Malindi, popular for its beautiful beaches and a celebrated tourist town, has a dirty secret. Three-quarters of the city’s 310,000 residents have no access to safely managed sanitation.
Residents are forced to rely on illegal and unsafe pit-emptying services and the waste that is collected is then dumped at an unregulated municipal dumpsite or disposed off in fields, open grounds, rivers and drains.
As a result, 90% of hand dug wells are contaminated with faecal waste causing serious health risks in the communities. The lack of proper waste management is also causing environmental damage and threatening marine life.
The problem is only set to worsen. As rapid urbanisation in Malindi continues, the amount of waste is forecast to grow exponentially. This is requiring city authorities to devise a plan for tackling the problems not just of today, but for years to come.
Watch our film to find out how WSUP has been working with city leaders to create an ambitious sanitation plan to tackle the problem:
The County Government of Kilifi and regional water and sanitation utility, Malindi Water & Sewerage Company (MAWASCO) with other partners like the regulator WASREB and the sanitation specialists at Sanivation, are taking steps to ensure that all residents in Malindi can access safely managed sanitation services.
With 72% of the 962 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to basic sanitation, and governments struggling to increase access, new action is required to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.
This situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, further underscoring the need for African governments to meet their national, regional, and global water, sanitation, and hygiene obligations.
Now, a new initiative aims to help push forward the development of national sanitation and hygiene policies across the continent. But what will the African Sanitation Policy Guidelines, created by the African Council of Ministers on Water (AMCOW) aim to achieve?
ASPG will guide African Union member states to create national and sub-national sanitation policies and strategies. The guidelines aim to resolve major enabling environment bottlenecks that stand in the way of accelerating access to basic sanitation for all. Presently, most African governments have not met their commitments to the 2015 Ngor Ministerial Commitments on sanitation and hygiene.
A suitable enabling environment provides a solid foundation for inclusive sanitation planning, investment, and management. It clarifies and defines institutional and market player roles, thereby strengthening stakeholder inclusion, coordination, and participation. Further, it unlocks the potential for capacity strengthening of institutional and market-based players, paving the way for development and financing of large-scale public sanitation programmes and entry of private sector investors.
The development and roll-out of ASPG is envisaged to resolve multiple, systemic institutional and market barriers, whose removal will accelerate provision of safely managed sanitation and hygiene services in Africa and help meet SDG 6.2 global targets.
The process started with a 26-country assessment conducted by AMCOW in 2019, revealing that most existing sanitation policies and strategies do not adequately address the critical elements of the enabling environment necessary to ensure access to safely managed sanitation for all.
WSUP supported the development of ASPG through its active participation in the Task Force, alongside representatives from organizations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, WHO, African Development Bank, GIZ and the World Bank. WSUP also provided stakeholder consultations’ organization support in Kenya and participated in Zambia and Ghana country meetings. This is in addition to offering technical support in the synthesis and compilation of findings from the 12 country consultations.
In particular, the regulation part of the guidelines cite analysis conducted by WSUP and the Eastern & Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulator Association (ESAWAS) on different regulatory frameworks for sanitation in our joint report entitled Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation.
It also alludes to the findings of research commissioned by WSUP in four African cities of Kisumu (Kenya), Nakuru (Kenya), Malindi (Kenya) and Kumasi (Ghana) and one Asian city (Rangpur, in Bangladesh). This study showed that the costs of developing and maintaining sanitation services depend primarily on the context and the sanitation systems selected by the residents.
WSUP will partner with AMCOW and other stakeholders to ensure the successful roll-out of ASPG across Africa. WSUP is committed to actively participating and providing leadership in developing and reviewing sanitation and hygiene policies in our six core markets in the continent – Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana.
Top image: A boy visiting a toilet in Githima. Credit: Brian Otieno
City leaders need to do more to understand, plan for and respond to the threats of climate change.
Cities in developing countries need to focus more on the impacts that climate change will have on their ability to deliver inclusive water and sanitation services, according to speakers at a WSUP event held this week.
The event titled The Missing Piece of Climate Adaptation, was moderated by WSUP’s Chief Executive, Neil Jeffery, and looked at the impact of climate change on providing water and sanitation services to the cities’ most vulnerable residents as well as ways we can better integrate these services into climate resilience efforts.
Fatima Mussa, Water Lead for WSUP in Mozambique highlighted the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, the impact on water and sanitation, and the need to prepare the city of Beira for more cyclones of this magnitude.
