International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, Volume 230, September 2020,
Background: Access to safe sanitation and the elimination of open defecation are pre-conditions for improved child health and nutrition and wider achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While Indonesia has a solid policy framework, the country ranks third globally in terms of numbers of people practicing open defecation. Objectives: Our aim was to assess the effectiveness of a five-year strategy to reduce open defecation through accelerating implementation of the national sanitation program across districts receiving variable levels of external support. Methods: Among three provinces with poor sanitation program performance, districts were selected to receive one of three levels of external support. High intensity districts (n = 6) benefitted from enabling environment strengthening support including political and social mobilization, direct capacity development, and efforts to strengthen planning, budgeting, monitoring and supervision; learning districts (n = 16) benefitted from cross-district learning opportunities and political mobilization through provincial government advocacy efforts; and comparison districts (n = 58) were monitored under routine program conditions. Outcomes included open defecation free (ODF) status and new toilet facility construction and were assessed through village level monitoring systems across all districts. Negative binomial regression and multivariate analysis were used to assess associations between levels of intervention intensity and outcomes. Findings: Among districts receiving high-intensity external support improvements in political commitment, planning, coordination, financing, monitoring and supervision were observed. Relative to comparison districts, high intensity districts were more likely to be ODF (aRR 4.65, CI 2.12–10.20) with greater increase in household toilet coverage (aRR 11.15 CI 1.04–119.82). Weaker non-significant associations with ODF were observed among learning districts relative to comparison districts. Interpretation: Efforts to strengthen provincial and district government capacity to implement sanitation programming in Indonesia can yield substantial improvements in outcomes in a relatively short period of time.