“This crisis has helped us to strengthen the collaboration between departments within the city”

Themes: Health impact Hygiene WASH Water
Countries: Madagascar

Razanakombana Rakotonavalona Allyre has been the Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for the Urban Commune of Antananarivo, Madagascar since January 2020.

In his role, he has been at the centre of the city’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. WSUP spoke to Dr Allyre to gain his impressions of dealing with the pandemic.

Overall, how has the city of Antananarivo coped since the crisis hit – both generally, and with respect to WASH?

The Urban Commune of Antananarivo (CUA) was at the heart of the action in response to the Covid-19 pandemic since the crisis hit. In particular, we were responsible for keeping the city clean and limiting the spread of infection.

Through our partnership with FITIA Association [The association led by the First Lady of Madagascar], we mobilised the hygiene inspectors to sensitise and disseminate messages about Covid-19.

Aerial footage, Antananarivo

The Covid-19 pandemic has helped the Government prioritise both hygiene and the role of the WASH department

Can you talk us through the different phases of the crisis – from the initial lockdown, through to cases starting to increase in the city and the more recent return to lockdown?

At the beginning of the crisis, in March, we disinfected the houses of cases that had come into the country, both within the CUA and beyond. During the lockdown, on daily basis and systematically, we disinfected three densely populated markets and public places. We had enough reserve of cleaning materials to be able to continue disinfection even during the second lockdown.

We are now continuing the disinfection following demands from different institutions (public and private) and we have three disinfection centres. From March to May 2020, the CUA was able to disinfect 1200 vehicles per day.

As soon as the Government declared the state of health emergency, the CUA set out to mobilise all its departments including the Fire Department, Municipal Police, Transport and Urban mobility and Social, Health and WASH.

As a leader, how have you found the crisis?

This pandemic represents an opportunity for the WASH Department, as hygiene has become more important both for the Government and for people. The Municipality has even managed to prioritise response actions based on hygiene: mainly awareness raising and disinfection.

The notoriety of the WASH Directorate has improved. If people used to know us as the department in charge of the corpses [note – the hygiene department of the CUA is also responsible for certifying death], now the population knows that we are also responsible of health and hygiene in its entirety.

The available human resources were very limited during the lockdown. However, we used an outcome-based approach and were able to collect information in a short time. That information fed into the Covid-19 response plan, allowing us to mobilise partners and donors. Despite the situation, we were able to continue working in communities.

This crisis has helped us to strengthen the collaboration between departments within CUA. I am so happy to see wider communication on hygiene, the Covid-19 crisis is providing great momentum around handwashing. I have worked to promote handwashing for many years now and realise how powerful communication is. Many people now know what a handwashing station is.

Despite this, we must recognise the challenges that we will have to face about how to sustain the momentum around handwashing during the COVID-19 response and beyond the crisis.

Dr Allyre has led the WASH department in Antananarivo to prioritise Covid-19 and hygiene messaging

In order to defeat Covid-19, universal access to continuous water is needed. Do you think this is possible?

From the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the CUA was able to allocate treatment centres for Covid-19. Maintaining the effort on WASH sensitisation goes hand-in-hand with improved water access.

The Avotr’Aina project in partnership with CUA, UNICEF, [the national water utility] JIRAMA, and recently the Ministry of WASH is aiming to increase water access for the most vulnerable people through reduction of tariffs at water points for a limited time of three months.

The current water project funded by European Bank of Investment within JIRAMA is welcome. Alongside this, the CUA is exploring options to resolve the lack of water access in several social centres like in Anosizato where an independent borehole has been built.

The Avotr’Aina project in Antananarivo is one way the commune aims to improve short-term water access

How has support provided by WSUP to the Urban Commune, JIRAMA and other stakeholders, helped the situation?

WSUP is one of our long-term partners and continues to support our WASH programme. The municipal hygiene code was renewed in 2012-2013 in partnership with WSUP. Updates and improvements of this hygiene code are currently happening with support from Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, and GIZ.

The CUA is recognising that partnering with WSUP strengthens their relationship with JIRAMA and their capacity to collect, use and manage water data. The equipment that was provided by WSUP five years ago, is still functioning and supporting us to perform our daily tasks.

Learn more about WSUP's work in Madagascar