East Meets West has received a US $10.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve sanitation and hygiene practices among the rural poor in Vietnam and Cambodia. In these countries, open defecation and the unsafe disposal of human waste result in an estimated 17,000 deaths annually, 90 percent of which occur in children under age 5 - and US $1.2 billion in economic losses each year. The grant is the first of its kind from the Gates Foundation to support a results-based approach to sanitation and hygiene aid, which requires an initial investment from recipient families and communes, and then rewards them when results are achieved.
An international development agency working to transform health, education and sanitation systems of disadvantaged communities in Asia, East Meets West was awarded the grant to expand their unique business model, which applies an integrated, community-driven approach to supporting sanitation and hygiene-related behavioral change among the rural poor. The program combines community-based education about proper sanitation and hygiene; access to credible sources of financing for families to install latrines and hand washing devices in their homes; a cash rebate to families once installation and use of a latrine has been independently verified; and conditional cash transfers to communes that achieve at least a 30 percent increase in sanitation coverage.
Fully 50 percent of households in Vietnam - and approximately 80 percent of households in Cambodia - do not have sanitation facilities, according to government data. East Meets West aims to address this crisis by increasing the sanitation adoption rate and ensuring lasting behavior change among poor, rural households, specifically those earning less than US $2 per day.
The East Meets West business model for sanitation solutions is attractive to donors, because it results in latrines at a cost that is low by comparative industry standards - ensuring that the investment dollars are leveraged to reach the maximum number of families. Thanks to this approach, the program will benefit 1.7 million people in 344,000 households and 290 communes in Vietnam and Cambodia, which represents a significant undertaking in hard-to-reach rural communities.
"Change requires innovation, and with our results-based approach to aid, everyone involved has skin in the game," said John Anner, President of East Meets West. "By ensuring that funders, suppliers, educators and aid recipients alike share in both the responsibility and the benefit of aid, we're turning sustainable behavior change into a win for everyone."