“Parts of the water supply system were seriously damaged, “she said.… “[Only] 10% of the city is covered by drainage system and the sewerage and flood water were mixed which was a public health risk.”
“There is still a lot to be done, there is a need for infrastructure, toilets, septic tanks, etc. There is also a need for citywide sanitation services to reduce public health risks when areas are flooded,” she said, adding: “It’s also important to look at this issue of solid waste management.”
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change – but how is this affecting water and sanitation coverage in urban areas? Pritum Saha, M&E Coordinator for WSUP in Bangladesh, shared multiple ways in which climate change is affecting services, and how WSUP is contributing towards a solution.
He highlighted how climatic events such as sea level rise and flooding are displacing 700,000 people per year in Bangladesh, among them 400,000 climate refugees which migrated to Dhaka alone in 2020. As a result, city authorities are unable to cope with the rising demand for basic services such as water and sanitation.
Drought, extreme flooding, heat, rising sea levels are all affecting WASH services in cities. So, what can we do about it?
Katrin Bruebach, Global Director, Programs, Innovation and Impact at Resilient Cities Network highlighted how many issues cities are already grappling with.
Solutions that address multiple problems from flooding to solid waste management as well as underlying stresses such as poverty and unemployment, will stand the most chance of being adopted, she argued.
Joep Verhagen, Program Lead Water & Urban at The Global Center on Adaptation spoke about how the world is not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 6 targets and how climate change is going to compound this challenge.
But for the urban poor, he said, it is difficult to distinguish what is climate change and what is already a poor service.
Alex McNamara, Programme Manager, Environmental Sustainability at the National Business Initiative in South Africa highlighted the importance of building strong municipal businesses which can provide good customer service, billing, and make sure services are properly priced.
He highlighted how the municipality in Durban looked at climate adaptation not as an additional cost, but as a saving: given how preventative action to improve drainage would reduce the clean-up required after heavy rains. The initiative helped communities to clear rivers, improve ecosystems and create jobs.
Katrin Bruebach highlighted how in the last 20 years the world has failed to solve the sanitation crisis, but that the current pandemic has brought WASH to the forefront. Demonstrating the problems that cities will face if they fail to address the water needs of their communities is vital if we are to be able to generate momentum on the issue.
Lord Boateng, Chairman of WSUP highlighted in his closing remarks that the public health challenge of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene is also a climate change challenge, and there is no solution to one without the other.
WSUP has been implementing climate adaptation work for 15 years, supporting cities to grapple with urbanisation and the increasing fragility of urban life for the poorest residents. In each country where we work, we have developed solutions which work – changing institutions for the better and improving the lives of millions of people.
As climate change gathers pace, we need to step up this work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable. WSUP is determined to do as much as we can to tackle this problem.
Over the last year, WSUP with the support of the Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC) – a UK government and Unilever initiative – delivered a rapid customer focused communication hygiene campaign, to combat the spread of Covid-19 in some of the most vulnerable communities in Ghana and Kenya.
Implemented across 10 cities, WSUP’s response aimed at building urban resilience through improved hygiene related practices among low-income and vulnerable populations and increasing the capacity of institutions and service providers responding to the pandemic.
Watch our film to find out more:
WSUP and its partners implemented a broad range of tactics to raise awareness of Covid-19, improve hygiene behaviours and keep infection rates as low as possible.
Promoting hygiene messaging
Complementing the efforts of the government health services in both countries, a variety of messages were delivered to around 17 million residents.
The messages covered issues of prevention, protection, safety, security and where to seek early support when showing signs and symptoms of Covid-19. These were delivered through social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and via influencers, bulk SMS text messaging, local radio and TV stations, posters and out-of-home banners, water and sanitation utility websites and local door-to-door campaigns supported by community health professionals.
Distributing hygiene materials and handwashing facilities, and hygiene training
Over 280,000 WASH products such as Lifebuoy soaps, hand sanitisers and face masks were distributed to school children, healthcare workers, environment health officers, utility frontline staff, the elderly, as well as people with disabilities.
650 handwashing stations were installed in several market centres, lorry stations, schools, religious institutions and health facilities.
A number of community-based organisations, local leaders and school staff were trained on approaches such as Unilever’s School of 5 and Mum’s Magic Hands which were then rolled out in various locations and schools.
Working with water utilities
Building on our unique relationship with utilities, we were able to support seven utilities to undertake awareness-raising activities to their customers. Websites for the collaborating utilities were revamped and their e-service platforms upgraded to incorporate Covid-19 messages that could easily be accessed by their customers remotely.
