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UNICEF: Community Approaches to Sanitation (CATS)

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A global meeting of UNICEF Sanitation Specialists was held in New York in 2008, with the intention of strengthening global programming and guidance in community based sanitation (CBS). The deliberations led to an agreement on the need for greater coherence and consistency in programming across regions; a logical starting point was a common terminology and agreed set of principles upon which such programming would be based. A new terminology for UNICEF’s approach to community based sanitation was developed that describes the various approaches and details the non-negotiable principles that form the basis of their methodology.

Working definition/terminology of community based sanitation for UNICEF

  • Processes whereby men and women demand, effect and sustain a hygienic and healthy environment for themselves (by creating barriers to prevent transmission of disease)
  • The minimum elements of such an approach include:

a) That it is driven by collective process (as opposed to taregting individual households)

b) That handwashing at critical times is a key component of the programme and;

c) That community leadership includes children and caregivers.

The group then developed a new term to replace CBS that captured CBS and what this meant for UNICEF more specifically: CATS – Community Approaches for Total Sanitation

CATS encapsulates various approaches to community based sanitation such as CLTS, TSA, TS and others. WES staff felt it was important, in working with governments and partners, to allow this flexibility in approach in developing the most appropriate route for a given setting. CATS reflects the diversity between regions, countries and communities and acknowledges hygiene (handwashing more specifically) although allows for variable sequencing and integration of handwashing/hygiene into sanitation programmes.

For more information, contact the WASH Section, Programme Division, UNICEF, New York and visit their website

Date: 30 January 2009