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Yesterday — 21 October 2021WSUP Blog

Use every drop: helping water providers fight back against climate-driven water scarcity

21 October 2021 at 11:29

This is the first blog in a series exploring recommendations from WSUP’s new report, The missing link in climate adaptation, released ahead of COP26. Read the full report here: www.wsup.com/the-missing-link

Recommendation one: Use every drop

For centuries, the world has lived as if water were an unlimited resource. Now, thanks to climate change piling pressure onto rapid urbanisation, we know that water is a precious, finite resource. We need to look after every drop.

One of the defining characteristics about the response to the Cape Town water crisis was the ability of the city authorities to dramatically lower water consumption and use technology to improve distribution of water across the whole network.

The people living in townships surrounding the city were used to water shortages: this was their daily life. But inhabitants in the rest of the city were subjected to the now-renowned Day Zero communications campaign, encouraging citizens to dramatically reduce their consumption. And the campaign worked, with water consumption dropping nearly 60%.

In a context of declining water availability due to climate change – the drought in Cape Town was made three times more likely due to climate change – cities need to place increasing efforts to make the best use of the water that they have.

But cities need to act before they reach the critical point that Cape Town found itself in, and before an aggressive Day Zero-style communications campaign becomes necessary.

Instead, WSUP’s experience is that in many developing country cities, the far less eye-catching work of fixing leaks is crucial.

According to the International Water Association, 5.2 billion cubic metres of water is lost in sub-Saharan Africa each year – the equivalent to 64 litres per day for every person in the region.

In Madagascar, for example, which has been facing a water shortage since the El-Nino induced drought of 2017, the national utility JIRAMA lost enough clean water in 2020 to supply 650,000 people with clean water (based on the World Health Organisation’s 50 litres per day guidance). Given the extent to which climate change is increasing the likelihood of water scarcity – particularly now, with the south of the country experiencing its worst drought for decades – reducing water losses is a high priority. WSUP has worked with JIRAMA for years to build their capacity to identify and fix leaks, as this video shows:

Reduction of leaks can go hand in hand with increasing access to the poorest residents. Annual rainfall has fallen steadily in Mozambique since the 1960s and in recent years the levels in the Pequenos Libombos dam, which serves the capital city Maputo, have fallen perilously low, resulting in water rationing in the city.

In Maputo, the utility Águas da Região de Maputo (AdeM) has introduced a new model with the support of WSUP which involves community-based organisations delivering services into some of the most densely populated low-income communities. The result has been improved customer satisfaction, reduced water losses from leaks, and increased utility revenue which can be reinvested into more service improvements.

Read more about the customer-centric model in Maputo

Digital innovation can play a role in assisting water utilities to monitor water use and wastage. In Lusaka and Maputo, WSUP has been piloting systems designed to continuously monitor water across urban networks. Using intelligent pressure management software, the systems enable distribution of water to be adjusted according to the need, helping improve water reliability and tackle the challenge of intermittent water supplies, which affects over one billion people around the world. The work is being informed by the successes of Cape Town, which introduced pressure management from 2017 to decrease overall consumption as well as reduce the frequency of pipe leaks.

A newly installed bulk meter in Lusaka that improves performance of the water system

But enabling utilities to make the best use of scarce water resources cannot be fixed just by technology. It requires every department in the organisation to be working together towards a common purpose.

The deployment of WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework in southern Zambia, where the Zambezi river basin is one of the most vulnerable in Africa to climate change, has been transformational in helping the regional water and sanitation utility develop a plan for using water more effectively.

WSUP Utility Diagnostic
WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework

In 2019, the utility’s ability to provide water for the city of Livingstone was seriously affected because its raw water intake from the Zambezi – built way before climate change had become a reality – was only able to abstract minimal amounts, due to river levels falling so low.

As a result of WSUP’s work implementing the Utility Strengthening Framework, Southern Water & Sanitation Company realised the need to improve management of sanitation waste in order to reduce groundwater contamination and facilitate the usage of groundwater, to reduce the reliance on surface water.

Read: Building resilience to climate change: experiences from Southern Zambia

But much, much more needs to be done to enable water and sanitation utilities to respond to the threat of climate change. WSUP is committed to helping our partner utilities across Africa to use every drop of water, using the Utility Strengthening Framework and other tools.

Top image: Resident accessing water at a pre-paid water dispenser in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: Brian Otieno

Before yesterdayWSUP Blog

Our future is at hand: strengthening hygiene and increasing access to water and sanitation services in Madagascar

14 October 2021 at 15:02

In these recent months, we have seen hand hygiene become a fundamental component of people’s health and safety, giving all the more reason for better investment in water, sanitation and hygiene services.

As Madagascar continues to grapple with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, ensuring long-term systemic change in water, sanitation and hygiene is vital. Over the last three years, Dubai Cares, a UAE-based global philanthropic organisation, in partnership with UAE Water Aid (Suqia), has been working closely with WSUP to improve water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and practices in schools and communities in two of Madagascar’s largest cities: Antananarivo and Mahajanga.

In collaboration with the mandated health authorities, the programme also provided hygiene education in schools, communities, and health centres, contributing towards sustainable behavioural change. And through our influencing work, we have seen a greater commitment towards school WASH programmes both at the local and national level.

Improving school WASH facilities

WSUP has been building on, improving, increasing the impact of the ‘WASH Friendly Institutions’ approach, that was developed by the Ministry of Education and its partners.

To receive a WASH friendly certificate from the Ministry, schools need to adhere to certain minimum standards such as providing access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities, separate toilets for boys and girls as well as those with special needs, handwashing facilities with soap, and menstrual hygiene management.

Before the project began, no schools were certified due to the complexity of the certification process. WSUP along with other stakeholders were consulted by the Ministry to improve and simplify the process.

Through the programme, eleven schools have been certified and the structures set in place will ensure the process is replicated and more schools are certified. This recognition incentivises the schools to continue to invest in WASH to maintain their status. In addition, 36 WASH blocks have been constructed or rehabilitated including in six secondary schools and 30 primary schools in Antananarivo and Mahajanga.

Improved sanitation block in a school in Antananarivo. Credit: Tsilavo Rapiera

The lack of gender-friendly WASH facilities means that young girls find it difficult to manage their hygiene needs and are discouraged from going to school. Through a user-centred design approach, the renovation and construction of sanitation blocks has taken into account the different needs of girls and boys.

To ensure that these facilities are run under a financially sustainable management model, school WASH committees have been set up in each school. The committee is responsible for ensuring proper management and maintenance of the WASH infrastructure and mobilising financial resources (from the Ministry and/or the parents association) for maintenance costs and for the provision of hygiene products.

Fifteen-year-old Rosia is one of the WASH ambassadors at her primary school. She monitors the students’ WASH practices and ensures the hygiene facilities are being used correctly.

“The new WASH facilities allow me to practice all the good hygiene behaviour I have been taught… I am now cleaner and more motivated to go to school. I am not afraid that I’ll be excluded due to poor hygiene,” she says.

