Stop looking for WASH silver bullets

"Let’s stop looking for WASH silver bullets*: the solution must come from the people."

This was one of the key messages delivered by Dr Dani Barrington (University of Leeds) and Mr Humpress Harrington (Pacific Adventist University/James Cook University) at the recent Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Futures conference held in Brisbane, Australia early March.

Sharing more than close similarities in their surnames, Dr Barrington and Mr Harrington are both committed to embracing local ways of learning and knowing to inform WASH education and engineering practice.

Dr Barrington and Mr Harrington drew on evidence examined during a recent review of literature about the WASH needs of girls and students with a disability in Pacific island countries and territories (details below). They reported to WASH Futures Conference participants that projects in Pacific schools demonstrate the potential for targeted and locally relevant responses.

Mr Harrington, a Nurse Researcher and Atoifi Health Research Group member from Solomon Islands said, “The thing that resonated most with the audience at our presentation was the idea that solutions must come from the people affected, and that community based participatory research is the way to go about this in the Pacific.”

Dr Barrington, an Australian WASH Engineering Researcher from University of Leeds explained, “Almost all practitioners or researchers attending our presentation were working in the Pacific, and all agreed that we need to make sure that we embrace local cultures when designing WASH programs, and not just try to ‘get around’ them”.

The aim of the presentation was to promote an understanding that WASH practitioners in the Pacific can feel that their knowledge of local ways of getting things done is actually very valuable, perhaps even more so than technical WASH knowledge. Mr Harrington reminds us to encourage those being impacted by poor WASH “to be actively involved in finding and implementing their own workable solutions”.

Indeed, the silver bullet might just be solutions that come from the people.

*‘silver bullet’ refers to an immediate solution to a complicated problem


Story by: Michelle Redman-MacLaren

Photo: Dani Barrington and Humpress Harrington presenting at WASH Futures; Photo credit: Elizabeth Gumbaketi via @egumbaketi

Work detailed in the presentation is elaborated on in: Redman-MacLaren, M., Barrington, D.J., Harrington, H., Cram, D., Selep, J., MacLaren, D. ‘Water, sanitation and hygiene in schools to promote girls' health and education in Pacific Island countries: A systematic scoping review.’ Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, (in review).

Thank you to partners: James Cook University, University of Leeds, Pacific Adventist University, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, World Vision Papua New Guinea and CQUniversity.

For more information about this story, please email:
• Michelle Redman-MacLaren / @shelmaclaren
• Dani Barrington / @dani_barrington

Local Leaders reflect at Pacific Health workshop: We need to understand how international partnerships work

Chief Esau Kekeubata and Mr Humpress Harrington from Solomon Islands recently attended the Pacific Health Governance Workshop at the University of Queensland (UQ), along with Australian members of the Atoifi Health Research Group.

For almost a decade, Chief Kekeubata and Mr Harrington have been working with the local East Kwaio community, including Atoifi Hospital and Pacific Adventist University (Atoifi campus), to conduct community-based health research to inform health services in Solomon Islands.

Reflecting upon their experience at the Workshop, both expressed surprise that policy makers at international level (especially in Melanesia) want to learn from grass roots health workers and want to have partnerships with grassroots people. Chief Kekeubata explained, “This is different than before”.
Mr Harrington, who is currently conducting his PhD exploring investigates health research capacity and research training outcomes in Solomon Islands (2007 – 2017) also appreciated that participants valued research projects that centralised the principal ‘small is beautiful’ and wanted to work in partnership with grassroots village people.

One challenge for improved grassroots health in Solomon Islands is the need for local health and research governance to be well established and functional in order for health programs and research to work. Chief Kekeubata stated that despite some grassroots people thinking a lack of money is a limiting factor, “money is not a problem - international people have funding to support good quality local-level projects.”
“It is important for community health leaders in the Pacific to understand how international partnerships work”, explained Chief Kekeubata, “and how local voices are respected by many international leaders when they get given a chance”.

Mr Harrington reiterated the importance of including grassroots’ perspective in health governance discussions. “Community representatives like Chief Esau (Kekeubata) need to be present, because they have important story for the conference.”

Along with many others at the Workshop, both Chief Kekeubata and Mr Harrington felt the Workshop was too short. Other grassroots voices also need to be included. Chief Kekeubata is encouraged that, “the next workshop is scheduled to be in Fiji – so this means that more voices from the Pacific can be heard by the international policy makers in health.”

Story by: Michelle Redman-MacLaren

The Atoifi Health Research group are grateful to the Research for Development Impact Network (RDI) and UQ for providing financial support for the attendance of Chief Kekeubata and Mr Harrington.

For more information about the Atoifi Health Research group, please email: Mr Humpress Harrington or Ms Rowena Asugeni, Director of Research, Atoifi Hospital

East Kwaio Chief to contribute to Pacific health governance knowledge

Mr Esau Kekeubata, Chief of East Kwaio and Foundation Member of the Atoifi Health Research Group, Solomon Islands, will be contributing at the Pacific Health Governance Workshop at the University of Queensland, Australia to be held 15-16 February.

Chief Esau has decades of experience working to enact community based health and conservation research in East Kwaio, Malaita island. As a health worker and cultural broker, Chief Esau has enabled research about culturally appropriate health care for over two decades, with a particular interest in improving tuberculosis services that meet the needs of all women and men in East Kwaio.

With the Workshop focus of knowledge translation for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, Chief Esau is looking forward to contributing cultural and social knowledge from remote Solomon Islands that will inform future responses to health governance.

“Culturally appropriate health services are important to the health of our people”, says Chief Esau, “and we need to listen to each other to achieve this outcome.”

Chief Esau, and the Atoifi Health Research group members would like to thank the Research for Development Impact Network (RDI) for the financial support they are providing for Esau to participate in the Workshop.

For more information about the Workshop, please visit:
For more information about RDI, visit:

Photo: Chief Esau Kekeubata (centre) and conservation team; photo credit David MacLaren

Australian High Commissioner visits Atoifi

This story is republished from the Facebook page of Australian High Commission, Solomon Islands.

"On 11 and 12 December 2017, the Australian High Commissioner, H.E. Mr Roderick Brazier met with Mr Tommy Esau, the leader of the Conservation and Research Team at the Atoifi Adventist Hospital.

The research team is predominantly made up of locals from East Kwaio, Malaita, in collaboration with various overseas partners. The team's involvement with the highlands communities in East Kwaio is through a community and participative approach, where aspects of their work focus on conservation, research and preservation regarding local plants, insects and animals.

The hard working team have also worked on health research for Atoifi Adventist Hospital through a grassroots Learning-By-Doing approach. Here, the group's aim is to conduct research that enables the hospital and communities to understand health issues affecting local communities, as well as find ways to mitigate and manage infectious diseases.

Thank you to the Conservation and Research Team at the Atoifi Adventist Hospital for sharing their work and findings with the Australian High Commission."

Source: Accessed 16 December, 2017

Photo: Australian High Commission team, including the Australian High Commissioner, H.E. Mr Roderick Brazier (3rd from Left), with Mrs Dorothy Esau, Mr Tommy Esau and Mr Hillary Toloka in the Research Room, Pacific Adventist Uni (Atoifi campus).

Photo credit: Australian High Commission Facebook page: