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Citywide access to water and sanitation services in Kenya

Clean, piped water brings dignity to people, reduces living costs, frees up time – and crucially, given the situation right now, is a critical defence against infectious diseases.

With the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation’s Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has been working with Kenyan city authorities to enable more than 600,000 urban residents across five cities to improve access to clean water, safe sanitation and improved hygiene.

Improving water supply

Through new pipeline extensions, residents in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu can now connect to the water supply. Nancy Adhiambo, a fishmonger in Nairobi, says, “To be able to sell the fish I must first prepare them. I use water from the prepaid water dispensers to clean them. It is very helpful for business.”

WSUP also worked with private water operators to improve the quality of service for residents in marginalised communities. “I was trained on business development, human resources, financial and customer management,” says Vincent Omondi, a water entrepreneur in Kisumu.

Fishmonger Nancy Adhiambo has benefited from WSUP and RAIN’s extensions to the water network in Nairobi. Credit: Brian Otieno

Upgrading sanitation services

In Nairobi’s under-served community of Kaptagat, WSUP worked with the city utility Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company to extend the sewer network, upgrade pit latrines to pour flush toilets, and build demand for the new service.

Alice Nduta was one of the first to get a sewer connection in the community. Before, she had to use a room as a septic tank, and had to pay twice a month to have the room cleaned out. “The whole community is now cleaner and there is no bad odour in the area mainly because other plot owners have also connected their toilets to the sewer line.”

RAIN and WSUP provided residents like Alice Nduta with sewer connections that reduce the monthly cost of sanitation

Empowering women and girls

Ensuring that facilities meet the needs of women and girls is a vital part of building inclusive services. In Naivasha, WSUP worked with Life Bloom Services International to develop a sanitary pads sales and distribution business. Many of the sales agents are former sex workers, giving these women an opportunity to improve their lives through the Life Bloom social business.

Stronger utilities

As a result of the programme, utilities in four cities now have an improved ability to serve the poorest communities. For WSUP, this achievement represents significant progress towards our overall goal of supporting water and sanitation providers in Kenya to provide universal access across cities in the country.

Learn more about WSUP's work with The Coca-Cola Foundation

Stronger regulators crucial to improving sanitation services for the poorest, report finds

A new report published by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and the Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association identifies how stronger regulators can play an important role in improving sanitation for under-served urban residents.

The report, entitled Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation, has four key findings:

  1. Regulatory effectiveness is a core driver of improved sanitation services. Every football match needs a referee.
    An independent regulator can act as a referee between the government, and sanitation service providers, to ensure the best deal possible for customers.
  2. Regulations are not enough: clear responsibilities and active regulating is essential.
    A plethora of national laws and municipal by-laws already governs much around sanitation services. Yet on their own, rules rarely translate into improved outcomes.
  3. Problems cannot be solved in one bold step. Active regulating involves incremental change, extensive consultation and testing.
    Even countries which are showing good progress have a long way to go. Sandwiched between utility, government and consumer, regulators have to introduce change gradually and manage stakeholders wisely.
  4. A Regulating Ladder could support countries in their journey to active regulating.
    A ladder which mirrors the industry-wide UNICEF / WHO JMP sanitation ladder could inform assessments of where countries stand in their journey from passive regulations compliance to active regulating.

Download the full report here

As part of this research we spoke to staff from regulators in Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique about the importance of active regulating in promoting access to quality, affordable sanitation.

Safe sanitation is not just about toilets – it’s about the effective systems that underpin strong services. Regulators are a crucial, but often undervalued part of that.

WSUP and ESAWAS have analysed the role of regulators in four countries to assess their importance in the broader system of sanitation services, and understand how their roles are being made more impactful. The report identifies a range of different regulatory instruments and demonstrates how their introduction is leading to improved sanitation services in traditionally under-served urban communities.

The national case studies are as follows:

Bangladesh: national institutional and regulatory framework for un-sewered sanitation

Kenya: standard operating procedures in the city of Kisumu

Kenya: introducing cross-subsidies to finance sanitation

Mozambique: adopting new regulatory responsibilities

Zambia: a new national framework for regulating un-sewered sanitation

Kenya: incentives to encourage utilities to serve the poorest communities

The report also assesses the contribution being made by ESAWAS to drive change through at pan-African level.

Read the full report here

How can the global WASH sector respond better in future crises?

By Kariuki Mugo, Director of WASH Sector Support

The global WASH sector has laudably responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the actions have been in supporting the public health domain in handwashing with soap by way of ensuring adequate water is available in most households.

There has also been a great deal of investment in ensuring that water is available to all, especially the most vulnerable in cities, where lockdowns have been enforced. The poor have a different level of vulnerability in the sense that majority, if not all of them, depend on daily wages. The moment human movement is restricted, it immediately curtails their cash flow and as a result, denies them the opportunity to afford basic needs such as water supplied by vendors and pay-per-use public sanitation.

Despite these praiseworthy responses by WASH service institutions, this epidemic has made us realise that we do not have the right mechanisms for any form of emergencies in the sector. Traditionally, our systems are designed for normal conditions and not to respond to emergencies such as flooding, hunger, and war. These situations are usually localised and responded to by independent state and global bodies and not service providers.

However, there has been no known humanity crisis like Covid-19 in our generation, one that permeates nearly every facet of our existence. It is therefore not a surprise that the WASH sector, just like many others, was caught flat-footed by this pandemic. The situation has been of helplessness, the same case like everywhere else in terms of response.

Now that we seem to have somehow figured out the immediate actions to save lives and sustain a basic level of access to services, we need to envision what could have been done to better prepare for such circumstances. This becomes the immediate area of attention for the WASH sector to focus on, and the following are some suggestions.

WASH institutions have responded well to Covid-19 by providing emergency handwashing stations and water access. We must now focus on how to better prepare for future pandemics.

Structure Mandates and Coordination Mechanisms for Institutions

Institutional overlaps in the hygiene and sanitation sectors is a common occurrence in developing nations. Lack of clarity in mandates lead to either duplication or lapse of service provision. There is usually a level of unseen competition, especially in areas deemed to be well resourced by governments and donors, and abandonment of others that are difficult and less lucrative. The latter is usually the case for provision of services to the poor, and more so, onsite sanitation and basic hygiene services.

One of the evident and significant struggles in our programme countries is how various governmental bodies have struggled to respond on their own, as well as to rally support from stakeholders. This situation has clearly shown that it is the high time governments figured out how WASH institutions can effectively and efficiently work together not only to respond to humanitarian crises, but also in the day-to-day provision of services.

There is need for policymakers to rethink how institutions are structured and coordinated to enable clarity of responsibilities and allocation of resources, and as a result, reducing overlap and competition, and enhancing efficiency and collaboration in service provision at all times.

Develop Responsive Policy and Legal Frameworks

There is no doubt that the WASH sector lacks the relevant policies, laws, and regulations to govern response to crisis. The fact that the sector is designed to provide services to the population under normal economic conditions, any change in circumstances exerts undue stress to the systems, structures, and available resources. Besides, new, improved ways of working can only work if the existing policies and laws are repealed and this can often be challenging to implement.

Proper policies, laws and regulations will, for sure, enable WASH institutions to be in a better place to respond to emergencies and sustain services to a reasonable level. It is therefore imperative that governments draft statutes to better harmonize sanitation and hygiene institutions. This structured coordination is critical in such emergencies and is lacking in most countries.

Besides, hygiene has been a silent component in WASH service provision. Historically, most hygiene interventions have been mainly short-term campaigns without any meaningful infrastructure investment and sustainability mechanisms. This failure to position hygiene as a critical public health driver emanates from the fact that WASH sector policies do not consider the need for its investment and as a crucial responsibility of service providers. Now that  Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the value of hygiene in saving lives, policies and regulations must be reviewed to reposition its place in the sector.

The Covid-19 crisis has shown that we need to position hygiene as a critical public health driver. Credit: Yellow Rose

Structure Mechanisms for Full Utility Cost-Recovery During Emergencies

Utilities’ response to the crisis, in countries such as Ghana and Kenya, has mainly been the provision of free water in the short-term. This act of benevolence is commendable. But without any doubt, non-reimbursement by governments will usher in a more severe crisis of operational sustainability in the medium and long terms.

To begin with, low-income people living in unserved areas cannot afford to pay for services when directly provided by utilities during emergencies. Since they lack daily income and primarily depend on informal vendors and on-demand payments. The utilities, on the other hand, lack mechanisms for deferring non-customer payments and subsequent collection of revenues for services provided during the lockdowns. This situation, in addition to undue political pressure, has forced them to extensively provide free water during this pandemic.