Rosia using the new sanitation facilities in her school

Hygiene education

A total of 52,566 children were reached through hygiene messaging in schools. This involves training the students on the importance of handwashing with soap, how to use the newly constructed or refurbished toilet blocks correctly and understanding menstrual hygiene management.

A primary school student using the new handwashing station in her school. Credit: Tsilavo Rapiera

In Antananarivo, seventeen-year-old Tsanta actively creates awareness in her community after receiving training on menstrual hygiene management.

“Menstruation is something natural for girls and women and it is nothing to be ashamed of. The conversations between parents and children are very important. We should lead a proper and responsible lifestyle, especially during menstruation, because hygiene is a pillar of improving our health,” she says.

Tsanta creating awareness during an event in her school

Health centres

In addition, WSUP has been working in eight health centres in the catchment area of the schools to ensure that they have functioning and accessible WASH facilities. All the centres have now met all the minimum requirements set out by the Ministry, 299 community health workers have been trained on hygiene messaging, and 51,109 people have been reached through hygiene messaging in the communities and health centres.

Capacity building and influencing policy

WSUP has been working with stakeholders both at the local and national level to ensure long-term change.

WSUP’s intervention has had a positive impact on Sylvian, who is the Regional School Health Manager in the Regional Directorate of National Education (DREN) in Mahajanga. He noticed an improvement in his working method and now has a better understanding of the situation in schools through his relationship with teachers, pupils, and parents.

Sylvian speaking at an event in Madagascar in December 2020

“I am conscious of the magnitude of my mission which requires a change of behaviour at different levels and especially on the part of educators and students, … I am continually facing this burden linked to the lack of material and logistical resources, but I am not giving up. I would like to thank WSUP for all its support,” he says.

To help build the evidence base for increased and more effective government investment in WASH programmes, the project has also included a research component. Data was collected from 48 schools across Antananarivo, Mahajanga and Toliara to assess the impact of the WASH friendly school programme including impact of associated trainings, capacity bottlenecks and key factors that support behaviour change.

WSUP was able to contribute towards the WASH Friendly Institutions guide that was officially launched by the Ministry of Education earlier this year as well as the ‘WASH Friendly Institutions’ strategy which is included in the national WASH sector plan, thus encouraging more schools across the country become WASH friendly.

By working with schools, local communities and national authorities, this programme is bringing about long-term systemic change and helping improve the educational and health outcomes for children.

Learn more about our work in Madagascar

Top image: Primary school children using the handwashing facilities in school. Credit: Tsilavo Rapiera

Access to water and sanitation: the missing link in urban climate adaptation

12 October 2021 at 09:00

Ahead of COP26, WSUP has released a new report highlighting the importance of water and sanitation services in helping cities adapt to climate change.

Drawing on evidence from seven countries the report, entitled The missing link in climate adaptation: How improved access to water and sanitation is helping cities adapt to climate change finds that clean water and safe sanitation services have the potential to play a major role in helping the poorest urban communities adapt to climate change. However, they are often missed out of urban climate adaption efforts and more needs to be done to enable cities to expand these services.

Download the report

The report presents four recommendations for helping water and sanitation providers to respond effectively to the urgent threat posed by climate change:

  • Use every drop: cutting down on losses within city water networks to help cope with water scarcity
  • Protect the infrastructure: improving the design and management of facilities to enable them to withstand flooding and storms
  • Strengthen systems: clarifying and enforcing responsibilities for delivering services to the poorest and ensuring that climate risks are reflected in regulations, standards and financing frameworks
  • Integrate with wider city resilience: increasing coordination between improvements to water and sanitation services and other areas of urban development.

“Access to safe water and sanitation services is essential for people to lead healthy, productive lives,” said Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP.

“Climate change is already causing significant damage to the ability of cities to provide equitable access to water and sanitation services, and these impacts will only worsen in coming years.”

“And yet, expansion and protection of water and sanitation services is not a core part of most cities’ adaptation work. This needs to change.”

Download the report

Want to find out more? In the coming weeks we will be delving into the report’s recommendations at www.wsup.com/the-missing-link.

Integrated Slum Upgrading: details and learnings from four experiences in Africa

25 August 2021 at 13:50

Projects executed in Africa in the past few years have helped WSUP better understand the connection between water and sanitation issues and other challenges faced by residents of low-income urban areas.

Our report “Integrated Slum Upgrading”, first released in May 2021, indicates a clear path towards successful outcomes: solutions to the most urgent problems in those communities demand an integrated approach.

WSUP has worked in four projects in Mozambique, Kenya, Madagascar and Ghana, four countries with different priorities and backgrounds, to find that infrastructure and services problems are not perceived as disconnected needs.

The findings in the report, produced by WSUP and Arquitectura sin Fronteras (also known as ASF-España), suggest that people living in low-income urban areas do not think about specific problems separately. They also show that addressing difficult challenges in an integrated manner makes it easier to overcome them – the solution to one issue tends to open the path for solving another, a conclusion to be detailed in the session about integrated urban development at World Water Week.

Read the report: Integrated Slum Upgrading

Land rights and sanitation

In 2017, WSUP joined a project in Mozambique originally created as cooperation between the African nation and Spanish professionals: The Habitat Project, focused on one low-income community known as Chamanculo C.

In this effort, the municipal authorities of Maputo, the Mozambican capital, and Barcelona worked alongside Spain’s Arquitectos Sin Fronteras (Architectures Without Borders, or ASF-E) and the Ordem dos Advogados de Moçambique (Mozambican Lawyers Association), plus partners who joined at a later stage. The purpose: “the regularisation of land rights and associated agreement on plot boundaries and road access”.

The project intended to address the legal issues that prevented residents from having guarantees over the place where they live, something that affected their access to many types of basic services, including water and sanitation. With the involvement of WSUP, those two crucial services were integrated in the project.

Resident uses a communal washblock in Maputo, Mozambique. Credit: WSUP

Having worked with poor communities in Maputo since 2009, WSUP brought to Chamanculo C the model of high quality shared sanitation, which included the construction of Communal Sanitation Blocks, as well as Shared Latrines.

According to the “Integrated Slum Upgrading” report, implementing the sanitation improvements in Chamanculo C in connection with ASF-E’s work on land rights “offered multiple advantages”.

First, with plot boundaries and access addressed by the legal processes, it was “substantially easier to find appropriate locations for compound and communal facilities”. Second, the work with The Habitat Project allowed WSUP and its partners to “ensure that facilities are constructed in locations which will allow vehicle access for septic tank emptying”.

Join the discussion: Integrated urban development at World Water Week

As a third clear benefit, our participation made possible that, as part of the negotiations around land legalisation, toilet facilities were offered to residents taking into consideration the results of land demarcation or the creation of necessary accesses to roads.

Transport links and solid waste management

In Kenya and Madagascar, WSUP has been involved in projects that connect installation of sanitation systems with broader provision of basic services, particularly transport links and solid waste management.

The community of Mukuru, in Nairobi, has had the status of Special Planning Area (SPA) since 2017, which led to the adoption of an Integrated Development Plan, after consultation with over 100,000 households. The plan, with initial political support from the government, meant that the building of new roads and sewers could be planned and implemented in a coordinated manner.