Water utilities used bulk messaging to engage with their customers on Covid-19 prevention information. This included messaging on social distance payment options, water access through reporting of leaks and bursts, and handwashing. A total of six bulk messages were shared with utility customers during the campaign period and this continued across the utilities through integration of the Covid-19 messages into the monthly bills.
WSUP regularly met with various organisations and associations for persons with disabilities to ensure their needs were met. Communication materials were adapted to formats that were accessible for different groups. Nearly half of the handwashing stations that were installed in communities, were designed to be accessible.
Alongside these immediate measures, WSUP is also focusing on the long-term availability of water supplies, particularly for the poorest in cities. This includes strengthening utilities and encouraging service providers to work with communities to improve water access.
Given the low rates of vaccinations in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, promoting good hygiene practices remains incredibly important. The simple act of handwashing with soap can reduce the spread of the virus, prevent future pandemics, and save countless lives.
In Mozambique climate change is increasing the severity of natural disasters, weakening already vulnerable infrastructure and threatening to leave millions of low-income residents of cities without access to water and sanitation.
This was the case in 2019 when Cyclone Idai hit the city of Beira, destroying much of the city’s water network and over 11,000 homes. This left many poor residents displaced, without clean water and safe sanitation.
WSUP has worked with utilities, community groups and local government in Beira to help residents recover from the cyclone and to improve the long-term climate resilience of the city.
By reducing water losses, promoting safe waste disposal and encouraging good hygiene practices we can limit the impact of future natural disasters and ensure all low-income residents in the city have sustainable water and sanitation services.
Watch our video to find out more:
WSUP’s work in Beira is supported by Borealis, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and a foundation that wishes to remain anonymous.
Water, sanitation and hygiene improvements need to be integrated into wider urban development initiatives to have maximum reach and impact, according to a new report published by WSUP and Arquitectura sin Fronteras.
Drawing on evidence from cities such as Maputo, Accra, Nairobi and Antananarivo, the report, entitled Integrated Slum Upgrading: how can we link water and sanitation improvements with wider urban development? finds that a more coordinated approach to delivery of services can make a big difference to the overall impact for residents.
At the centre of the report is analysis of work conducted by Arquitectura sin Fronteras and WSUP to develop an integrated land rights and sanitation programme in Maputo, Mozambique. The ongoing project, taking place in the Chamanculo C community, has combined a process of improving land rights, street widening and plot boundary clarifications, with a programme of introducing high-quality shared sanitation facilities.
The integration of the two activities resulted in a more considered approach to improvements to communities, for example, making it easier to find suitable locations for sanitation facilities, and ensuring that facilities are constructed in locations which allow vehicle access for septic tank emptying. The process of offering sanitation facilities in turn helped to ease the complex community negotiations needed to agree, and sometimes change, plot boundaries.
Integrated slum upgrading is the future, and organisations involved in water and sanitation need to partner with civil society organisations to ensure that WASH developments happen in tandem with progress in other areas.
The process of improving land tenure, plot boundaries and road access makes it much easier to improve water and sanitation services in informal urban settlements.
Water and sanitation organisations need to get out of the WASH silo, and make more efforts to engage with organisations working across urban development.
Funding streams which enable water and sanitation organisations to partner with organisations operating in other areas of urban development are needed, to help drive a more integrated approach to improving some of the world’s poorest urban communities.
The report also features work taking place in Nairobi, Kenya and how WASH services are being integrated into the country’s largest slum upgrading project, the Mukuru Special Planning Area; and work taking place in Antananarivo, Madagascar, to link water supply and improvements to drainage and solid waste management.
Integrating water, sanitation and hygiene services within wider urban development is a key priority in WSUP’s new Business Plan, and represents an important step-change in increasing the impact of our work and bringing greater benefits to under-served urban residents.
The Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) have agreed new partnership objectives to help strengthen pro-poor regulations across Africa.
Cities in sub-Saharan Africa continue to face a significant challenge of rapid population growth but lack capacity to provide water and sanitation services for the poorest residents. There is a need for improved regulation, and realistic standards to be created to initiate action by service providers to meet the increased demand, especially for sanitation services.
Both ESAWAS and WSUP have identified the importance of stronger regulatory authorities in improving water and sanitation services and the need to promote specific initiatives that would bring benefits to the poorest urban residents and support regulators to introduce these initiatives.
The partners, who have been working together since August 2018, will prioritise research and advocacy to deepen regulation of water and sanitation services in Africa. Collaboration will also include joint actions to support development of strategies, regulations, guidelines and standards to ensure equitable access to all rural and urban populations.