The low levels of financial cost recovery mean that the service providers will soon experience a struggle to meet their fundamental recurrent obligations, thus further leading to a deterioration of services.

There is, therefore, a need to develop frameworks for enabling full cost-recovery support mechanisms for WASH service provision institutions while undertaking acts of emergency response for vulnerable populations. This is what is done for other sectors that typically intervene during humanitarian crises.

Utilities will need full cost-recovery support mechanisms to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: Tsilavo Rapiera

Ensure Equitable Access to Basic Urban Services (Leave No One Behind)

The curtailment of movement during lockdowns means that people are confined in spaces that generate a high level of service provision demand that is never experienced in regular periods. The need for water in low incomes areas is never high through days and nights, and as a result, utilities are finding it difficult to respond to this unusual condition.

Most importantly, this crisis has brought out the need for having arrangements to provide basic services to all those living in urban areas. The fact that the poor cannot access basic goods and services has made it impossible for most developing world governments to enforce lockdowns in low income urban and peri-urban areas.

This not only demonstrates how inequality inhibits the response to a public health emergency but also clearly tells that governments cannot respond to any other form of disasters in cities by way of broadly restricting human movement in low-income areas. It is a clear indication that inequality in access to basic urban goods and services leads to administrative incapability. Needless to say, inability to enforce a total lockdown in a segment of the population during Covid-19 outbreak indicates powerlessness to fully govern citizens in crisis situations.

This security red flag should serve as a serious wake-up call all governments to focus on providing services and ensuring economic empowerment of all their city populations, particularly the poor. If they do, it will improve the likelihood that in times of emergencies, people’s basic needs are met. In turn, this will make it easier to implement the necessary disaster responses across all of their people, speeding up recovery and a return to normality.

Find out more about WSUP's Covid-19 response

Fighting Covid-19 sustainably: four steps to creating water solutions that will last

In the wake of coronavirus, governments in developing economies are waking up to the urgency of providing water as an act of defence against infectious diseases.

Some short-term measures are important, but equally important is a renewed focus on long-term availability of water supplies, particularly for the poorest in cities.

Universal water coverage is not a luxury: it is an essential part of keeping people safe. Many governments in the Global South have responded impressively to the threats caused by Covid-19. They now need to use this momentum to look to the long term and create water access in informal settlements that will be sustainable for years to come, protecting against future pandemics or a second wave of Covid-19.

Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has identified four steps to creating long-term water solutions that will last:

  1. Invest in stronger utilities
  2. Embrace the power of great customer service
  3. Improve regulatory oversight
  4. Strengthen cooperation between communities and utilities

1. Invest in stronger utilities

Utilities are the solution to comprehensive, safe water access in cities, with a remit to manage water supply from source right through to settlement. To have any chance of achieving access, cities need bring piped, treated water to households, and increase the number of people connecting to this water supply.

Investing in utilities and helping them improve services for the people who need them most is one of the most important steps that we can take to tackle the water crisis.

A key element to this is investing in continuous water supply. Intermittent water supply – where water supply is switched on and off – weakens infrastructure, can allow contamination into the water network, and crucially, means that water is not available when residents need it. Utilities have to be able to provide water 24 hours a day, seven days a week for all their customers.

WSUP is working with the utility JIRAMA in Madagascar to build their capacity and help them deliver higher-quality services. Image credit: Tsilavo Rapiera

2. Embrace the power of great customer service

Great customer service means customers are happy, bills are paid promptly and leads to more customers, which leads to more revenue – which in turn results in better, and expanded, services. It is a crucial, and often neglected, part of tackling the water crisis.

The current guidance from many governments that customers cannot be disconnected has meant some water providers fearing that poor customers will stop paying their bills. Utilities are concerned that their long-term financial viability may be threatened if this happens.

But our experience is that customers will keep paying if they receive a quality service. To create more water access, therefore, utilities need to visibly improve services for existing residents, building a more loyal customer base which will provide the launchpad for growth.

Utilities in Zambia are improving their customer service at a local level to help expand water access in informal settlements. Image credit: Gareth Bentley

3. Improve regulatory oversight

Regulation is often over-looked but a crucial part of incentivising utilities to provide water to the poorest segments of society. If servicing the poorest becomes a matter of regulatory compliance, rather than an optional add-on, then it changes the focus for senior management of those water utilities.

In Kenya, for example, this is starting to happen, with the introduction of a metric that utilities must report to the regulator showing how well it is serving low-income areas. The better a utility does serve these communities, the better it does on the annual league tables.

READ: Achieving national impact through regulatory improvements in Kenya

Utilities in Kenya must now report on their service to low-income areas in order to place highly in the league tables Image credit: Brian Otieno

4. Strengthen co-operation between communities and utilities

Poor relations between urban communities and publicly owned utilities are a significant reason for slow uptake of water services. When communities take matters into their own hands to source and distribute water to residents, this actually hampers the availability and quality of water across a city.

Community-led water services can result in poorly treated water, a lack of fairness in pricing, a proliferation of informal water vendors and often, different communities in effect competing to draw water from underground sources. Uncoordinated water abstraction is a major threat to water availability in urban areas.

To solve these challenges, water providers have to be much more proactive about showing how they can meet the needs of residents and winning communities over, so that residents can benefit from safely treated, piped water from the central water network.

In Ghana, water providers have been working to engage communities in their work to expand their services to low-income areas. Image credit: Ernanio Mandlate

Learn more about WSUP's Covid-19 response

Delegated Management Models: ensuring service delivery at a local level

By Chisha Mwenso, Administrative Officer for WSUP in Zambia

In Zambia, WSUP has been supporting sustainable models for WASH service delivery to help reach more people in the most underserved communities.

In Lusaka, the capital and largest city in Zambia, around 65% of residents live in low-income communities, many of which lack access to clean water and safe sanitation. These areas are often overlooked by utilities and service-providers as they are less profitable than higher-income districts where residents can more easily afford water and sanitation services.

Lusaka Water Supply and Sanitation Company (LWSSC) has been implementing Delegated Management Models (DMMs) to expand access to water and sanitation in low-income areas and improve service delivery at the local level. This model establishes local management teams within communities which take over responsibility for day-to-day service delivery from the utility.

By preparing bills and payments, collecting meter readings, fixing leaks in the network and setting up new water connections they ensure a more reliable water supply and better customer service. As a result, residents become more positive about the service and more likely to invest in their own household water connections.

WSUP has been working to support LWSSC in the establishment and maintenance of these DMMs. This has included creating and monitoring service agreements between the operators and the utility; evaluating existing DMMs; mobilising capital to support new infrastructure; training staff and helping with community engagement. In addition, we have supported the low-income customer unit within LWSSC so that, in future, they will be able to establish DMMs without external support.

In the case of Mtendere East, a low-income community in Lusaka, WSUP also helped to mobilise financing to extend the water network to the area. Eight years on, this DMM is still working well, servicing 1,700 households with clean, affordable water. The local management team has also established positive relationships with the community through good service provision and a fast response time to queries.

“The DMM has been very proactive in resolving any challenges that arise and always provides good customer service. I receive my bills on time and in instances where I have been unable to settle my water bill at once the DMM has a facility that allows me to pay in instalments and not face any water service interruption” – Austin Kazelondo, a customer of the DMM in Mtendere East.

Austin Kazelondo, a customer of the DMM in Mtendere East

Investing back into the community

The management teams set up through DMMs require a start-up investment but are designed to become financially viable after this initial period. In Mtendere East, this start-up funding was provided by Australia Aid with support from CARE International who have worked with other DMMs in the area. Since then the local management team has been able to generate enough income to cover its own operating costs and establish an investment fund for the DMM. This fund is used to support payment plans that help residents spread out the costs of establishing a household water connection and to save towards the development of the DMM.

From this fund the management team has been able to save enough to build its own office in Mtendere East, allowing it to serve more residents in-person and extend its services within the community.

“The revenue being collected from the kiosks and payment of bills has enabled the DMM to extend the water network to service more people and build more kiosks, increasing the number from 15 to 24. Furthermore, the land on which these additional kiosks have been constructed is land that has been offered by the community members” – Benny Kaleya, Manager of the DMM in Mtendere East.

Benny Kaleya, Manager of the DMM in Mtendere East

What can we learn from Mtendere East?

The DMMs established in Lusaka have shown that this model can provide a successful path for commercial utilities and other government authorities to better serve low-income communities.

“We have seen high levels of efficiency with the DMM approach. You have a team dedicated to this area who are very efficient in providing services and are in constant contact with the customers”– Yvonne Siyeni, Peri-urban Department Manager for LWSSC.