As part of the effort, we have been working with Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company to pilot simpler and low-cost sewers, which use plastic pipes that can bend and be placed at a shallower depth.

In Antananarivo, WSUP has been active since 2009, with CARE and the Municipal Hygiene Office (BMH), to support local community groups called RF2s. The work is focused on management, water, sanitation and hygiene, but that required an initial specific effort: solid waste collection.

“A key initial focus was to clean a drainage canal that runs through 8 low-income fokontanys [as villages are called in Madagascar] in central Tana”, our report explains. “There are currently 66 operational RF2s, with canal cleaning and intermediary solid waste collection services continuing on a daily basis, using revenues from WUA-operated water kiosks and other sources to fund day labourers.”

School washblock in Maputo, Mozambique Credit: WSUP

Basic services study

Additional knowledge was acquired when we presented to 3,000 households of Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, and other 3,000 in Accra, its Ghanaian counterpart, questions about 17 local basic services, from education to healthcare, crime prevention and water and sanitation. Despite the latter being WSUP’s focus, our team wanted to get residents’ perspectives within a much broader context, in which the many types of basic services could be assessed together and prioritised accordingly.

Having had the opportunity to consider different basic services presented together, residents of Accra placed flood control as their main priority, with 50% putting it amongst their top 5. In Nairobi, sanitation was included by 49% of the respondents, making it top of the list.

They were both followed closely, however, by garbage removal (48% put it on the top 5) and housing quality (also 48%) in Accra, while street paving (47%) and water supply (46%) made the top 3 in Nairobi. Those taking part in the study looked at their urban issues in a broader sense and provided answers that showed a varied picture of the services that ought to be prioritised.

Read more about the Accra & Nairobi study

WSUP’s experiences in Mozambique, Kenya, Madagascar and Ghana show that residents see different basic needs and services as part of the same reality. Considering the complexity of urban challenges and usual limitations in the available resources, an integrated approach seems to provide both agility and efficiency in finding solutions.

As our report concludes: “If we step outside of water and sanitation silos and project mindsets, we can perhaps consider that this is where we should be heading: towards an urban development model which conceives slum improvement as a multi-faceted project, within which water and sanitation improvements are an important element, but only part of a wider endeavour”.

Top image: A resident waits outside a washblock in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: WSUP

Building resilience faster: Join us for World Water Week 2021

16 August 2021 at 10:44

How can water help us tackle the world’s greatest challenges and build resilient cities faster? Join us virtually for four sessions during the week to find out.

As the world faces multiple challenges from increasing urban populations to climate change and with the SDG deadline fast approaching, finding ways to improve the resilience of cities at a faster pace has never been more important.

Learn more about the sessions WSUP is involved in:

5 years on: WASH4Work business leadership & setting the next agenda

2021 marks the 5-year anniversary of the launch of the WASH4Work (W4W) initiative. This session will feature W4W members sharing key learnings including the business case for WASH; WASH best practice in operations, supply chains and communities; and a discussion about the future-looking agenda of Climate Resilient WASH.

Learn more

Citywide inclusive sanitation as a public service

To support safe and healthy urban environments, sanitation services must be organised into public service systems where both the public and private sector can together play a key role. For these systems to function, safely, at scale and inclusively so as to ensure safe, equitable and sustained services for all residents in a city, citywide inclusive sanitation (CWIS) is fundamentally dependent on three things: responsibility, accountability, and resource planning and management.

This session aims to improve understanding of urban sanitation initiatives to support governments and utilities’ decision making for future CWIS initiatives.

Learn more

Blog: The building blocks for successful citywide sanitation systems

How can we integrate WASH with wider urban development

In urban environments, issues such as water access, drainage, health, street design and solid waste management are all inextricably linked. To ensure the long-term resilience and habitability of slum settlements, water, sanitation and hygiene improvements need to be integrated into wider urban development initiatives.

Grounded in practical examples, this session will explore how integration might be achieved.

Learn more

Report: Integrated Slum Upgrading: how can we link water and sanitation with wider urban development

Citywide inclusive sanitation: How far have we come

At the 2017 World-Water-Week, a Call to Action was made on the need for a paradigm shift to “Citywide Inclusive Sanitation” (CWIS). It is now a prominent urban sanitation approach being widely promoted and implemented. This session will review latest developments, share experiences and present plans for the coming years.

Learn more


Additional sessions WSUP is speaking at:

Building Climate Change Resilience: Integrated solutions for WASH-related disease control

Sibongile Ndaba, WSUP’s Business Development Lead, will speak about how WSUP’s interventions are taking into account climate change and considering spread of diseases exacerbated by this new reality. WSUP’s experiences include flooding and droughts in Zambia, with work in Lusaka and southern provinces.

Monday 23rd August 2021, 18:00 CEST

Learn more

Follow our World Water Week coverage on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

New video shows how a citywide plan aims to tackle Malindi’s dirty secret: sanitation

27 July 2021 at 09:40

Malindi, popular for its beautiful beaches and a celebrated tourist town, has a dirty secret. Three-quarters of the city’s 310,000 residents have no access to safely managed sanitation.

Residents are forced to rely on illegal and unsafe pit-emptying services and the waste that is collected is then dumped at an unregulated municipal dumpsite or disposed off in fields, open grounds, rivers and drains.

As a result, 90% of hand dug wells are contaminated with faecal waste causing serious health risks in the communities. The lack of proper waste management is also causing environmental damage and threatening marine life.

The problem is only set to worsen. As rapid urbanisation in Malindi continues, the amount of waste is forecast to grow exponentially. This is requiring city authorities to devise a plan for tackling the problems not just of today, but for years to come.

Watch our film to find out how WSUP has been working with city leaders to create an ambitious sanitation plan to tackle the problem:

The County Government of Kilifi and regional water and sanitation utility, Malindi Water & Sewerage Company (MAWASCO) with other partners like the regulator WASREB and the sanitation specialists at Sanivation, are taking steps to ensure that all residents in Malindi can access safely managed sanitation services.

Read the citywide inclusive sanitation plan for Malindi here.

Top image: An informal waste collector in Malindi

Can new pan-African policy guidelines help bring about national sanitation programmes?

22 July 2021 at 14:11

With 72% of the 962 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to basic sanitation, and governments struggling to increase access, new action is required to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.

This situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, further underscoring the need for African governments to meet their national, regional, and global water, sanitation, and hygiene obligations.

Now, a new initiative aims to help push forward the development of national sanitation and hygiene policies across the continent. But what will the African Sanitation Policy Guidelines, created by the African Council of Ministers on Water (AMCOW) aim to achieve?

Construction of a sanitation block in Ghana

ASPG will guide African Union member states to create national and sub-national sanitation policies and strategies. The guidelines aim to resolve major enabling environment bottlenecks that stand in the way of accelerating access to basic sanitation for all. Presently, most African governments have not met their commitments to the 2015 Ngor Ministerial Commitments on sanitation and hygiene.