“Safe and inclusive water and sanitation service provision depends on effective regulatory regimes that support service providers to prioritise the poor and the marginalized,” said Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP. “Through ESAWAS membership, we have been able to widen our reach by working closely with a number of national regulators in the East and Southern Africa region. This renewed partnership provides a fresh opportunity for WSUP to support current and potential ESAWAS members to serve the millions who lack water and sanitation services in cities in Africa.”
Meanwhile, Kasenga Hara the Executive Secretary of ESAWAS said. “We are glad to continue our collaboration with WSUP that will enable us refine our regulatory tools especially those that aim at improving service delivery in low-income areas of our communities. We look forward to continued knowledge and skills enhancement engagements that equip our members to effectively deliver on their mandates.”
Since 2018, ESAWAS and WSUP have pushed for greater recognition of the role that regulation can play in improving water and sanitation services for the poorest and highlighted specific initiatives that regulators can undertake.
Activities have included:
The launch of a joint paper series led by ESAWAS on Citywide Inclusive Urban Sanitation that looks at the functions needed to ensure sanitation systems function safely, at scale and inclusively.
In cities, formal sanitation systems by and large focus on financing and managing piped sewerage infrastructure. In many areas, these sewer systems are non-existent and where they do exist, they are limited to certain areas of a city and do not serve vulnerable informal communities.
Non-sewered sanitation systems that are based on pit latrines, septic tanks or container-based solutions on the other hand are treated as a household responsibility to be addressed by the private sector. These uncoordinated systems fail to protect public health, safety or inclusivity outcomes. With less than ten years to achieve the SDG targets, the inherent failures associated with sanitation service markets must be corrected to achieve these outcomes.
To support safe and healthy urban environments, sanitation services must be organised into public service systems. This does not imply that the public sector has the sole responsibility, the private sector too can play a key role within a publicly managed system. However, for these systems to function, safely, at scale and inclusively so as to ensure safe, equitable and sustained services for all residents in a city, Citywide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) is fundamentally dependent on three things: responsibility, accountability, and resource planning and management.
Citywide inclusive urban sanitation: who has responsibility?
This short publication looks at the function of responsibility: the extent to which sanitation authorities are clearly mandated. The publication outlines a typology of the main approaches to defining and assigning mandates for sanitation services to one or more responsible authorities; and provides an overview of examples, exceptions, and implications of these approaches.
Accountability mechanisms help create the incentives that align the mandated entity’s own interests with the public good. Accountability requires a) that mandated entities have clear performance objectives; b) that mechanisms are in place to ensure rigorous monitoring of performance against those objectives; and c) that tracking outcomes translate into incentives for mandated entities. In this paper, we briefly explore the accountability mechanisms that can be applied to the different service provision mandate structures identified in our parallel paper on responsibilities.
Citywide inclusive urban sanitation: resource planning and management
Scarce global finance for urban sanitation makes its efficient use an imperative. Effective resource management and planning is critical to enable finance to be mobilised, well targeted, and accounted for. The enabling environment to support resource management and planning includes a combination of clear policies and mandates, transparent decision making, and strong accountability systems. To provide some initial insights into these issues, a desk review was undertaken of over 40 urban sanitation investments in 28 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Of course, these are huge topics. We hope these introductory publications will be useful in mapping the landscape and in setting out key concepts. We will be exploring the three functions in more depth, drawing on country-level case studies, in a series of longer publications to follow later this year. Watch this space!
Top image: Waste treatment plant in Chattogram, Bangladesh. Credit: Green Ink
Across the East Africa region there are an astonishingly large number of settlements, more than 200, that currently accommodate about 3,000,000 people displaced from their countries and home areas due to war, ongoing conflict and insecurity.
Their need for basic services such as water are met, with varying degrees of success, by a wide range of approaches and actors, and much of what has been provided in the past has been temporary and ad-hoc and none of it has been self-sustaining.
Following a significant shift in the humanitarian sector in 2016, with the development of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, there is now a much greater acceptance in many countries for the long-term support and integration of refugee populations which has opened up possibilities for initiatives that aspire to provide sustainable and integrated services to both host communities and communities of refugees or internally displaced persons. Only a few years ago in many countries there was no political will to even consider the long-term accommodation of refugees.
Whilst the tendency might be for discussions about how to achieve viable integrated services to focus only on infrastructure and training of the nearest utility, it has become clear to us at WSUP that such approaches have wide ranging implications for actors in both the humanitarian and the development sectors. Furthermore, investment decisions will have to take into account factors that would not normally appear on the agenda of a discussion about water utility development.