Yvonne Siyeni, Peri-urban Department Manager for LWSSC

In Mtendere East, a key part of this success has been the involvement of the community in the development of the DMM. The role of residents in supporting the DMM, engaging with the services offered and, in some cases, donating land to be used for water kiosks has been critical in ensuring the sustainability of the DMM.

“When the Mtendere East DMM was established we ensured that clear roles and responsibilities were laid out in the service management contract between the DMM and LWSSC. This ensured the local management team were able to provide good customer service and could receive the support they needed from the utility.” – Reuben Sipuma, WSUP Country Programme Manager in Zambia.

There is still much work to do to improve water and sanitation access across Lusaka but WSUP is already working to replicate the success seen in areas like Mtendere East and expand the same model to other cities.

Find out more about how WSUP is improving access to safe water in Lusaka

Covid-19 and crowded urban settlements: how can we stop the spread?

By Sam Drabble, Acting Head of Evaluation, Research & Learning

For the one billion people living in informal urban settlements in the Global South, the spread of coronavirus poses an imminent threat that could prove catastrophic.

A range of factors makes transmission of the virus in these contexts more likely, and the potential impacts even worse than the huge toll now being felt in more developed economies.

One such factor is the very high population density: social distancing and self-isolation are practically impossible in contexts where multiple families share the same compound, cook food in a communal area, and walk the same narrow lanes.

This situation is exacerbated by lack of access to basic services: many of the people living in these communities must leave their premises just to collect water, or to use a toilet which they could be sharing with 10 other families – for which they will often have to queue.

There are many factors at play, and considerable uncertainty. But the fear is that once Covid-19 reaches these areas, the unhygienic conditions will cause it to spread even more rapidly than in Europe, United States and China.

Covid-19: message from our CEO

Like every organisation, WSUP is having to react quickly to this constantly evolving crisis. In most locations where we work, social distancing is now in force. Cities are in lockdown, to varying degrees. All WSUP staff must work from home and cannot for now interact in person with those we exist to support.

But by continuing to work closely with our partner utilities, and with our wider networks at the city and national level, we can still make a difference: to the prospects of the people living in vulnerable communities, and to the people whose job it is to keep these communities supplied with basic services.

Beira, Mozambique. High population density and a lack of access to basic services means coronavirus poses a dire threat across urban areas in the Global South.

We have identified five priority areas in which WSUP and our partners can contribute in the cities where we work:

1. Hygiene promotion campaigns

An effective response to Covid-19 is dependent on clear information and advice. Getting the message across in informal settlements will require a sophisticated and targeted communications strategy. Information flows in these areas can be different from elsewhere, with local groups and community-level structures playing a central role. Community leaders will be critical in driving a crisis response, including local chiefs or councillors.

In Ghana for example, information about the virus has primarily been shared through key mainstream TV and radio outlets, but many people living in informal settlements will get their news from local radio stations serving anywhere between 5,000 – 15,000 people.

As a sector, we need to engage these outlets to ensure the information they relay is aligned with approved messaging from Ministries of Health and with wider government policy in relation to the virus.

Evidently strategies must be adapted to leverage specific cultural norms. In Bangladesh for example, select high-profile celebrities (notably members of the national cricket team) have huge traction with all segments of the population, and could potentially be engaged to push the cause.

2. National urban planning and coordination

Many African governments have been decisive in their immediate response to the crisis, requiring citizens to practice social distancing. The challenge now is to ensure institutions come together to ensure an effective nationwide logistical response.

In several countries where WSUP works, lines of responsibility within the public sector are unclear, and intermediaries can play an important role in supporting coordination. Taking Kenya as one example, this will entail our working in close partnership with a wide range of institutions, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water and Sanitation, urban water utilities, the National Emergency Coordination Committee, County-level heads of preventive and promotive health, and large and local businesses offering essential services.

In Ghana, our immediate priority is to engage the Ministry of Health and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to support a coordinated effort to disseminate information about Covid-19 at the community level.

In Kenya WSUP is working in close partnership with a range of institutions such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water and Sanitation and urban water utilities to support our Covid-19 response.

3. Emergency water tankers and bowsers

To fight Covid-19 the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended social distancing, regular handwashing with soap and practicing respiratory hygiene. But for regular handwashing to be sustained, people must have access to a regular water supply.

Working with our partner utilities to achieve continuity of piped water supply is a core priority for WSUP at all times, but the crisis presents unique challenges, and utilities will struggle to meet the increased demand in some parts of the city.

We need to supplement long-term water provision efforts with emergency water supply systems, including through water tankers and bowsers.

Here an example to follow is Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company: the utility recently announced plans to drill boreholes to boost supply to Nairobi’s informal settlements, where tankers are also now widespread. We are hopeful similar measures will be introduced shortly in Lusaka and other locations.

4. Delivery and distribution of soap and handwashing facilities

As well as water, it is of course critical to ensure the residents of informal settlements have access to handwashing stations and plentiful supplies of soap. This is an area where the private sector has an important role to play, with Unilever and others now exploring ways to accelerate provision of soap and hand sanitizers to vulnerable communities.

In collaboration with these organisations — and as part of ongoing support to our partner utilities — WSUP is helping to identify priority locations in informal settlements so that simple handwashing facilities can be provided and donated soap or sanitizers can get to those in need. This will focus on areas that can offer the most benefit to communities such as local health centres, schools, water kiosks and public toilets.

In Kenya, our partner Nakuru Water has been installing handwashing facilities:

We have continued installing handwashing tanks in various areas in the Town. Today we received tanks from Central Rift Dev. Agency to continue the fight against #COVID19.With @GovLeeKinyanjui @Eng_F_Ngeno
The power is in our hands, let’s keep them clean.#StaySafe #EnrichingLife pic.twitter.com/77y3yDq1QL

— Nakuru Water (@NakuruWater) April 1, 2020

5. Provision of personal protective equipment

In countries where Covid-19 has already taken hold, appreciation has grown for the role of “key workers” – people whose jobs are considered vital to public health and safety. Water and sanitation are basic services and utility workers have an important role to play in crisis mitigation. In a major recent survey, water utility leaders in the United States cited potential staffing shortages due to illness and quarantine as by far their biggest current concern in the pandemic. Utility leaders across Africa and South Asia will share the same fears.

To maintain a regular supply, a portion of utility staff will have to stay mobile, for example to perform urgent service repairs in informal settlements. To protect these individuals, we are working with partner utilities to promote the procurement and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Acting with the required urgency

WSUP is well-positioned to support crisis mitigation efforts in informal settlements: many of our projects are explicitly focused on these areas, and our operations are built on close working partnerships with the city authorities and utilities mandated to serve them.

But neither we nor anyone else have all the answers – there is just too much uncertainty about how the virus will behave in these communities.

The key point at this moment in time is to identify those activities we know can make a difference, and to move and move quickly. We have a limited window of opportunity to mitigate the devastating effects of Covid-19 taking hold in communities where people are at the greatest risk.

Find out more about WSUP's coronavirus response

Our response to Covid-19: CEO message

Access to clean water and good hygiene have never been more important.

A message from our CEO Neil Jeffery

I wanted to share with you an update on WSUP’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the last week, we have been working tirelessly to reorient our organisation – getting staff back to their home countries, changing work practices, bolstering our technology systems and working out revised work plans for our operations around the world.

In the communities where we work, though, the crisis continues to grow. We are extremely concerned for the health and safety of people living in the fragile urban communities where WSUP focuses its attention. We are considering how we can strengthen WSUP’s role in the hygiene response.

Poor hygiene, and high population density means that an outbreak of Coronavirus in slum communities could be truly catastrophic. Mindful of this, we have seen authorities in the countries where we are working act quickly to limit the risk of disease transmission; and thankfully, the outbreaks in these countries to date have been small, at least compared to those in other parts of the world.

But this outbreak tells us that we need to act, more than ever, to address poor hygiene in growing urban populations. Many people are not aware of the critical importance of good hygiene; and even if they are, they may lack the soap and clean water to regularly wash their hands.

We have a duty to the communities where we work to consider ways in which we can assist them to improve hygiene, either through digital messaging, or by other means.

We are developing our plans on this and will do what we can to support urban authorities and utilities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as they seek to address this issue. We have experience of implementing major handwashing promotion campaigns and our teams are considering how we can best adapt our response in each of our programme countries.

To all of our partners, we are grateful for your continued understanding, patience and valued support.

Best regards,


Find out more about WSUP's Covid-19 response

Bright water, bright future: climate resilient services in Madagascar

For residents of Antananarivo like Rasoa, access to reliable water sources is essential in the face of increasing water scarcity.