A suitable enabling environment provides a solid foundation for inclusive sanitation planning, investment, and management. It clarifies and defines institutional and market player roles, thereby strengthening stakeholder inclusion, coordination, and participation. Further, it unlocks the potential for capacity strengthening of institutional and market-based players, paving the way for development and financing of large-scale public sanitation programmes and entry of private sector investors.

Read more about on the importance of good governance, finance, policy and regulation

The development and roll-out of ASPG is envisaged to resolve multiple, systemic institutional and market barriers, whose removal will accelerate provision of safely managed sanitation and hygiene services in Africa and help meet SDG 6.2 global targets.

The process started with a 26-country assessment conducted by AMCOW in 2019, revealing that most existing sanitation policies and strategies do not adequately address the critical elements of the enabling environment necessary to ensure access to safely managed sanitation for all.

WSUP supported the development of ASPG through its active participation in the Task Force, alongside representatives from organizations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, WHO, African Development Bank, GIZ and the World Bank. WSUP also provided stakeholder consultations’ organization support in Kenya and participated in Zambia and Ghana country meetings. This is in addition to offering technical support in the synthesis and compilation of findings from the 12 country consultations.

Improving the sewer network in Githima, Kenya

In particular, the regulation part of the guidelines cite analysis conducted by WSUP and the Eastern & Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulator Association (ESAWAS) on different regulatory frameworks for sanitation in our joint report entitled Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation.

Read the report: Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation

It also alludes to the findings of research commissioned by WSUP in four African cities of Kisumu (Kenya), Nakuru (Kenya), Malindi (Kenya) and Kumasi (Ghana) and one Asian city (Rangpur, in Bangladesh). This study showed that the costs of developing and maintaining sanitation services depend primarily on the context and the sanitation systems selected by the residents.

WSUP will partner with AMCOW and other stakeholders to ensure the successful roll-out of ASPG across Africa. WSUP is committed to actively participating and providing leadership in developing and reviewing sanitation and hygiene policies in our six core markets in the continent – Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana.

Top image: A boy visiting a toilet in Githima. Credit: Brian Otieno

Build back for the world of tomorrow, not the world of today, experts warn

15 July 2021 at 18:16

City leaders need to do more to understand, plan for and respond to the threats of climate change.

Cities in developing countries need to focus more on the impacts that climate change will have on their ability to deliver inclusive water and sanitation services, according to speakers at a WSUP event held this week.

The event titled The Missing Piece of Climate Adaptation, was moderated by WSUP’s Chief Executive, Neil Jeffery, and looked at the impact of climate change on providing water and sanitation services to the cities’ most vulnerable residents as well as ways we can better integrate these services into climate resilience efforts.

Fatima Mussa, Water Lead for WSUP in Mozambique highlighted the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, the impact on water and sanitation, and the need to prepare the city of Beira for more cyclones of this magnitude.

“Parts of the water supply system were seriously damaged, “she said.… “[Only] 10% of the city is covered by drainage system and the sewerage and flood water were mixed which was a public health risk.”

Watch our film: Two years on from Cyclone Idai, Beira is rebuilding

“There is still a lot to be done, there is a need for infrastructure, toilets, septic tanks, etc. There is also a need for citywide sanitation services to reduce public health risks when areas are flooded,” she said, adding: “It’s also important to look at this issue of solid waste management.”

Supporting residents like Vasco to access water services in Beira, Mozambique. Credit: Stand Up Media

Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change – but how is this affecting water and sanitation coverage in urban areas? Pritum Saha, M&E Coordinator for WSUP in Bangladesh, shared multiple ways in which climate change is affecting services, and how WSUP is contributing towards a solution.

He highlighted how climatic events such as sea level rise and flooding are displacing 700,000 people per year in Bangladesh, among them 400,000 climate refugees which migrated to Dhaka alone in 2020. As a result, city authorities are unable to cope with the rising demand for basic services such as water and sanitation.

Blog: How climate change is worsening sanitation in Bangladesh

On the need for sanitation services that protect the communities, Pritum spoke about SWEEP: a public-private sanitation waste management service that was set up by WSUP.

Video: A vision for a green city: can improved sanitation help?

A SWEEP vacuum tanker making its rounds in Dhaka, Bangaladesh

Drought, extreme flooding, heat, rising sea levels are all affecting WASH services in cities. So, what can we do about it?

Katrin Bruebach, Global Director, Programs, Innovation and Impact at Resilient Cities Network highlighted how many issues cities are already grappling with.

Solutions that address multiple problems from flooding to solid waste management as well as underlying stresses such as poverty and unemployment, will stand the most chance of being adopted, she argued.

Read more about how integrating WASH within wider urban development is making a difference

Joep Verhagen, Program Lead Water & Urban at The Global Center on Adaptation spoke about how the world is not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 6 targets and how climate change is going to compound this challenge.
But for the urban poor, he said, it is difficult to distinguish what is climate change and what is already a poor service.

Alex McNamara, Programme Manager, Environmental Sustainability at the National Business Initiative in South Africa highlighted the importance of building strong municipal businesses which can provide good customer service, billing, and make sure services are properly priced.

He highlighted how the municipality in Durban looked at climate adaptation not as an additional cost, but as a saving: given how preventative action to improve drainage would reduce the clean-up required after heavy rains. The initiative helped communities to clear rivers, improve ecosystems and create jobs.

Katrin Bruebach highlighted how in the last 20 years the world has failed to solve the sanitation crisis, but that the current pandemic has brought WASH to the forefront. Demonstrating the problems that cities will face if they fail to address the water needs of their communities is vital if we are to be able to generate momentum on the issue.

The current pandemic has shown the importance of handwashing with soap as the simplest and most effective way to prevent the spread of a virus

Lord Boateng, Chairman of WSUP highlighted in his closing remarks that the public health challenge of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene is also a climate change challenge, and there is no solution to one without the other.

WSUP has been implementing climate adaptation work for 15 years, supporting cities to grapple with urbanisation and the increasing fragility of urban life for the poorest residents. In each country where we work, we have developed solutions which work – changing institutions for the better and improving the lives of millions of people.

As climate change gathers pace, we need to step up this work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable. WSUP is determined to do as much as we can to tackle this problem.

Learn more about our climate change work

Top image: Resident in Beira washing his hands. Credit: Stand Up Media

Building urban resilience in the face of Covid-19: new video shows our hygiene work in Ghana and Kenya

7 July 2021 at 09:42

Over the last year, WSUP with the support of the Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC) – a UK government and Unilever initiative – delivered a rapid customer focused communication hygiene campaign, to combat the spread of Covid-19 in some of the most vulnerable communities in Ghana and Kenya.

Implemented across 10 cities, WSUP’s response aimed at building urban resilience through improved hygiene related practices among low-income and vulnerable populations and increasing the capacity of institutions and service providers responding to the pandemic.

Watch our film to find out more:

WSUP and its partners implemented a broad range of tactics to raise awareness of Covid-19, improve hygiene behaviours and keep infection rates as low as possible.

Promoting hygiene messaging

Complementing the efforts of the government health services in both countries, a variety of messages were delivered to around 17 million residents.