This stems from some work that WSUP Advisory, WSUP’s consultancy arm, has conducted with UNICEF and UNHCR, supported by KfW, that focussed on the challenges of establishing integrated services (for the benefit of both displaced and host communities) in East Africa, and also draws on some of the observations and lessons identified in a paper written by WSUP Advisory in collaboration with UNICEF and IIED that looked at the challenges faced by service providers in the Middle East and North Africa region to serving displaced populations.
Any discussion on the prospects for integrated services should recognise at the beginning that certain conditions have to be favourable – it’s not going to work or to be a worthwhile investment everywhere, and from the perspective of the refugees and IDPs targeted what this means for them is in fact a transition from being “a beneficiary of humanitarian assistance” to “a customer of a utility”. The significance of this transition should not be underestimated, and it has wide ranging implications for a number of stakeholders.
For the funding agencies to provide the levels of investment required to deliver sustainable integrated services they will have to be satisfied that the conditions are at least favourable for success and will want to prioritise the most favourable locations.
Drawing on our experience of considering the water sector as a whole and of using tools such as WSUP’s Sector Functionality Framework (SFF) to assess and to understand the environment within which utilities have to operate, WSUP has identified that conditions in the national context such as security, political stability, etc. and the social context are just as important as assessing the capabilities of the service provider and of understanding the technical or engineering challenges of a particular location.
In order to understand the capabilities and requirements of utilities, WSUP has developed a Utility Strengthening Framework that follows the same structure and approach as the SFF but focusses more specifically on the utility.
Furthermore, moving from the traditional approach of the humanitarian sector to the provision of water services, that could be described as ‘care and maintenance’, to an integrated service being provided by a utility implies a significant process of change that should be managed, supported and encouraged in the same way as any other major change process.
Programmes of humanitarian response can be characterised as having an emergency phase, which may require quick and by necessity often temporary solutions in order to save lives, followed by a stabilisation and then a recovery phase. In the early stages, the responding agencies may in fact be substituting for local service providers (although sometimes they don’t recognise that this is what they are doing) who don’t have the capacity or are not present or may be present and have the capacity but have simply been overlooked by the international players.
In order to get to a point where local utilities can provide a good quality, sustainable service to displaced and host communities, will require a significant shift over time in the roles of UN Agencies, which have different but complementary mandates, and in the roles of international and national NGOs and different funding agencies. The areas of interest and the time horizon of a funder of humanitarian relief activities is very different to those of the IFIs and the development banks but one is required in the early part and the other in the latter part of such a process. This therefore implies that ideally there should be a managed process of transition.
Similarly, whilst the expertise provided by humanitarian NGOs can be highly valued in the early phases, the expertise of international consulting agencies is likely to be more appropriate to addressing the requirements of the latter and longer-term phases. The same will also apply to national agencies and different government bodies with mandates and responsibilities that are relevant to different phases in the process. The possibility for ‘territorial’ conflict between combinations of the above is also very real if not adequately addressed.
A wider benefit of moving towards an integrated approach is that investing in water utilities and creating opportunities for them to increase their customer base, and thus their revenue, could also provide opportunities for clustering of smaller utilities to create larger and more viable entities.
This is a trend that is already happening in a number of countries in Africa, for example in Kenya, with the development of county level rather than town level utilities; in Uganda with the advent of the regional Umbrella Authorities; and with the evolution of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency in Ghana. Bringing services to refugees and displaced communities into the equation could further reinforce that trend and provide a route to viability that may have been difficult if they were only to serve pre-existing host communities.
Whilst this integrated approach is an all too rare example of a possibility for bridging the gap between the humanitarian and development sectors, and the debate on how to achieve that has been running since the 1970s, for this to be fully successful some other key issues will also have to be addressed. Not least is the question of the relationship and accountability between the customer and the utility. For example, how can someone who is a refugee, and therefore may have limited opportunities for employment and for earning their own income, be truly regarded as a customer of a utility while a mechanism for applying subsidies (of perhaps 100%) is still required. Equally, how can such customers hold the utility to account for the service provided?
There is also the potential for lessons to be learnt from an integrated approach that could inform the early phases of future humanitarian responses. Hopefully, this would prevent the situation arising where decisions made during the humanitarian phase create challenges that then have to be addressed in the development phase. Whilst this is a hugely welcome development there is clearly plenty of scope for further work to be done.
To mark World Water Day, 22 March, WSUP is shining a light on the value of water: the theme for this year’s campaign.