Across the globe climate change is affecting the most vulnerable people in cities the most. For Madagascar’s peri-urban communities alternating severe droughts and flooding are making it harder for people to access safe, clean water sources.

Through the Water and Development Alliance, the United States Agency for Development (USAID), Coca-Cola Foundation and WSUP are helping to create more climate-resilient water systems that support residents like Rasoa.

For Rasoa, access to water is life changing.

“The first time we saw the bright water gushing we felt and hoped that our future will be so bright.”

The service is managed by JIRAMA, the national water utility in Madagascar. Through JIRAMA’s work to establish a water kiosk near her home Rasoa has a reliable source of clean water that doesn’t run out during the dry season. This work across Antananarivo is improving the resilience of the city, protecting those that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Watch the video to learn more.

Learn more about WSUP's work on climate change

From the front line of climate change: residents tell their stories

What does climate change mean for the most vulnerable people living in urban areas?

Ahead of this year’s World Water Day, WSUP has been finding out how climate change affects the water and sanitation needs of city residents.

The following stories give a snapshot of the challenges faced around the world, from rising temperatures in Bangladesh to destruction of water systems in Mozambique.

Follow us on Facebook to read the full stories.

Bangladesh: warmer temperatures and increased flooding

Community leader in Dhaka
Mohsin Howlader, community leader in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Mohsin Howlader, a community leader in Dhaka, told us:

“The summer is getting warmer each year and the demand for drinking water is increasing. I have a family of four and we used to consume one pitcher of drinking water a day in summer, but in recent times we have to fill the pitcher twice.”

In Beguntila, 4,500 people live in a tiny community which has three times the population density of the rest of the city. Five years ago, with WSUP’s support, the community was connected to the main water network, operated by Dhaka Water & Sewerage Authority.

As demand for water increases, there is not always enough water available. Even worse, during the rainy season residents have to cross hazardous flooded areas to fetch water.

Mozambique: recovering from the effects of Cyclone Idai

Henriqueta Luís, a resident of Beira, Mozambique

One year after Cyclone Idai destroyed large parts of the city of Beira, Henriqueta Luís still suffers from lack of clean water.

“Sometimes the water that we drink is unclean and this results in diarrhoea, vomiting and cholera,” she said.

The cyclone destroyed much of the water infrastructure, meaning that Henriqueta frequently has to walk long distances seeking safe water. Even a simple water fountain near to her home would make a huge difference to her life, and WSUP is working with local communities as well as the water utility FIPAG to bring this much needed service to Henriqueta and many others.

As climate change makes extreme weather like cyclones more common, building stronger, more resilient water infrastructure has never been more important.

Zambia: ongoing drought

Kennedy Mpundu, a resident of Livingstone, Zambia

Kennedy Mpundu, a resident in the southern city of Livingstone, said:

“We get water for about five hours in a day and sometimes less, we have experienced very little rainfall in some years… During such times I have had to reduce the size of my vegetable garden or do away with it completely so that I save water.”

In Livingstone, southern Zambia, long-lasting drought over the past year has wreaked havoc on water services. The utility responsible for providing water in the region, Southern Water & Sewerage Company, has seen five sources of water dry up completely.

WSUP is working with the utility and communities to improve water management in Livingstone and increase the ability of residents living in informal settlements to access water services.

Find out more about WSUP's work on climate change

Emerging findings on gender and decision making in sanitation public bodies

This International Women’s Day, we are sharing some emerging findings from a research project to show how in sanitation, an equal world is an enabled world.

For International Women’s Day last year, we wrote about a new research project examining the gender split of staff in Kenyan sanitation public institutions. These include utilities, government bodies and training institutes. Researchers at Athena Infonomics are now reaching the end of the project, which you can read more about here. But before going into some of the emerging findings…

Elizabeth Wairumu, a beneficiary of WSUP’s partnership with the social initiative Life Bloom in Kenya.

Why is this an important issue?

Firstly, organisations that provide essential public goods like water and sanitation need to deliver services for everyone. If the people providing products and services aren’t actively considering the different requirements of their users, then life will be harder for pregnant people, menstruating women and girls, the elderly, people looking after small children, and disabled people. Increasing staff diversity can guard against providing ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions – which tend to prioritise able-bodied men.

Secondly, organisations like utilities need to adapt to serve growing and changing populations. Modern utilities don’t just provide pipes, taps and treatment plants; they are evolving and becoming more customer oriented. Utilities and other WASH organisations will need to have a body of staff that can respond to growing populations and climate change – if half of the population is dissuaded from working in a WASH-related company, then that company is unnecessarily missing out on a significant section of the labour market.

Thirdly, women holding executive positions are associated with strong company performance. Utilities that tap into this female labour force are more “profitable, competitive, sustainable and have a more dedicated and loyal workforce”. If utilities in countries like Kenya are to become financially sustainable, profitable and attractive to investors, women should be taking up key technical and decision-making roles.

So, what are the numbers?

The Global Gender Gap Index 2020 reports that only 15% of people working in engineering worldwide are women. In terms of water and sanitation provision, a recent World Bank report surveyed 64 water and sanitation utilities and found that less than 18% of the workforce was female, and less than one in four managerial or engineering staff were women. (For full transparency, nearly half of WSUP staff are women.)

However, there’s a gap in the literature. Research on the effect of gender-balanced company boards or executive leadership has looked at gender quotas in Europe and North America, not sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the research examining gender and WASH in sub-Saharan Africa tends to focus on women as beneficiaries of water and sanitation projects, rather than on those taking part in higher-level discussions about how to provide water and sanitation. The lack of literature portrays a clear geographic bias.

For a summary literature review, see the Policy Brief.

It’s not that women aren’t interested in these kinds of technical and decision-making roles – many of the people WSUP work with every day in utilities are women. But questions remain on whether women are sufficiently attracted to the water and sanitation sector in the first place, and once they’re working in the WASH sector, are they supported to stay in WASH and to progress up the corporate ladder?

Who’s making these decisions in Kenya?

The first phase of the research project entailed mapping the staff of six public sector sanitation institutions in Kenya according to gender. Institutions mapped included an official water and sanitation service provider (Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Co.), governmental bodies at national and county level (Kiambu County Water Department and the Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation), the Kenya Water Institute, the Water Sector Trust Fund, and the national regulator WASREB. While not an exhaustive survey of every single person working in sanitation in the whole country, it’s a valuable dataset that we’ve not had before.

For more information on findings from this mapping phase, see the Policy Brief.

In these organisations, the average female representation across ‘top-level’ employees was 37%, with corporate leadership roles particularly uneven. ‘Top-level’ here means a role akin to a board director, CEO, COO, heads of institute, heads of department, and managerial heads that lead specific activities.

Eldah Odongo is the Customer Care Manager and Acting Head of Corporate Affairs and Communication at Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company.

Three barriers identified

This project doesn’t just aim to count people – we want to know more about what could be blocking women from taking on decision-making roles in sanitation as Kenya aims to achieve Vision 2030 and the SDGs.

To gather richer data, researchers arranged in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with male and female staff in each of the six focus institutions, as well as other relevant organisations that work in either sanitation or on gender-related issues, like UNICEF, the Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Societies Network (KEWASNET), the Gender Equality Committee and the Ministry of Public Health.

This qualitative data will be analysed together with information gathered through an online survey completed by staff within the six focus institutions.

While analysis of the data is not yet complete, in our initial findings we have identified three main factors that could be disadvantaging Kenyan women in these careers:

Educational attainment: lack of role models in technical fields. Being told that maths and science were not suitable for girls, teasing at school about pursuing a technical career – all these were cited as reasons that fewer women than men were entering the technical WASH labour force.

Tradition and cultural expectations: particularly around parenthood, with women required to take the lead at home and in caring for other family members. Being primary caregiver to young children meant that many female respondents felt they could not take on field assignments or travel to conferences.

Networking opportunities and role models in institutions: many female respondents reported that their male colleagues benefitted from professional networks that they did not have access to, particularly as they were discouraged from attending evening social activities.

Beyond policies and into practice

Analysis is not yet complete so we can’t make any concrete judgements yet – but it is interesting that most of the organisations included in this research have HR policies, sexual harassment policies and paid maternity leave, and many employees have the option to arrange some kind of flexible working hours (although the latter is at the discretion of managers rather than a standardised practice).

Despite this, the gender mapping of senior staff and some of the qualitative data seem to still be pointing to issues that are hard to eradicate through organisational policies alone. Some of these emerging barriers to women’s full participation in senior decision-making roles in sanitation are hard to pin down definitively – but perceptions about how you are treated are crucial, particularly when it comes to making important decisions about your life and your career.

On a fundamental level, people should be able pursue their professional goals without impediment, regardless of sex or any other characteristic.