A billboard in Accra promoting hygiene messaging

The messages covered issues of prevention, protection, safety, security and where to seek early support when showing signs and symptoms of Covid-19. These were delivered through social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and via influencers, bulk SMS text messaging, local radio and TV stations, posters and out-of-home banners, water and sanitation utility websites and local door-to-door campaigns supported by community health professionals.

Broadcasting hygiene messages through radio talk shows

Distributing hygiene materials and handwashing facilities, and hygiene training

Over 280,000 WASH products such as Lifebuoy soaps, hand sanitisers and face masks were distributed to school children, healthcare workers, environment health officers, utility frontline staff, the elderly, as well as people with disabilities.

650 handwashing stations were installed in several market centres, lorry stations, schools, religious institutions and health facilities.

Handwashing station installed in a school in Nakuru, Kenya

A number of community-based organisations, local leaders and school staff were trained on approaches such as Unilever’s School of 5 and Mum’s Magic Hands which were then rolled out in various locations and schools.

Working with water utilities

Building on our unique relationship with utilities, we were able to support seven utilities to undertake awareness-raising activities to their customers. Websites for the collaborating utilities were revamped and their e-service platforms upgraded to incorporate Covid-19 messages that could easily be accessed by their customers remotely.

Upgraded website of Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company

Water utilities used bulk messaging to engage with their customers on Covid-19 prevention information. This included messaging on social distance payment options, water access through reporting of leaks and bursts, and handwashing. A total of six bulk messages were shared with utility customers during the campaign period and this continued across the utilities through integration of the Covid-19 messages into the monthly bills.

Integrating inclusivity

WSUP regularly met with various organisations and associations for persons with disabilities to ensure their needs were met. Communication materials were adapted to formats that were accessible for different groups. Nearly half of the handwashing stations that were installed in communities, were designed to be accessible.

Posters targeting different groups of people

Alongside these immediate measures, WSUP is also focusing on the long-term availability of water supplies, particularly for the poorest in cities. This includes strengthening utilities and encouraging service providers to work with communities to improve water access.

Given the low rates of vaccinations in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, promoting good hygiene practices remains incredibly important. The simple act of handwashing with soap can reduce the spread of the virus, prevent future pandemics, and save countless lives.

Find out more about our Covid-19 response

Top image: Distribution of hygiene materials in Kumasi, Ghana. Image credit: Paul Obeng

Two years on from Cyclone Idai: new video shows how Beira is rebuilding

15 June 2021 at 11:34

In Mozambique climate change is increasing the severity of natural disasters, weakening already vulnerable infrastructure and threatening to leave millions of low-income residents of cities without access to water and sanitation.

This was the case in 2019 when Cyclone Idai hit the city of Beira, destroying much of the city’s water network and over 11,000 homes. This left many poor residents displaced, without clean water and safe sanitation.

WSUP has worked with utilities, community groups and local government in Beira to help residents recover from the cyclone and to improve the long-term climate resilience of the city.

By reducing water losses, promoting safe waste disposal and encouraging good hygiene practices we can limit the impact of future natural disasters and ensure all low-income residents in the city have sustainable water and sanitation services.

Watch our video to find out more:

WSUP’s work in Beira is supported by Borealis, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and a foundation that wishes to remain anonymous.

Taking water, sanitation and hygiene out of the silo: new report builds the case for integrated urban development

24 May 2021 at 12:43

Water, sanitation and hygiene improvements need to be integrated into wider urban development initiatives to have maximum reach and impact, according to a new report published by WSUP and Arquitectura sin Fronteras.

Drawing on evidence from cities such as Maputo, Accra, Nairobi and Antananarivo, the report, entitled Integrated Slum Upgrading: how can we link water and sanitation improvements with wider urban development? finds that a more coordinated approach to delivery of services can make a big difference to the overall impact for residents.

Download the report

At the centre of the report is analysis of work conducted by Arquitectura sin Fronteras and WSUP to develop an integrated land rights and sanitation programme in Maputo, Mozambique. The ongoing project, taking place in the Chamanculo C community, has combined a process of improving land rights, street widening and plot boundary clarifications, with a programme of introducing high-quality shared sanitation facilities.

Before and after images of the ongoing work in Maputo

The integration of the two activities resulted in a more considered approach to improvements to communities, for example, making it easier to find suitable locations for sanitation facilities, and ensuring that facilities are constructed in locations which allow vehicle access for septic tank emptying. The process of offering sanitation facilities in turn helped to ease the complex community negotiations needed to agree, and sometimes change, plot boundaries.

Learn more: join us on Thursday, 27 May, at the RISE Africa festival

The report finds that:

  1. Integrated slum upgrading is the future, and organisations involved in water and sanitation need to partner with civil society organisations to ensure that WASH developments happen in tandem with progress in other areas.
  2. The process of improving land tenure, plot boundaries and road access makes it much easier to improve water and sanitation services in informal urban settlements.
  3. Water and sanitation organisations need to get out of the WASH silo, and make more efforts to engage with organisations working across urban development.
  4. Funding streams which enable water and sanitation organisations to partner with organisations operating in other areas of urban development are needed, to help drive a more integrated approach to improving some of the world’s poorest urban communities.

The report also features work taking place in Nairobi, Kenya and how WASH services are being integrated into the country’s largest slum upgrading project, the Mukuru Special Planning Area; and work taking place in Antananarivo, Madagascar, to link water supply and improvements to drainage and solid waste management.

Resident outside a WASH block in Nairobi

Integrating water, sanitation and hygiene services within wider urban development is a key priority in WSUP’s new Business Plan, and represents an important step-change in increasing the impact of our work and bringing greater benefits to under-served urban residents.

Read our Business Plan now

Download: Integrated Slum Upgrading: how can we link water and sanitation improvements with wider urban development?

Top image: Beira resident cleans hands in makeshift sink. Credit: Stand Up Media

ESAWAS and WSUP renew partnership to strengthen regulation in Africa

10 May 2021 at 11:10

The Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) have agreed new partnership objectives to help strengthen pro-poor regulations across Africa.

Cities in sub-Saharan Africa continue to face a significant challenge of rapid population growth but lack capacity to provide water and sanitation services for the poorest residents. There is a need for improved regulation, and realistic standards to be created to initiate action by service providers to meet the increased demand, especially for sanitation services.

Both ESAWAS and WSUP have identified the importance of stronger regulatory authorities in improving water and sanitation services and the need to promote specific initiatives that would bring benefits to the poorest urban residents and support regulators to introduce these initiatives.

A low-income community in Nairobi. Credit: Brian Otieno

The partners, who have been working together since August 2018, will prioritise research and advocacy to deepen regulation of water and sanitation services in Africa. Collaboration will also include joint actions to support development of strategies, regulations, guidelines and standards to ensure equitable access to all rural and urban populations.

“Safe and inclusive water and sanitation service provision depends on effective regulatory regimes that support service providers to prioritise the poor and the marginalized,” said Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP. “Through ESAWAS membership, we have been able to widen our reach by working closely with a number of national regulators in the East and Southern Africa region. This renewed partnership provides a fresh opportunity for WSUP to support current and potential ESAWAS members to serve the millions who lack water and sanitation services in cities in Africa.”

