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East meets West to bring improved sanitation and hygiene practices to Vietnam, Cambodia

Oakland, CA 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."

Alix Zwane, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, echoed this comment. "This is an innovative approach and we hope to learn a great deal about how paying for performance can enhance the value for money and transparency of donor funding in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector through this grant. We believe that smart investments like this can have a real impact, leading to healthier people, and stronger communities."

East Meets West is working with local organizations, government partners, banks and private enterprises in this grant-funded project. In Vietnam, partners include the Vietnam Women's Union, the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies and the Health Environmental Management Agency of the Ministry of Health. In Cambodia, partners include the Cambodian Women for Peace and Development, the Kampot Province Department of Rural Development and the Ministry of Rural Development.

"As countries like Vietnam stand poised to advance economically, poor sanitation and hygiene practices threaten to cripple our progress by creating a breeding ground for illness, decreasing the productivity of adults and threatening human lives," said Minh Chau Nguyen, Vietnam Country Director for East Meets West. "We're working with our local partners to change this one household at a time, to increase demand to ensure healthier communities and to scale progress to support the development of our host nation as a whole."

Since 1988, more than 5.5 million impoverished families have benefited from East Meets West's high-impact health, sanitation and education programs. The organization has invested more than US $105 million in development solutions in Asia, and currently operates programs in Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines and Timor Leste. They have earned a 4-star rating the highest possible from Charity Navigator, which also just recognized East Meets West as an organization to watch for its rapid growth.

Contact: Guillermo Meneses

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