Next steps

When the research has been finalised, the results will be used to form recommendations for short- and long-term actions for the public sector institutions themselves, as well as the institutional framework which governs how they interact with other organisations, civil society and NGOs. This is just a starting point. The research will provide valuable contributions towards the growing push to highlight the importance of diversifying and strengthening sanitation service providers.

Blog written by Rosie Renouf (WSUP Research & Policy Manager). This research is being delivered by Athena Infonomics, and the lead researcher is Zachary Burt.

Further reading

Athena Infonomics (August 2019). ‘Barriers to Women Adopting Decision-Making Roles in Sanitation-Related Public Bodies and Attitudinal Differences between Male and Female Decision-Makers: Literature Review’. Urban Sanitation Research Initiative Kenya, WSUP.

Criado Perez C (2019) Invisible women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men. Chatto and Windus

International Water Association (2014) ‘An avoidable crisis: WASH human resource capacity gaps in 15 developing economies’.

International Water Association (2016) ‘The untapped resource: Gender and diversity in the water workforce’.

Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Project (March 2019). ‘Contributing to a gender-balanced WASH sector’. Blog, KIWASH USAID

Noland M, Moran T & Kotschwar B (Feb 2016) ‘Is gender diversity profitable? Evidence from a global survey’. Working Paper 16-3. Peterson Institute for International Economics

Social Institutions and Gender Index (2019). Kenya datasheet. OECD Development Centre

Thompson K, O’Dell K, Syed S & Kemp H (23 Jan 2017) ‘Thirsty for change: the untapped potential of women in urban water management’. Deloitte Insights

World Bank (2019) ‘Women in water utilities: breaking barriers’.

World Economic Forum (2020). ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2020

Game changers in water and sanitation: WSUP’s vision for change

Highlights from a panel discussion on the challenges and solutions to the water crisis.

On 25th February, WSUP was joined by a panel of experts to discuss the challenges of improving water and sanitation in the backdrop of increasing urbanisation and climate change. Andy Roby, Senior Water Security Adviser at DFID, Liz Lowe, Head of Sustainability at Coca-Cola Great Britain, WSUP’s CEO Neil Jeffery and panel moderator Paul Nuki, Global Heath Security Editor at The Telegraph brought a diverse range of perspectives from the private sector to political economy and governance.

WSUP’s latest business plan demonstrates the need for enhanced partnerships and collaboration between different components of the global system to drive large scale change in urban water and sanitation.

Read the Business Plan.

The event brought together journalists, corporates and NGOs, all united by a shared sense of urgency to improve water and sanitation systems in the face of climate change.

Key takeaways were:

  • The need to vastly increase the reuse of water
  • Urgency and global leadership around the water crisis
  • Practical business models and public-private partnerships

WSUP’s CEO, Neil Jeffery set the scene by highlighting the urban landscape WSUP operates in and the challenges around water in cities. By 2050 the proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas is expected to increase to 68%. Combined with population growth, we could see another 2.5 billion people in urban areas by 2050, the majority in Asia and Africa. Increasing urbanisation, especially in cities in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia where water and sanitation coverage is already low, poses a significant challenge to achieving SDG 6: water and sanitation for all. In fact, progress towards SDG 6 is declining in many urban areas.

Andy advocated a political economy approach, stating that we need good governance and regulation as a prerequisite to facilitate the flow of investment into water and sanitation. WSUP has been working to do exactly this.

In Kenya WSUP had a transformative impact through working directly with the national water regulator, WASREB, to develop a new key performance indicator (KPI 10) to define the standards of services for every water utility serving low-income urban communities across Kenya. Learn more

WSUP’s work with utilities across Kenya is benefitting fishmongers like Nancy Adhiambo in Nairobi. Photographer: Brian Otieno

The growing impact of climate change

When discussing climate change and water, the need to manage this finite resource more effectively and to elevate the importance of the issue were clear.

Bringing a corporate social responsibility perspective, Liz Lowe from Coca-Cola highlighted how businesses want to be seen to be doing the right thing. She championed nature-based solutions alongside the conservation and regeneration of water, a shared resource, highlighting how businesses need to think about water not just in their own system, but also the wider catchment to shore up resiliency. For example, how is water use at point A affecting the farmer at point B? Looking at the wider catchment, the area of land that water drains through to reach a body of water, will allow us to have a more complete understanding of how water usage at certain point affects the rest of the natural system.

Articulating the dynamics between government and civil society, Andy noted how DFID’s trajectory on climate change is largely dependent on government ministers, who in turn are influenced by public opinion. In the past year public opinion on climate change has transformed with Greta Thunberg and the likes of Extinction Rebellion pushing the issue. Climate change is one of the number one priorities for many investors, but in comparison, very little is spent on downstream water issues and the reuse of water.

WSUP is working to improve wastewater management in cities by a number of means: better risk management, monitoring, treatment of human waste and developing end-to-end sanitation services that collect and treat waste. Learn more.

“When I visit leaders in cities, often the first question they ask is ‘how can I get more water?’”, said Neil. “I tell them you have enough – you’re just not managing it well enough.”

Huge amounts of water are lost through pipe leakages  and for cities in water scarce areas, this is a crucial challenge. The UN states that by 2030 the demand for water is expected to outstrip supply by 40%. It is vital we increase the reuse of waste through wastewater treatment and decrease water loss in the network.

WSUP has been working with JIRAMA, the national water utility in Madagascar to support their capacity to detect and fix leaks in Antananarivo’s water network. Madagascar is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in Africa; preserving this precious resource has never been more urgent.

What’s the game changer?

Global leadership, urgency and business models were all identified as game changers in responding to the complex water and sanitation crisis.

Neil emphasised that the crisis is a systems issue which needs a systems approach with far higher levels of investment, as championed in WSUP’s new business plan. There is strong demand for water and sanitation in cities, but challenges remain around investment.

Creating effective business models for low income customers is very difficult. WSUP’s sanitation waste management service has SWEEP has helped to tackle this issue, blending high-and low-income customers through a subsidy which is built into the business model.

Watch: how SWEEP is providing an affordable and sustainable pit emptying service.

Rani Begum from Rangpur, Bangladesh is benefitting from SWEEP, the public-private pit emptying service created by WSUP.

The importance of water as a finite resource was highlighted by Liz, who stated that water underpins everything, yet is still taken for granted in much of the world. There is a lack of urgency in responding to the issue. Businesses need to feel a sense of urgency around water to foster faster collaboration and public-private collaboration is essential.

On a similar note, Andy highlighted that whilst the annual World Water Week in Stockholm is crucial for discussion in the sector, there is not yet enough global leadership on the water crisis. When will water have its ‘David Attenborough’ moment to flip the issue?

To learn more about WSUP’s vision for change and how we plan to reach 50 million people by 2050, read our new business plan.


WSUP support enables Madagascar utility to access EUR 71.5m in funding

A 10-year programme of support from WSUP has helped the national water utility in Madagascar, JIRAMA, to secure a EUR 71.5 million investment package from the European Investment Bank, European Union, and Government of Madagascar.

The package consists of a loan of EUR 35 million and a grant of EUR 30 million from the EIB and the European Union, as well as a contribution of EUR 6.5 million from the Government of Madagascar, for the JIRAMA III Water Project.

The investment will enable JIRAMA to improve the drinking water supply system in the capital, Antananarivo, through investments in both water production and water distribution.

WSUP is also contributing to the JIRAMA III Water Project through an investment of EUR 2.5 million with the support of partners such as the Coca-Cola Foundation, USAID, DfID and Cartier Philanthropy.

WSUP has supported JIRAMA for over ten years to enable it to improve the performance of its water services, increase water capacity and extend water supply to unserved areas in the city and its peri urban communities. As a result of the support, JIRAMA has been able to extend community water facilities as well as tackle leaks, theft and poor billing (collectively known as non-revenue water).

In addition, WSUP provided input to the JIRAMA III Water Project at key stages of the project preparation, including strengthening JIRAMA’s non-revenue water and leakage management programme and providing technical assistance in preparing the establishment of JIRAMA’s Project Management Unit.

Video: see how WSUP is helping JIRAMA to protect Antananarivo’s most precious resource

“For the last 10 years, we have been committed to helping JIRAMA deliver improved water and sanitation services to the poorest urban residents,” said Sylvie Ramanantsoa, Madagascar Country Programme Manager.

“We’re so pleased now that JIRAMA has been able to secure new funding from the European Union, European Investment Bank and the Government which will play a major role in helping JIRAMA scale up its water services for the benefit of the most vulnerable.”