Meanwhile, Kasenga Hara the Executive Secretary of ESAWAS said. “We are glad to continue our collaboration with WSUP that will enable us refine our regulatory tools especially those that aim at improving service delivery in low-income areas of our communities. We look forward to continued knowledge and skills enhancement engagements that equip our members to effectively deliver on their mandates.”

Since 2018, ESAWAS and WSUP have pushed for greater recognition of the role that regulation can play in improving water and sanitation services for the poorest and highlighted specific initiatives that regulators can undertake.

Activities have included:
  • The launch of a joint paper series led by ESAWAS on Citywide Inclusive Urban Sanitation that looks at the functions needed to ensure sanitation systems function safely, at scale and inclusively.
  • The launch of a joint report, entitled, Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation which outlined six case studies of regulatory initiatives, including sanitation surcharges and pro-poor Key Performance Indicators.
  • Making the case for regulators to address on-site sanitation in order to improve service quality, tackle environmental issues and encourage the private sector operators to enter the market.
  • Highlighting the role of regulation through global and regional WASH conferences and workshops such as the urban WASH Inclusion Masterclass in Maputo and the AfricaSan conference in Durban (FSM4).
  • Capacity development support to ESAWAS member organisations on strengthening non-revenue water management, through a series of webinars hosted by WSUP and ESAWAS teams.

Top image: Aerial view of Beira. Credit: Stand Up Media

The building blocks for successful citywide sanitation systems

6 May 2021 at 10:57

In cities, formal sanitation systems by and large focus on financing and managing piped sewerage infrastructure. In many areas, these sewer systems are non-existent and where they do exist, they are limited to certain areas of a city and do not serve vulnerable informal communities.

Non-sewered sanitation systems that are based on pit latrines, septic tanks or container-based solutions on the other hand are treated as a household responsibility to be addressed by the private sector. These uncoordinated systems fail to protect public health, safety or inclusivity outcomes. With less than ten years to achieve the SDG targets, the inherent failures associated with sanitation service markets must be corrected to achieve these outcomes.

A SWEEP vacuum tanker making its rounds in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: Green Ink

To support safe and healthy urban environments, sanitation services must be organised into public service systems. This does not imply that the public sector has the sole responsibility, the private sector too can play a key role within a publicly managed system. However, for these systems to function, safely, at scale and inclusively so as to ensure safe, equitable and sustained services for all residents in a city, Citywide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) is fundamentally dependent on three things: responsibility, accountability, and resource planning and management.

Led by The Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association (ESAWAS) in partnership with Blue Chain Consulting, Urban Research and WSUP, our CWIS paper series looks at the role of each of these three functions, how they tend to be implemented or overlooked, and how they interact with the other functions.

Download the papers here:

Citywide inclusive urban sanitation: Responsibility

This short publication looks at the function of responsibility: the extent to which sanitation authorities are clearly mandated. The publication outlines a typology of the main approaches to defining and assigning mandates for sanitation services to one or more responsible authorities; and provides an overview of examples, exceptions, and implications of these approaches.

Download from the ESAWAS website

Citywide inclusive urban sanitation: Accountability

Accountability mechanisms help create the incentives that align the mandated entity’s own interests with the public good. Accountability requires a) that mandated entities have clear performance objectives; b) that mechanisms are in place to ensure rigorous monitoring of performance against those objectives; and c) that tracking outcomes translate into incentives for mandated entities. In this paper, we briefly explore the accountability mechanisms that can be applied to the different service provision mandate structures identified in our parallel paper on responsibilities.

Download from the ESAWAS website

Citywide inclusive urban sanitation: Resource planning and management

Scarce global finance for urban sanitation makes its efficient use an imperative. Effective resource management and planning is critical to enable finance to be mobilised, well targeted, and accounted for. The enabling environment to support resource management and planning includes a combination of clear policies and mandates, transparent decision making, and strong accountability systems. To provide some initial insights into these issues, a desk review was undertaken of over 40 urban sanitation investments in 28 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Download from the ESAWAS website

FSM transfer station in Lusaka, Zambia

Of course, these are huge topics. We hope these introductory publications will be useful in mapping the landscape and in setting out key concepts. We will be exploring the three functions in more depth, drawing on country-level case studies, in a series of longer publications to follow later this year. Watch this space!

Top image: Waste treatment plant in Chattogram, Bangladesh. Credit: Green Ink

Integrated water services for refugees and host communities is more than just providing taps

14 April 2021 at 09:11

By Tim Hayward, General Manager, WSUP Advisory

Across the East Africa region there are an astonishingly large number of settlements, more than 200, that currently accommodate about 3,000,000 people displaced from their countries and home areas due to war, ongoing conflict and insecurity.

Their need for basic services such as water are met, with varying degrees of success, by a wide range of approaches and actors, and much of what has been provided in the past has been temporary and ad-hoc and none of it has been self-sustaining.

Following a significant shift in the humanitarian sector in 2016, with the development of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, there is now a much greater acceptance in many countries for the long-term support and integration of refugee populations which has opened up possibilities for initiatives that aspire to provide sustainable and integrated services to both host communities and communities of refugees or internally displaced persons. Only a few years ago in many countries there was no political will to even consider the long-term accommodation of refugees.

Whilst the tendency might be for discussions about how to achieve viable integrated services to focus only on infrastructure and training of the nearest utility, it has become clear to us at WSUP that such approaches have wide ranging implications for actors in both the humanitarian and the development sectors. Furthermore, investment decisions will have to take into account factors that would not normally appear on the agenda of a discussion about water utility development.

NCWSC PPD - Nairobi
A utility worker in Nairobi, Kenya. How can utilities adapt to the challenge of providing services for refugee populations?

This stems from some work that WSUP Advisory, WSUP’s consultancy arm, has conducted with UNICEF and UNHCR, supported by KfW, that focussed on the challenges of establishing integrated services (for the benefit of both displaced and host communities) in East Africa, and also draws on some of the observations and lessons identified in a paper written by WSUP Advisory in collaboration with UNICEF and IIED that looked at the challenges faced by service providers in the Middle East and North Africa region to serving displaced populations.

Any discussion on the prospects for integrated services should recognise at the beginning that certain conditions have to be favourable – it’s not going to work or to be a worthwhile investment everywhere, and from the perspective of the refugees and IDPs targeted what this means for them is in fact a transition from being “a beneficiary of humanitarian assistance” to “a customer of a utility”. The significance of this transition should not be underestimated, and it has wide ranging implications for a number of stakeholders.

For the funding agencies to provide the levels of investment required to deliver sustainable integrated services they will have to be satisfied that the conditions are at least favourable for success and will want to prioritise the most favourable locations.

Drawing on our experience of considering the water sector as a whole and of using tools such as WSUP’s Sector Functionality Framework (SFF) to assess and to understand the environment within which utilities have to operate, WSUP has identified that conditions in the national context such as security, political stability, etc. and the social context are just as important as assessing the capabilities of the service provider and of understanding the technical or engineering challenges of a particular location.