Water brings value in so many ways, whether it is through education, employment, nutrition, health, or environmental protection. Safeguarding this precious resource for the benefit of everyone is critical.
Watch the video to see how people value water:
This World Water Day, let’s take a stand to protect this precious and finite resource.
For the residents of Soalandy, a commune in Madagascar, a new laundry block with access to clean and drinkable water is bringing enormous value.
But ensuring that the service is sustainable is so much more than bricks and mortar.
It is about community buy-in, training and community-led management.
The theme of this year’s World Water Day is valuing water. The role of water in households and communities is critical. Furthermore, improved water, sanitation and hygiene services also adds value in the form of greater health, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the Water & Development Alliance (WADA), USAID, The Coca-Cola Foundation and WSUP are focusing on the measures needed to ensure that water facilities are sustainable within these communities in Madagascar.
A key trend of urbanisation across Africa is villages evolving into small towns but lacking the accompanying investment in basic services.
The Ashanti region, Ghana’s most populated region, is an example of this challenge. As a result, whole communities lack access to clean water.
To address this issue, WSUP has been working with The One Foundation to improve water services in 10 towns across the region, ensuring sustainable services in the years to come.
Elizabeth Konadu, a single mother of four has been a water vendor in Asamang town for the past two years.
“Before the installation of the water facility, fetching water took a lot of my time, especially during the early hours of the morning which could have been used for other productive activities. Currently, I am able to devote more time to assist my children in getting ready for school.”
Before the construction of the new water system, residents had to walk long distances to access water from sources which were also used by animals, making it unsafe for drinking and domestic use.
Following the construction of the new water supply systems, water quality tests were carried out to ensure compliance with water safety guidelines. The facilities were then handed over to the communities, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency responsible for water and sanitation coverage in small towns and communities, and the District Assembly.
For Elizabeth, the water facility has been a real blessing for her family. The monthly income she receives as a water vendor helps feed her family and send her children to school.
At Okaikrom, another community located about an hour’s drive from Asamang, the water facility has had great impact on Ernestina Antwi’s health and that of her family.
“Our previous water source was not clean. As a result, members of our household, especially children, fell sick often. We always had to spend money on medicines. Ever since the water facility was installed in the community, members of my household rarely fall sick and we no longer spend lots of money at the hospital.”
Water and Sanitation Committees enhancing the management and sustainability of water facilities
WSUP, in collaboration with the District Water and Sanitation Agencies, set up Community Water and Sanitation Committees that were tasked with overseeing the water facilities to ensure sustainability of services. Honourable George Osei Asomaning, an Assembly Member for Konya-Brehoma is the Chairperson for the Water and Sanitation Committee at Asamang.
He constantly strives to ensure that the Committee fulfills its role in ensuring that the facility runs smoothly.
“The assistance we have received for the setting up of the water systems is immense. Our priority is to extend the water facility for access by vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as persons with disabilities and the elderly.”
26-year-old Isaac Awuah is a technical officer who regularly visits the water facility at Asamang. He is among 170 community management team members from both the district and municipal water and sanitation team members who received training from WSUP on operations and maintenance of the new water supply system.
“Since the project started, I have gained a lot of skills in managing the pipe, identifying and handling fault and plumbing. As part of my duties, I have to ensure that the pump is put off at least every two days. In addition, the income I gain from this role enables me to provide some of my needs.”
James Akuoko was selected to become the chief technical operator of the water system in Okaikrom.
“I am delighted to be part of this project and I hope to use the knowledge and skills acquired during the construction phase and the capacity building programme. Apart from being a member of the team that will ensure provision of safe and affordable water to my community, personally it will serve as alternative source of income which will help take good care of my family. Thank you, One Foundation, thank you WSUP.”
Effective data management is a key challenge for the water operators. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck last year, the government issued a directive that water would be provided for free during the pandemic with a view to reimbursing water suppliers later. However, to be reimbursed by the government, clear records must be kept for the water used during the time, and this proved complex for the Water and Sanitation Committees.
WSUP is working with its partners to overcome this challenge; but despite this difficulty, five out of the 10 communities decided to continue paying for the service anyway, demonstrating how much the residents value the new system.
For these communities in Ghana, clean water is bringing enormous value. Improving basic water services across these rapidly growing towns is vital to managing urbanisation successfully.
The readymade garment industry is the lifeline of the Bangladesh economy. Yet, the workers in these factories who live in nearby low-income communities lack access to clean water, safe sanitation, and handwashing facilities.