The Mandroseza II Bis water augmentation scheme in Antananarivo, which WSUP is supporting through our Water & Development Alliance programme in partnership with USAID and The Coca-Cola Foundation. Photographer: Tsilavo Rapiera

“The Bank of the European Union is pleased to be able to support Madagascar in the financing of many development projects crucial for the country, and wishes to become more involved, always alongside its partners, in infrastructure projects (roads, hydroelectric or energy) with a significant level of fight against climate change, in particular in terms of adaptation,” said EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle in its press release.

Read more about WSUP’s work in Madagascar.

Capacity building versus hand-holding: how to avoid dependency syndrome

Capacity building has the power to transform organisations into stronger and more resilient service providers. However, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between being supportive and inadvertently making yourself indispensable.

By Sibongile Ndaba, Business Development Lead, Zambia

One of the major impediments to improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is low capacity in the institutions – typically utilities and municipal authorities – that are responsible for providing services.

WSUP is deliberate about building capacity in the service providers we work with to ensure that we not only help them provide improved services but that these services are sustainable. In fact, “Stronger service providers” is one of our core strategic goals which you can read about in our 2020-2025 Business Plan.

At the 2018 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, a key recommendation towards reaching SDG 6 was that institutional and human capacity must be developed in order to improve service levels, operation and maintenance of technology and overall institutional performance. Read more on our position on the HLPF recommendations.

Since our inception, WSUP has designed interventions around capacity building in terms of use of improved technologies and processes, as well as human resources and staff skills.

For us, capacity building entails knowledge transfer through technical assistance as well as demonstration of innovative technologies that help utilities and businesses to better serve their customers.

But despite such comprehensive and well-intended programmes, there is a risk that capacity building may turn into a “hand-holding exercise” and achieve the opposite of what is intended. How can we avoid organisations becoming dependent on endless capacity building?

Based on our experience, here are five recommendations that can ensure that capacity building translates to skills transfer, and as a result, makes utilities self-sustaining.

This article is written from the perspective of working with utilities, but the guidance is still relevant for working with other stakeholders, such as regulators or sanitation businesses.

Lusaka, Zambia. Photographer: John Healey

1) Gather evidence for institutional buy-in

Projects that show new ways of working or improved service provision often incur significant change to the status quo, and can therefore be met with resistance. In order to get institutions to adopt new recommendations, it is imperative to demonstrate the value and benefits upfront.

A pilot is a useful way to generate enough evidence so that the utility or business you are working with is fully aware of what they are getting into and can subsequently take ownership. Where a pilot project would not be possible without the utility’s participation, which is often the case, consider building on something that the utility already perceives to be a priority.

Read our report Systems Reboot to find out more about the power of pilot projects.

For instance, if the utility’s operations lean more towards water than sanitation, consider working with them on a water project to establish a relationship and gain their trust before you kickstart a conversation on sanitation. Once you have done that, it is easier to get their support on a different project. In this case, since sanitation would be seemingly unchartered territory, evidence is essential.

As the partner becomes more curious, the change management process accelerates, allowing the institution to put in place the necessary requirements such as human and administrative support assigned to the continuation of the project.

In Lusaka, Zambia, WSUP has worked with Community Water Trusts to pilot sanitation services and gain institutional buy-in from the city utility, Lusaka Water & Sewerage Company. Samson, centre, is a pit-emptier working for the Chazanga Water Trust.

2) Co-design the project with the utility or business

Once you have succeeded in getting the institution to commit to the proposed project, the next step is to co-design the project wherever possible. It’s important to keep in mind that capacity building is not just a skills transfer exercise but also a change in how the organisation has typically done things. Co-designing the project is therefore a great way to ensure a sense ownership around something new.

An effective first step is to allow the utility to define the problem rather than doing it for them. This can be done through a chartering meeting for instance where you allow the utility to give you their own perception of the problem they are trying to solve and their overall vision. Such a meeting should typically be high-level, comprising of key decision makers in the organisation.

These decision makers will need to identify champions who will drive the change moving forwards. These champions should themselves be decision makers, to whom the project implementing team will be accountable. This process will reinforce institutional buy in, while also ensuring that the project becomes core to the ongoing operation of the business.

Learn about Yvonne Siyeni, a champion and leader at Lusaka Water & Sewerage Company.

Once the implementing personnel are identified, the next steps can be fleshed out. As a supporting organisation, we find that it’s important to ensure a clear understanding of the competencies of the personnel with whom you will be implementing the project, as this dictates the capacity gaps you need to fill.

We find tools such as Gantt charts and a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) framework to be valuable at this point, as well as a risk register. The goal is to develop a project plan in which everyone feels confident with their role and expectations are realistic.

Social mapping to improve water and sanitation services in Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photographer: Yellow Rose

3) Strive for a blended finance or parallel in-kind contribution

In practice, this discussion will naturally occur simultaneously while co-designing the project. At the chartering meeting, strive to get the utility to invest their own financial or in-kind resources for sustainability, again reinforcing shared ownership of the project and its outcomes.

Depending on where the utility is in their budgetary cycle when you approach them, financial resources may not be readily available or at best they may be willing to make a very small contribution.

In this case, an in-kind contribution is more feasible. This may include, for example, using their marketing department staff to lead a campaign deliverable while the project funds are used for production of the campaign materials. In this example, as you’re working alongside the marketing department, you have the opportunity to co-design a wider marketing strategy as part of capacity development.

This is far more effective that outsourcing the entire campaign to a third party because the marketing department is driving the campaign without too much hand-holding. In both cases, ensure that the utility’s commitments are documented and form part of the agreement with the utility.

It might be wise to take this opportunity to introduce the marketing team to theory or practical tools such as campaign planning and reporting templates which may be new to them. Being on hand during the first use of new tools is a great way to support during the project but leaves a sustainable support mechanism in that they can continue to use the tools and train new staff to do the same in future.

A worker from NAWASSCO, a water and sanitation utility, connecting a pipe into the main sewer line in Githima, Nakuru County, Kenya. Photographer: Brian Otieno

4) Avoid an abrupt transition

While a funded project may have a life span, it’s important to remember the utility’s work runs in perpetuity. Therefore, a mutual understanding that the project will come to an end is crucial and ensures that a seamless transition is designed in from the start. The institutional champions who drive the change in the organisation are essential for this transition period.

With this in mind at WSUP, we make sure to check in regularly with the champions to maintain and up-to-date understanding of the extent to which the organisation is prepared to sustain the interventions beyond the project end date.

Depending on how the project has been resourced to date, and how involved WSUP staff have become, this can require change in utility-based roles or the introduction of completely new personnel to carry on with the intervention.

This has significant implications on the utility’s budget. Where in-kind contributions may have been sufficient in the past, the utility should now be looking to contribute financially. For example, if you were implementing a sanitation project with a utility on faecal sludge management and you want to ensure that the utility continues this business line beyond the project, then they should embed this into their organisational structure. This could be through changes in personnel, and budget to support those personnel.

To make this transition as seamless as possible it should be a conversation started at the commencement of the project and has consistently discussed through the life of the project so that it stays front of mind for the senior decision makers.

5) Monitor beyond the project

Many donor-driven projects, require monthly or quarterly reports on the project. These usually aren’t required after the final project report is submitted. However, it’s acknowledging that these reports are not only useful for funders and the implementing partners like WSUP.

These reports help to ensure sustainability and track whether capacity was successfully built, and the project delivered on its intended objectives. This is good business strategy and if the utility understands this, they are more likely to want to continue tracking core beyond the life of the project. This will not only keep the utility accountable but also aids future decision making and long-lasting commitment to maintaining the benefits of the project.

Read about our work in Nairobi which generated long lasting institutional change, extending water services to informal settlements.

Core to WSUP’s work is a drive for learning and dissemination. This allows us to improve on the work we do and hopefully influence other WASH actors for the better. WSUP has many years’ experience conducting utility capacity development and as a result have created a framework that codifies our best practice.

We call this approach our Utility Strengthening Framework which not only identifies where the utility needs to improve capacity and operational performance gaps but also offers a comprehensive eight step process to inform the necessary interventions.

Find out how we’re using the Utility Strengthening Framework in Livingstone, Zambia.

Learn more about how WSUP builds the capacity of utilities, municipal authorities and SMEs.

Solving the big challenges of inclusive services through peer-to-peer learning

There is no greater way for city authorities and regulators to learn about developing inclusive water and sanitation services than from their peers – other institutions around the world who are confronting similar issues.

That was the thinking behind the Urban WASH Inclusion Masterclass 2019, organised by WSUP and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and held in Maputo, Mozambique in December.