In order to understand the capabilities and requirements of utilities, WSUP has developed a Utility Strengthening Framework that follows the same structure and approach as the SFF but focusses more specifically on the utility.

Blog: A utility strengthening approach to tackling water scarcity

WSUP's Utility Strengthening Framework
WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework

Furthermore, moving from the traditional approach of the humanitarian sector to the provision of water services, that could be described as ‘care and maintenance’, to an integrated service being provided by a utility implies a significant process of change that should be managed, supported and encouraged in the same way as any other major change process.

Programmes of humanitarian response can be characterised as having an emergency phase, which may require quick and by necessity often temporary solutions in order to save lives, followed by a stabilisation and then a recovery phase. In the early stages, the responding agencies may in fact be substituting for local service providers (although sometimes they don’t recognise that this is what they are doing) who don’t have the capacity or are not present or may be present and have the capacity but have simply been overlooked by the international players.

In order to get to a point where local utilities can provide a good quality, sustainable service to displaced and host communities, will require a significant shift over time in the roles of UN Agencies, which have different but complementary mandates, and in the roles of international and national NGOs and different funding agencies. The areas of interest and the time horizon of a funder of humanitarian relief activities is very different to those of the IFIs and the development banks but one is required in the early part and the other in the latter part of such a process.  This therefore implies that ideally there should be a managed process of transition.

Similarly, whilst the expertise provided by humanitarian NGOs can be highly valued in the early phases, the expertise of international consulting agencies is likely to be more appropriate to addressing the requirements of the latter and longer-term phases. The same will also apply to national agencies and different government bodies with mandates and responsibilities that are relevant to different phases in the process.  The possibility for ‘territorial’ conflict between combinations of the above is also very real if not adequately addressed.

A wider benefit of moving towards an integrated approach is that investing in water utilities and creating opportunities for them to increase their customer base, and thus their revenue, could also provide opportunities for clustering of smaller utilities to create larger and more viable entities.

This is a trend that is already happening in a number of countries in Africa, for example in Kenya, with the development of county level rather than town level utilities; in Uganda with the advent of the regional Umbrella Authorities; and with the evolution of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency in Ghana. Bringing services to refugees and displaced communities into the equation could further reinforce that trend and provide a route to viability that may have been difficult if they were only to serve pre-existing host communities.

Read more about how WSUP Advisory is supporting a regional Umbrella Authority in Uganda

Assessing water supply issues with the Mid-Western Umbrella of Water and Sanitation (MWUWS)

Whilst this integrated approach is an all too rare example of a possibility for bridging the gap between the humanitarian and development sectors, and the debate on how to achieve that has been running since the 1970s, for this to be fully successful some other key issues will also have to be addressed. Not least is the question of the relationship and accountability between the customer and the utility. For example, how can someone who is a refugee, and therefore may have limited opportunities for employment and for earning their own income, be truly regarded as a customer of a utility while a mechanism for applying subsidies (of perhaps 100%) is still required.  Equally, how can such customers hold the utility to account for the service provided?

There is also the potential for lessons to be learnt from an integrated approach that could inform the early phases of future humanitarian responses. Hopefully, this would prevent the situation arising where decisions made during the humanitarian phase create challenges that then have to be addressed in the development phase. Whilst this is a hugely welcome development there is clearly plenty of scope for further work to be done.

Learn more about WSUP Advisory

Top image: Resident outside a refugee camp in Beira. Credit: Stand Up Media

What is water worth?

22 March 2021 at 13:21

To mark World Water Day, 22 March, WSUP is shining a light on the value of water: the theme for this year’s campaign.

Water brings value in so many ways, whether it is through education, employment, nutrition, health, or environmental protection. Safeguarding this precious resource for the benefit of everyone is critical.

Watch the video to see how people value water:

This World Water Day, let’s take a stand to protect this precious and finite resource.

Learn more about valuing water:

How communities are managing water services in Madagascar

The value of water in small towns in Ghana

The importance of clean water in the garment industry in Bangladesh


The stepping stones for sustainable water

18 March 2021 at 15:00

For the residents of Soalandy, a commune in Madagascar, a new laundry block with access to clean and drinkable water is bringing enormous value.

But ensuring that the service is sustainable is so much more than bricks and mortar.

It is about community buy-in, training and community-led management.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is valuing water. The role of water in households and communities is critical. Furthermore, improved water, sanitation and hygiene services also adds value in the form of greater health, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the Water & Development Alliance (WADA), USAID, The Coca-Cola Foundation and WSUP are focusing on the measures needed to ensure that water facilities are sustainable within these communities in Madagascar.

Watch our film:

Learn more about our work in Madagascar

New water systems of enormous value to growing towns in Ghana

17 March 2021 at 10:52

A key trend of urbanisation across Africa is villages evolving into small towns but lacking the accompanying investment in basic services.

The Ashanti region, Ghana’s most populated region, is an example of this challenge. As a result, whole communities lack access to clean water.

To address this issue, WSUP has been working with The One Foundation to improve water services in 10 towns across the region, ensuring sustainable services in the years to come.

Elizabeth Konadu, a single mother of four has been a water vendor in Asamang town for the past two years.

Elizabeth, a water vendor, assisting a customer at the new water facility

“Before the installation of the water facility, fetching water took a lot of my time, especially during the early hours of the morning which could have been used for other productive activities. Currently, I am able to devote more time to assist my children in getting ready for school.”

Before the construction of the new water system, residents had to walk long distances to access water from sources which were also used by animals, making it unsafe for drinking and domestic use.

Following the construction of the new water supply systems, water quality tests were carried out to ensure compliance with water safety guidelines. The facilities were then handed over to the communities, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency responsible for water and sanitation coverage in small towns and communities, and the District Assembly.

For Elizabeth, the water facility has been a real blessing for her family. The monthly income she receives as a water vendor helps feed her family and send her children to school.

At Okaikrom, another community located about an hour’s drive from Asamang, the water facility has had great impact on Ernestina Antwi’s health and that of her family.

Ernestina Antwi, a user of the water facility at Okaikrom in Kumasi

“Our previous water source was not clean. As a result, members of our household, especially children, fell sick often. We always had to spend money on medicines. Ever since the water facility was installed in the community, members of my household rarely fall sick and we no longer spend lots of money at the hospital.”

Water and Sanitation Committees enhancing the management and sustainability of water facilities

WSUP, in collaboration with the District Water and Sanitation Agencies, set up Community Water and Sanitation Committees that were tasked with overseeing the water facilities to ensure sustainability of services. Honourable George Osei Asomaning, an Assembly Member for Konya-Brehoma is the Chairperson for the Water and Sanitation Committee at Asamang.

He constantly strives to ensure that the Committee fulfills its role in ensuring that the facility runs smoothly.

“The assistance we have received for the setting up of the water systems is immense. Our priority is to extend the water facility for access by vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as persons with disabilities and the elderly.”

26-year-old Isaac Awuah is a technical officer who regularly visits the water facility at Asamang. He is among 170 community management team members from both the district and municipal water and sanitation team members who received training from WSUP on operations and maintenance of the new water supply system.