Investing in these basic services at the community level can bring clear benefits for businesses – a healthier workforce means better productivity. For the workers, it means spending less time trying to source clean and affordable water and sanitation services, and an increase in household savings due to reduced illnesses.
In Dhaka, WSUP in partnership with Kontoor Brands Inc., an apparel company marketing brands such as Lee Wrangler, embarked on a project to improve access to water and sanitation services and improve hygiene behaviours for garment factory workers.
For Tanzina, a resident and factory worker, the new services in her community have been of immense value, “We are much healthier now. These improvements allowed us to avoid falling sick and increase our productivity in the workplace.”
By providing water and sanitation services both in and outside of the workplace, businesses are not only improving their operations but are also building stronger communities.
Wesley Gibson, Vice President & Managing Director, Product Supply at Kontoor Brands Inc. remarked, “We regularly deploy programmes outside the factories that have positive impacts in the surrounding communities. We do this to help ensure improvements in the water, sanitation and hygiene standards of factory workers.”
Highlights from a panel discussion on how cities are adapting to challenges such as the Covid-19 crisis.
At a WSUP event held yesterday, a panel of expert speakers outlined the challenges faced in the urban water, sanitation and hygiene sector as a result of Covid-19, and made recommendations on priorities for the sector.
The Adapting in a Time of Crisis event assessed the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries and was moderated by Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT and a member of the WSUP Board.
Gerald Mwambire, Managing Director, Malindi Water & Sewerage Company, Kenya started off the event by highlighting how the Covid-19 pandemic has put a strain on service provision.
“The government issued directives that we need to provide water [for free], because water is so important for mitigating Covid. But when we are giving free water, that means we have low revenue collection,” he said. Without subsidies from the government, Mwambire added, utilities have struggled to operate effectively.
2020 was a year of doing things differently, and of innovating rapidly to combat constantly shifting threats.
Jeff Goldberg, Director, Center for Water Security, Sanitation and Hygiene, USAID, highlighted how the crisis has been a forcing event to accelerate digital technologies in the sector to address the water and sanitation challenge.
As an example, Mwambire spoke of how in Malindi, the utility was compelled to look at SMS billing and smart meters to reduce the risk of customers and frontline staff being exposed to Covid-19.
Helena Dollimore, Senior Manager, Global Sustainability, Unilever, spoke about how Unilever worked with development actors who are already serving low-income income residents through the Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC). This included helping NGOs to adapt their work to the digital space and using mass media and digital channels to promote hygiene messaging.
In Kenya for example, through the HBCC programme, WSUP was able to use SMS hygiene messaging through our existing work with utilities who made use of their customer databases to reach a large number of low-income residents with vital information.
At WSUP we believe that utilities are the solution to comprehensive, safe water access in cities.
However, the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the vulnerability of utilities’ financial positions. Many utilities were – understandably – required to provide water for free to help in the fight against the pandemic, but this has come at severe costs for their sustainability and financial viability.
Investing in utilities and helping them become financially stable is crucial for improving services for the people most in need, and it is one of the most important steps that we can take to tackle the water crisis.
Andrea Jones, Program Officer, International Programs, Hilton Foundation said, “The blanket safety net approach has put service providers in a precarious position…We need to ensure utilities can reach the poor and vulnerable.”
Frank Kettey, Country Programme Manager, Ghana, WSUP, added: “The role that utilities play is crucial, and we all need to work towards supporting them to ensure they emerge stronger after the pandemic.”
Goldberg remarked that the crisis has given us the opportunity to look at the fundamentals of governance, policy, cost recovery and ensuring we build financially stable utilities that can withstand any kind of crisis moving forward.
Continuous water supply for all and climate change
“If climate change was a shark, then water would be the teeth of it,” said Dollimore, highlighting the link between climate change and water.
Climate change is threatening water and sanitation systems in cities. 74% of all natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 have been water related. Whether the problem is too much water or too little water, it is damaging people’s ability to have access to decent services.
In the face of this growing challenge, building the resilience of service providers has never been more important.
In order to deliver services to the poorest residents, utilities need to improve effectiveness across the breadth of their operations. WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework uses eight steps to move towards a stronger utility.
Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP, highlighted how following the cyclones that hit Beira in Mozambique in 2019, WSUP had to work with city authorities to build back better. He argued that adapting to climate change needs to become standard process within urban development and within those institutions providing water, sanitation and hygiene.
The last 12 months have shown us that even in a crisis – or perhaps because of a crisis – change is possible. As Jones commented, although the Covid-19 crisis has brought to the forefront the gaps in water, sanitation and hygiene systems, it has also provided an opportunity for leaders to address these challenges.