We wanted to provide a space where institutions could speak openly about the shared challenges they are dealing with every day. We also wanted to highlight the institutions that are making real change, and enable other institutions to work out whether they can learn from these successes and adapt them for their own use.

Around 80 people from 11 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia – principally representatives of utilities, municipalities, regulators, ministries and NGOs – came together for a programme of peer-to-peer learning focused on inclusive service delivery. The event also considered how experiences from rural settings could inform urban services.

We focused on:

  • How can utilities transform to achieve inclusive water services delivery?
  • How can city authorities support inclusive sanitation services delivery?
  • How can regulatory authorities support and incentivise inclusive service delivery?
  • How can we better implement equality and non-discrimination approaches to ensure genuinely equitable service delivery?

Watch the video to learn more.

Five lessons for sustainable business development

Highlights from a global knowledge exchange with WSUP’s business development leads.   

By Annie Hall, WSUP Marketing Specialist

The WSUP London office was recently joined by seven of our Business Development Leads representing each of WSUP’s programme countries. The purpose was to further develop WSUP’s approach to business modelling, investigating the concept of business maturity and how to work with different financiers, particularly around how ‘value’ is defined.

Throughout the week the group met with key WSUP stakeholders and discussed the UK’s leading work in the areas of sustainability and the furtherment of the SDGs.

WSUP’s latest Business Plan outlines how, as an organisation, we’re becoming even more focused on new and innovative ways to deliver on SDG 6. Our business development champions in-country are core to realising this ambition.

The week brought together speakers, trainers and practitioners from within and outside the WASH sector. We shared ideas and experiences from a variety of backgrounds, yet we discovered the same themes kept coming to the fore, and not by design of the agenda.

WSUP’s business development leads during a session

Whilst the specific steps on the road towards SDG 6 may be diverse and dynamic, there is evident consensus that successful strategies will have some core principles in common:

A true shared vision

Whether we were talking about launching a brand, aligning a project team or pitching for impact investment, building a shared vision around the real value in your proposition came up time and time again.

Early in the week, Caroline Copeman, a consultant at CASS Business School and the Centre for Charity Effectiveness introduced us to dynamic strategy. She challenged us to resist thinking in terms of programmes and interventions and instead think about the customer and what they value the most. An example she gave was a telephone-based debt advice service, stressing that service users don’t really want great debt advice, they want a debt free life! It was clear that with this perspective in mind, far more valuable solutions could be designed.

Lisa Hawkes, Sustainable Behaviour Change Manager at Unilever really brought home the true value of having a clear vision and purpose to any product or business. She talked about Unilever’s commitment to designing for sustainability but stressed that this commitment is not simply a CSR initiative. It is core to Unilever’s success as purpose-led brands grow 69% faster on average.

During the week, these ideas were put into practice as we explored different brand strategy models and how they might help utilities or sanitation SMEs, identify their core value and use it to guide their culture and business growth strategy.

Passion for the problem

Another salient piece of advice came again from our partners at Deloitte and links closely with the concept of purpose and vision – “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution”.

This statement is all about user focus, human centred design principles and customer centricity, but more fundamentally it’s about not getting caught up in the excitement (or perhaps the safe familiarity) of your solution. Doing so may mean that you fail to notice there are better ways to solve the problem.

The consensus agreed that when it comes to tackling challenges as large and complex as the WASH crisis, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Any favoured solutions should always be held lightly to make space for continued interrogation and learning. When reflecting on recent projects, Jane Olley, Technical Manager of WSUP Advisory, summarised “you don’t use business modelling to give the answer, you use it to explore the question”.

Solid stakeholder management

Throughout the week we shared learnings from WSUP countries. Our colleagues in Bangladesh shared their experience in developing a public-private partnership between the municipal authorities and local entrepreneurs to transform pit-emptying services in multiple cities across the country.

Blog: How a sanitation waste partnership is transforming cities in Bangladesh

When trying to engage key stakeholders and influencers, change-makers must often answer an all-important question: “What’s in it for me?”. This topic prompted much debate when discussing how to encourage service providers to adopt a customer-centric approach. An increase in customer focus can involve seemingly more laborious ways of working due to the inherent need to optimise operations to enhance the end user experience. Consequently, being able to present the business value to be gained i.e. through increased customer satisfaction and retention is crucial.

SWEEP: A public-private pit-emptying service in Bangladesh

Making the business case is all about tapping into what motivates stakeholders to act. Andy Wales, a WSUP board director and Chief Digital Impact & Sustainability Officer at BT argued that bringing about real change always involves effort from lots of people. However, when the incentives are right, human beings adjust their behaviour quite happily. Using smartphone adoption as an example, he challenged us to consider how quickly populations might react to climate change if the adjustments in their behaviour were as rewarding as learning to use a new phone.

Capacity building at the core

Capacity building was a common thread that ran throughout the week. As another key message from the UN High Level Political Forum, there was much debate around the role of organisations like WSUP in supporting service providers to become more efficient, effective and accountable – especially to low income communities.

Kendal Atcliffe, Public Sector – Programme Leadership at Deloitte proposed that capability strengthening is the key differentiator to a programme and should be a necessary pre-condition of working with any organisation.  

‘Stronger service providers’ is one of the primary focus areas for WSUP’s latest business plan which explains how we intend to strengthen and extend our technical and business support to utilities, municipalities and WASH enterprises. However, each of our external strategic focus areas are supported by two internal commitments to develop our own organisational skill sets and strengthen learning capabilities within WSUP. This event is a prime example of this commitment in action.

Rigorous evidence

WSUP is well-known for our evidence, research and learning efforts with programmes such as the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative seeking to influence large-scale sector change. However, we also recognise that sector change requires innovation and new approaches – and with innovation comes pilot activity, business case development and careful market assessments.

During the week each Business Development Lead contributed their own experiences of trial and error in their respective markets. For example, our colleagues in Zambia spoke about how rigorous market assessments were crucial to building necessary relationships with utility Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company to implement innovative WASH models.

Faecal sludge management services in Lusaka

It’s clear that having a strategy with supporting research is a project component that knits each of our themes together. It helps to align multiple stakeholders around one vision, maintains focus on the problem and win over stakeholders while gaining necessary buy-in from the staff that need to be engaged for capacity building.

Managing all the moving actors and factors required to effect real change is a sector-wide issue and something we hope WSUP’s innovative, multi-partner approach can start to refine. Strengthening internal and external partnerships with learning activities is just the beginning.

If you’re interested in finding out more about WSUP’s latest thinking on a change in approach for tackling citywide WASH, check out our Systems Reboot report.

Ghana reactivates the call for a National Sanitation Authority

Plans for a new national sanitation body in Ghana have been reactivated by the government, raising the hope of accelerated efforts towards universal coverage. But serious challenges remain.

By Azzika Yussif Tanko, Research & Policy Lead for WSUP in Ghana

The National Sanitation Authority (NSA) will focus on coordinating national sanitation improvements, with a proposed National Sanitation Fund (NSF) aiming to mobilise increased funding for sanitation services in the country.

The commitment was made by the Mole XXX Conference in early November by the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumina, following two years of discussions with the sanitation sector. The Authority and the Fund will form part of Ghana’s Ministry for Sanitation and Water Resources playing a critical role in regulations and standards setting.

Why is this such a big step forward in Ghana?

Institutions that deal with sanitation issues at both local and national levels in Ghana tend to be weak, culminating in low progress achieved on sanitation over the years. The challenges are complex – just see the report WSUP published recently, Sales Glitch, which analyses systemic challenges to building a market for sanitation products and services, as an example of some of the difficulties.

Poor sanitation facilities in Kumasi

Nationally, just 21% of Ghanaians have access to at least basic sanitation. Rates of open defecation are also increasing, and in urban areas, a large amount of residents are dependent on public toilets which are often filthy, unsafe and over time, more expensive than other forms of sanitation facilities.

The costs of this poor sanitation is devastating: annually, about 19,000 Ghanaians, including about 3,600 children under five, die of diarrhoea-related infections. In 2014 alone, more than 29,000 people were infected with cholera out of which 248 lost their lives.

Sanitation waste collection services

The importance of a National Sanitation Authority cannot be overestimated. Compared to water, the sanitation sector is making slow progress, and the government urgently needs a strategic body that can accelerate and fast track universal sanitation services delivery in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It will take on the responsibility for many sanitation governance functions such as formulating policy, developing legal frameworks, planning, coordination, funding and financing, capacity development, data acquisition and monitoring, standards setting and regulation.