“Since the project started, I have gained a lot of skills in managing the pipe, identifying and handling fault and plumbing. As part of my duties, I have to ensure that the pump is put off at least every two days. In addition, the income I gain from this role enables me to provide some of my needs.”

James Akuoko was selected to become the chief technical operator of the water system in Okaikrom.

James, on the left, received training on the basic protocols in water quality sampling, testing and analysis

“I am delighted to be part of this project and I hope to use the knowledge and skills acquired during the construction phase and the capacity building programme. Apart from being a member of the team that will ensure provision of safe and affordable water to my community, personally it will serve as alternative source of income which will help take good care of my family. Thank you, One Foundation, thank you WSUP.”

Effective data management is a key challenge for the water operators. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck last year, the government issued a directive that water would be provided for free during the pandemic with a view to reimbursing water suppliers later. However, to be reimbursed by the government, clear records must be kept for the water used during the time, and this proved complex for the Water and Sanitation Committees.

WSUP is working with its partners to overcome this challenge; but despite this difficulty, five out of the 10 communities decided to continue paying for the service anyway, demonstrating how much the residents value the new system.

A pupil washing hands at the new facility in Asamang

For these communities in Ghana, clean water is bringing enormous value. Improving basic water services across these rapidly growing towns is vital to managing urbanisation successfully.

Read more about WSUP’s work in Ghana

Valuing water: the importance of clean water for garment industry workers

16 March 2021 at 12:52

The readymade garment industry is the lifeline of the Bangladesh economy. Yet, the workers in these factories who live in nearby low-income communities lack access to clean water, safe sanitation, and handwashing facilities.

Investing in these basic services at the community level can bring clear benefits for businesses – a healthier workforce means better productivity. For the workers, it means spending less time trying to source clean and affordable water and sanitation services, and an increase in household savings due to reduced illnesses.

In Dhaka, WSUP in partnership with Kontoor Brands Inc., an apparel company marketing brands such as Lee Wrangler, embarked on a project to improve access to water and sanitation services and improve hygiene behaviours for garment factory workers.

For Tanzina, a resident and factory worker, the new services in her community have been of immense value, “We are much healthier now. These improvements allowed us to avoid falling sick and increase our productivity in the workplace.”

By providing water and sanitation services both in and outside of the workplace, businesses are not only improving their operations but are also building stronger communities.

Wesley Gibson, Vice President & Managing Director, Product Supply at Kontoor Brands Inc. remarked, “We regularly deploy programmes outside the factories that have positive impacts in the surrounding communities. We do this to help ensure improvements in the water, sanitation and hygiene standards of factory workers.”

Learn more about WSUP’s work in Bangladesh

Weaknesses in water, sanitation and hygiene systems exposed by pandemic, say experts

24 February 2021 at 17:43

Highlights from a panel discussion on how cities are adapting to challenges such as the Covid-19 crisis.

At a WSUP event held yesterday, a panel of expert speakers outlined the challenges faced in the urban water, sanitation and hygiene sector as a result of Covid-19, and made recommendations on priorities for the sector.

The Adapting in a Time of Crisis event assessed the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries and was moderated by Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT and a member of the WSUP Board.

A recording of the online event is available here

Gerald Mwambire, Managing Director, Malindi Water & Sewerage Company, Kenya started off the event by highlighting how the Covid-19 pandemic has put a strain on service provision.

“The government issued directives that we need to provide water [for free], because water is so important for mitigating Covid. But when we are giving free water, that means we have low revenue collection,” he said. Without subsidies from the government, Mwambire added, utilities have struggled to operate effectively.


2020 was a year of doing things differently, and of innovating rapidly to combat constantly shifting threats.

Jeff Goldberg, Director, Center for Water Security, Sanitation and Hygiene, USAID, highlighted how the crisis has been a forcing event to accelerate digital technologies in the sector to address the water and sanitation challenge.

As an example, Mwambire spoke of how in Malindi, the utility was compelled to look at SMS billing and smart meters to reduce the risk of customers and frontline staff being exposed to Covid-19.

Report: Smart meters: innovating to improve water supply in a post-Covid context

The informal settlement of Bangladesh, in Mombasa, Kenya
Crowded urban settlements such as this community in Mombasa, Kenya, are highly exposed to the pandemic – making good hygiene a vital part of daily life

Helena Dollimore, Senior Manager, Global Sustainability, Unilever, spoke about how Unilever worked with development actors who are already serving low-income income residents through the Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC). This included helping NGOs to adapt their work to the digital space and using mass media and digital channels to promote hygiene messaging.

In Kenya for example, through the HBCC programme, WSUP was able to use SMS hygiene messaging through our existing work with utilities who made use of their customer databases to reach a large number of low-income residents with vital information.

Read more about WSUP’s Covid-19 response

Stronger utilities

At WSUP we believe that utilities are the solution to comprehensive, safe water access in cities.

However, the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the vulnerability of utilities’ financial positions. Many utilities were – understandably – required to provide water for free to help in the fight against the pandemic, but this has come at severe costs for their sustainability and financial viability.

Investing in utilities and helping them become financially stable is crucial for improving services for the people most in need, and it is one of the most important steps that we can take to tackle the water crisis.

Read more about how WSUP is working with utilities to improve services

Andrea Jones, Program Officer, International Programs, Hilton Foundation said, “The blanket safety net approach has put service providers in a precarious position…We need to ensure utilities can reach the poor and vulnerable.”

Frank Kettey, Country Programme Manager, Ghana, WSUP, added: “The role that utilities play is crucial, and we all need to work towards supporting them to ensure they emerge stronger after the pandemic.”

Goldberg remarked that the crisis has given us the opportunity to look at the fundamentals of governance, policy, cost recovery and ensuring we build financially stable utilities that can withstand any kind of crisis moving forward.

Read WSUP’s report on regulation in the sanitation sector: Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation

Continuous water supply for all and climate change

“If climate change was a shark, then water would be the teeth of it,” said Dollimore, highlighting the link between climate change and water.

Climate change is threatening water and sanitation systems in cities. 74% of all natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 have been water related.  Whether the problem is too much water or too little water, it is damaging people’s ability to have access to decent services.

In the face of this growing challenge, building the resilience of service providers has never been more important.

WSUP's Utility Strengthening Framework
WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework is helping build resiliency within the water sector

In order to deliver services to the poorest residents, utilities need to improve effectiveness across the breadth of their operations. WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework uses eight steps to move towards a stronger utility.

Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP, highlighted how following the cyclones that hit Beira in Mozambique in 2019, WSUP had to work with city authorities to build back better. He argued that adapting to climate change needs to become standard process within urban development and within those institutions providing water, sanitation and hygiene.

Read more about how WSUP is helping cities to become climate resilient

The last 12 months have shown us that even in a crisis – or perhaps because of a crisis – change is possible. As Jones commented, although the Covid-19 crisis has brought to the forefront the gaps in water, sanitation and hygiene systems, it has also provided an opportunity for leaders to address these challenges.

WSUP is determined to play its part in driving the change needed.

WSUP's priorities: read our 2020-2025 Business Plan