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Melanie Minzes
Washington, DC United States

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