WSUP has been advising the government of Ghana, alongside other partners such as CONIWAS, the Coalition of NGOs in Water & Sanitation. In a report published last year upon the completion of an international institutional comparative study, WSUP recommended that the NSA should have five important functions:

  • Institutional development and sector coordination
  • Research and development, standard setting
  • Infrastructure development
  • Capacity building of Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies
  • Monitoring and regulation

Report - Ghana’s National Sanitation Authority: recommended role and responsibilities

Even though the National Sanitation Authority and Fund are yet to be fully set up, some lessons have been learnt in the process about how organisations such as WSUP can support government institutional change.

First, influencing government for institutional set up takes time and therefore demands a lot of patience, since process can be very slow, iterative and frustrating.

But the most important is never give up and never say it’s impossible, it can always be done no matter the challenges.

Second, influencing also works better when coalitions are formed. The collaboration between WSUP and CONIWAS and Media Coalition on Open Defection (M-CODe) in Ghana also helped a lot in pushing the government to this far.

Setting up the NSA, and ensuring that it is effective, will be challenging. In the international institutional review study, conducted for the Ghanaian government, WSUP identified that no other country – of the 15 countries analysed – had an equivalent sanitation body which holds as many roles as it proposed for the NSA. WSUP will continue to advise the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources on the set-up of the NSA and the accompanying Fund.

Top image: Sanitation block construction

A vision of a Green City: can improved sanitation help?

With nearly half the urban population in Bangladesh lacking access to safe sanitation services, a sanitation waste partnership between the public and private sector, is helping tackle the challenge.

In Bangladesh, nearly 60 million residents live in urban areas. Utilities and are struggling to cope with this rapid urban growth. Delivering citywide sanitation services is a major challenge.

How can city authorities deliver services at the scale required to serve everyone in a city?

Enter SWEEP, a public-private partnership that has enabled the private sector to deliver profitable waste collection services.

The Mayor of Rangpur, Mostafizar Rahman Mostafa said, “If we can systematically collect the faecal waste and dispose it in a planned manner, then our dream of a Green City may come true.”

Watch our new film to find out how we’ve been working with city authorities and businesses to bring improved sanitation services for all urban residents.

Rebooting the system: Lessons from Lusaka and Maputo

To mark World Toilet Day, we’ve launched a new report which identifies steps needed to support cities in delivering citywide sanitation services.

The report, entitled Systems Reboot, identifies four components crucial to bringing change for all urban residents:

  1. Begin by optimising one part of the system, to overcome institutional inertia and secure buy-in for wider change
  2. Embrace the power of process, recognising that simply bringing people together to discuss challenges can help to move change forward
  3. Design investments to address genuine system constraints, rather than purely directing investment towards more tangible infrastructure projects
  4. Anticipate and factor in delays, due to the likelihood of unexpected political, economic or capacity constraints slowing down progress

Read Systems Reboot now

In one in seven countries, access to basic sanitation is decreasing. Even in cities, where access to safely managed sanitation is more prevalent than in rural areas, gaps between the rich and the poor continue to be stark.

Building toilets is important but it cannot be the solution. A systems approach is needed to address the issue.

Using systems thinking principles, the report discusses how complex, widespread change happens across cities, offering recommendations for other urban policymakers attempting to remove barriers to universal access to sanitation.

The findings are based on in-depth analysis of 10 years of action in Lusaka and Maputo, facilitating discussions with around 20 key city stakeholders and using systems thinking to identify interdependencies between multiple actors, projects and initiatives.

Each case study looks at one particular component of the system that was identified by stakeholders as being significant: a community-based, utility-managed faecal sludge management (FSM) service in Lusaka, and the planned introduction of a sanitation tariff in Maputo.

For sale: safe sanitation in Ghana

“I have lived in this compound for the past few years without a toilet. You have to deal with the inconvenience of using a public toilet,” says 60-year-old Yaa Achiaa.

Kumasi, one of Ghana’s fastest growing urban centres, is home to 3 million people and nearly half live in informal settlements. Around 60% of the households in these settlements use public toilets. These facilities are often poorly maintained, unhygienic and unsafe, particularly for women using them at night.

A public toilet in Ghana

Yaa who lives in a compound with other residents and has no choice but to use the public toilet. “You cannot use the public toilet at night and even if you manage to get one, there are safety concerns to worry about including many other disadvantages. The ordeal is even worse for older people like me.”

Yaa Achiaa is a resident in Kumasi and recently had a toilet installed in her compound

However, public toilets continue to be culturally and politically accepted and only few financing options are available to residents to build household or compound toilets.

Amidst this difficult environment, WSUP has been working to improve Ghana’s sanitation market to ensure the poorest residents have access to this basic service. This has been through the Sanitation Service Delivery Programme (SSD), a USAID regional urban sanitation five-year project which aims to promote and increase access to improved sanitation services as well as enhance regional learning to inform market-based sanitation programmes.

Overall, the project found the sanitation market extremely challenging and as it draws to a close, we look at some of the lessons we learnt:

Cost-effective toilet models can improve services for the poorest residents

Compound housing is a common form of habitation for the low-income residents of urban Ghana and tenants usually share living space with more than twenty other people. The vast majority of them have no access to in-house sanitation.

The cost of constructing and maintaining in-house toilets is a major barrier to improving their sanitation facilities.

Read - Why are toilets so expensive in Ghana? Experience from Kumasi

Over the five years of the programme, different toilet designs were tested to identify the ones most suitable for the poorest residents.

Thomas Sarfo has been a toilet artisan for the last 12 years. On being selected to undergo training on one of the new designs he said, “I had been hearing that the new toilet was going to be a cheaper. I saw the training as an opportunity to widen my product offering.”

Thomas is an entrepreneur who sells toilets in Ghana

“Sales were very low and was hence a threat to my job. But now I’m now able to construct four toilets in a month which is a significant improvement.”

He cited the introduction of the double pit latrine as a cheaper option and flexible financing arrangements as the reason behind increased sales.

“The double pit toilet is more affordable and best suited for peri-urban communities like mine…I build full toilets at half cost and have householders repay the remaining half in instalments. It may not sound like anything new, but I get more orders for installation with this approach…”

Sales agents: an effective link between artisans and customers

After testing three toilet sales business models, we found that the most effective approach to achieving toilet sales was through Toilet Sales Agents (TSAs).

Twenty-three year old Toilet Sales Agent, Esther Yeboah, along with her team utilised a number of strategies in creating demand for the uptake of toilet construction. This included house-to-house promotion, target group promotion through churches and identified groups, mini durbars and the use of community information centres.

Esther, a toilet sales agent, with residents

Esther believes that the programme has helped change people’s behaviour.

“Now many residents appreciate the relevance of compound toilets and they are making efforts to own one or upgrade existing ones. Through the project we have been able to market and facilitate construction/improvement of 10 toilets in my assembly.  Besides there are a number of ongoing projects which are expected to be completed soon.”

Yaa no longer has to worry about using the public toilet as she and other tenants managed to convince their landlady who also lives in the compound to invest in a toilet.  They were also happy for the landlady increase their rent to cater to the cost of the toilet and make a monthly contribution to save towards emptying costs in the next three years. Yaa says, “The toilet works well, and we are happy with it.”

Though Esther thinks she and her team could have sold more toilets, she is mindful of the challenges that affected sales. Some of these include difficulty in meeting target groups at homes due to economic activities, absentee landlords, multiple landlords for a single property, the low income levels of target customers, and complicated eligibility requirements to secure loans to construct toilets.

Read - Sales glitch: Can Ghana unblock its toilet sales market?

Making financing more accessible

In Ghana, only those who own their own homes are eligible for the few loans that are available for sanitation. And the majority of low-income customers prefer to finance their toilets without loans from financial institutions due to the lengthy process involved.

Construction of new compound toilets

WSUP has partnered with Micro-Financing Institutions (MFIs) such as Sinapi Aba to offer loans to households and artisans. We have learnt that it is important that financial institutions develop their marketing approach and design their loans so that access to credit is easier and fits with the customers’ ability to repay.

By having flexible loans and alterative repayment methods such as mobile money (payment through mobile phones) can make financing more accessible for low-income customers.

Read - How can sanitation actors in Ghana stimulate toilet loan uptake?

Partnerships are key for sustainable change

Partnerships with Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) and Ga West Municipal Assembly (GWMA) have been vital to facilitate the implementation of the project. Both municipal assemblies, with whom local development lies, adopted compound sanitation implementation strategies and supported sanitation enforcement. Using their capacity, they mobilised community support for the project.

Their Environmental Health and Sanitation Departments (EHSDs) for example, were actively involved in the programme, thus creating a conducive environment for promotion of household sanitation. By having linkages with artisans and TSAs the municipal assemblies can play a central role in sustaining sanitation service delivery.

Read more about our work in Ghana