In 2004, only 48% of rural households in Vietnam had access to clean water, compared to 82% of urban households. It was estimated that only 16% of rural households had access to water supply meeting clean water standards; and access to hygienic sanitation facilities was equally low. Many rural households used untreated water from dug wells, rivers, ponds, streams or irrigation canals. Existing rural water supply and sanitation schemes tended to be inappropriately designed as well as poorly constructed and maintained. In many cases, schemes were deemed financially unsustainable as tariffs did not adequately cover the cost of operation, maintenance and repairs; and were dependent on substantial subsidies to continue operation.
In 2002, nearly 3 million people in the Red River Delta were poor (17 percent of all poor households in Vietnam). In these areas, poor rural health was affected by the prevalence of water-borne diseases and inadequate personal hygiene. The underlying cause of these health issues was related to the availability and use of safe water and sanitation and personal hygiene.
Where most water projects have traditionally focused exclusively on the construction of hardware for water schemes, this project also recognized that educating and changing behavior of the community on water and sanitation issues is vital to success.
The water supply schemes under the project have been established under innovative enterprises, which have the capacity for proper management and operation. The community also has a 10 percent stake in these companies, which has ensured a strong sense of community ownership and commitment, as well as deep community involvement in the planning, supervision, construction, operation and maintenance of the schemes. This practice has ensured that the needs of the community and the quality of services required are met in a transparent and participatory way.
The project also focused on intensive activities to promote hygienic behaviors such as hand washing, as well as developing a revolving fund for low-income families to build hygienic toilets for their homes.
Between 2005 and 2013, the project achieved the following outcomes:
• Almost 1.3 million people, accounting for 80 percent of total population in 4 project provinces gained access to improved water sources and 100 percent of poor households had access to water supply and sanitation services.
• Households received access to low-interest loans to build or rehabilitate more than 48,000 hygienic toilets and sanitation facilities, increasing the percentage of households with hygienic toilets from 25 percent to 87 percent.
• More than 650 public sanitation facilities were built for local schools and health stations.
• About 90 percent of households were reported to be highly satisfied with services.
• Surveys indicated a pronounced behavior change in increased number of households reporting hand washing prior to food preparation or after using sanitation facilities. Most households use hygienic water containers such as a basin/bucket and place them in convenient places for their use. More than 96% have soap or detergent for washing hands.