4 April 2018--Chief Zanman Sambian of Timpant area in Bunkpuguru District of Ghana runs his chiefdom in a democratic way not found in many African communities. As he holds court, the 65-year-old father of 17 welcomes a hodge-podge of his subjects to sit under a shade as the fiery sun pushes the thermometer to the near reaches of 40 degrees. Children, women, the youth- almost anyone able to attend- is allowed the chance to sit and drink from the chief’s deep well of knowledge.

On the day we visit the chief is meeting his subjects to talk about the latest marvel in the locality- a water point that has been delivered by a group of different UN agencies working together in a WASH project aimed at alleviating some of the problems facing some selected Ghanaian communities.

With a population of 163, the area under Chief Sambian was chosen because it was prone to floods with the last serious flood recorded in August 2010 which lasted for one month after one week of continuous heavy rainfall. This community experiences floods on an annual basis. During the floods severe damage was caused to property and some members of the community were displaced. Community members experienced serious health conditions like diarrhea and malaria due to changes in water source. There was no emergency plan in the community to tackle floods. Finally, there was no dump site for solid, organic and inorganic waste.

The situation in Bunkpuguru District is replicated in many of the areas where the WASH in Disaster Prone Communities (DPC) was implemented. With a generous support from the Canadian government, the WASH in DPC provided a change in all the 265 targeted communities, with a 100% access rate to resilient and flood prone water supply infrastructure. Change of attitudes toward sanitation and hygiene is noted in all the intervention sites where open defecation was common.

The National Disaster Management Organization reports they have useful tools for flood preparedness as well as reliable water safety plans which will be mainstreamed into national policy and standards. The design of the flood prone water and sanitation infrastructure is unique in Ghana and have been accepted for integration in the WASH compendium for Ghana and are being integrated in National policies and standards.

Many of the beneficiaries talk of advantages hitherto they could only see in their dreams- health of gheir children has improved thanks to better sanitation; open defecation is a thing of the past; girls are staying in school because of better management of their menstrual cycles and people can better concentrate on economic activities.

This ground-breaking project brought together UN-Habitat (as the lead agency), Unicef, World Health Organisation (WHO), UNDP with the office of the Resident Coordinator providing overall guidance and leadership for the project.

In an interview in Accra, the First Secretary for Development at the Canadian High Commission Mr. Francis Bedros expresses his satisfaction with the achievements made by the project. “We were moved to act to after we saw the devastating floods that affected a huge swathe of the country. We set out to help some 265 communities whose lives had been hugely affected by the catastrophe,” he said.

According to the diplomat, some of the hurdles faced at the beginning were delays in kicking off as well as the high objectives which the project sought to achieve. To mitigate the effects of the floods, the project managed to build resilient infrastructure as well as coming up with disaster management plans,” he said.

Mr. Bedros is also impressed with the unity of purpose exhibited by the four UN agencies involved in the project. “The point of contact into the UN that UN-Habitat provided proved to be the all-important link that was needed to push the project forward. After the few hitches at the beginning the project went on smoothly with timely monthly reports being submitted,” he said.

On his part, the coordinator of UN-Habitat’s Urban Basic Services Branch Andre Dzikus says the unity of purpose exhibited by the various UN agencies was key to delivering a successful project.

“It is the very first time UN partners are implementing a joint programme in Ghana. Four agencies joined effort to implement this project. Beside the initial challenge of bringing them together under the same delivering platform, they have been able to crystalize effort based on a complementary role and mandate to bring this project to a full success, as mentioned by the donor. UN-Habitat as the convening agency of this joint programme, is particularly encouraged for its success,” he said.

The Project Lead Eric Moukoro cites the huge swathe of the country covered as having been a huge challenge. “The project covers nearly 50% of the Ghana superficies with remote communities difficult to access by the nature of their location in flood prone areas. Field interventions required several adjustments in the project initial schedule. The relatively short time to implement all the project activities was also a challenge. With the support from the RC office and the adoption of an Incremental Management Model to deliver the assignment, the project has been able to overcome those difficulties,” he says.

The UN Resident Coordinator for Ghana Christine Evans-Klock, says the novel collaborative efforts of the four agencies that worked on the Joint UN programme on WASH in Disaster Prone Communities (DPC) project in selected areas of Ghana was something that must be encouraged.

According to her, with the UN moving more towards prirotising the Delivering as One platform, such a collaboration would be replicated in many places worldwide where the UN is running projects to help the people. Four UN agencies- UN-Habitat, Unicef, WHO and UNDP joined hands in delivering the project which has been hailed by many of the beneficiaries and partners as successful.

“It was quite an innovative project that managed to get the relative expertise from four different agencies and have them work together. It was also quite a complex project,” Ms. Evans-Klock said at an interview in her office in Accra.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Ghana Country Director Owen Laws Kaluwa says: the success rate of the project was reasonably high considering that this was the first time we were working together as different UN agencies but delivering in unison.”

He said the organisation deployed many experts in the field during the project ensuring that the end result was meeting international standards. “We leveraged on our huge global resource base of professionals and we brought some of them to Ghana for this specific project,” he said at an interview.

“The comparative advantage that the UN has in executing a project of this magnitude is that it can tap into a pool of one of the most talented people from around the world. At Unicef we had a big team dedicated to this project both at the country headquarters and on site.”

This is how the chief of WASH at Unicef Ghana David Duncan views the advantage of having UN agencies carry out the project.

Niall Boot, a WASH Specialist with Unicef, the project gave the agency the chance to practice what it knows best- WASH. The other UN agencies also got the chance to play a part and at the end of the day, the UN delivered a good project.

On her part, the chief of Unicef’s Tamale Field Office Ms. Margaret Gwada says the project was successful and achieved the set targets after the initial delays were overcome. “The project provided learning for the WASH sector as it was the first of its kind- specifically targeting flood prone communities to build resilient WASH facilities,” she says.

To the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Assistant Country Director Louis Kuukpen, the WASH project carried out in parts of Ghana proved that the United Nations ‘Delivering as One’ platform was workable.

He was upbeat that by having four different agencies work on the project, the UN was leaving the beaten path where hitherto, such a project would have been handled by one agency. He says that the hiccups experienced especially at the beginning of the project were normal given the magnitude of what was being undertaken.

“However, I feel that wider consultations at the beginning would have helped us move forward much faster. It appeared in the beginning like some agencies did not understand the clarity of the project. We could have also improved on project design,” he said.