WSUP is determined to play its part in driving the change needed.
By Sam Drabble, Head of Evaluation, Research & Learning
Broadly speaking, when we advocate for investment in sanitation, it is because we are trying to achieve two critically important aims: improve human health, and improve wellbeing or quality of life. But to what extent are sanitation interventions actually achieving these aims?
In many cases, the honest answer is that we do not know (in part because impact measurement can be costly and time-consuming, particularly when it comes to health). But while intuitive, the health and wellbeing outcomes and impacts of sanitation interventions cannot be assumed. To what extent these are actually achieved will be influenced by wider factors, including parallel causes of disease in the local urban environment (health), and the extent to which sanitation options provide for a positive user experience and align with user preference (quality of life).
In densely populated low-income communities (LICs), sanitation outcomes and impacts are further complicated by technical, economic and political constraints. Even under best-case scenarios, most LIC residents are unlikely to acquire access to high-quality pour-flush toilets served by sewer systems. This means we need to better understand what types of sanitation intervention are a) feasible and b) effective in delivering health and quality of life outcomes in these contexts.
Our new report Quality Check explores this fundamental issue. The paper, authored by Aguaconsult, synthesises four major research projects conducted under, or in association with, WSUP’s DFID-funded Urban Sanitation Research Initiative (USRI). These projects were commissioned to build the evidence base around sanitation quality in low-income areas.
Below we set out four key lessons from the paper. These are only some high-level reflections – we encourage you to read the full report and related articles from the research teams!
1. High-quality sanitation is necessary but may not be sufficient, on its own, to achieve health improvements in LICs
A primary driver for sanitation investment is improved health outcomes, such as reduced diarrhoeal disease. The USAID and Gates-funded MapSan trial — led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Georgia Institute of Technology — aimed to evaluate the health impacts of a shared sanitation intervention delivered by WSUP in the low-income communities of Maputo, Mozambique.
MapSan broke new ground as the first controlled health impact trial of a non-sewered sanitation intervention, and the first such trial of urban shared sanitation facilities. As WSUP and our partners have documented (see blog link below), these findings require very nuanced interpretation — but the bottom line is that the intervention had no clear effect on incidence of diarrhoeal disease in children under 5.
Clearly these results are not what we hoped to see. However, in WSUP’s view, MapSan is not an argument against improved sanitation — the absence of which we know to be connected to a wide range of negative health outcomes. Rather, these findings potentially support an argument for integrated urban development and slum upgrading.
Our first lesson: high-quality sanitation is a critical foundational step towards improved health, but it must be accompanied by parallel improvements to break faecal-oral disease transmission pathways.
2. Maximising the health impact of sanitation interventions requires better understanding of the link between sanitation and pathogen flows
Together with limited evidence on the eventual impacts of improved sanitation in LICs, there is limited evidence on how best to design interventions to maximise the health gains of sanitation improvements. The Faecal Pathogen Flows Study, commissioned by WSUP and delivered by a consortium led by Institute of Sustainable Futures at University of Technology Sydney, aimed to address this gap. The research team developed and applied a systems modelling approach to assess the relative performance of eight sanitation options — including septic tanks, deepened and covered drains, and fully sealed vaults — in a densely populated LIC in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Environmental sampling, undertaken to inform the modelling, revealed high levels of pathogens throughout the LIC environment. Wider findings, again nuanced, indicated quality of the containment infrastructure as a key determinant of pathogen transmission, and underlined that proper maintenance makes a huge difference to prospects for achieving long-term health impact.
Our second lesson: “quality” in terms of achieving health impact relies on both appropriate infrastructure choices and good management.
3. Shared latrines can provide high-quality sanitation
Health impact is not the only determinant of sanitation quality: user experience is also critically important. For many residents of densely populated LICs, shared sanitation is the only feasible option. In WSUP’s view, this means there is a case for modification of the UNICEF-WHO JMP classification of shared sanitation as only “limited”, to encourage governments and donors to increase investment in high-quality shared sanitation — but this in turn would require identified minimum standards to facilitate monitoring.
The QUISS study (Quality Indicators for Shared Sanitation), commissioned under USRI and led by Eawag-Sandec, aimed to strengthen the evidence base in this area through a large-scale assessment of shared and non-shared toilet users in Ghana, Bangladesh and Kenya. The study produced detailed findings on user criteria for shared sanitation, with immediate water access, cleanliness, and gender-separated toilets found to be the highest priority. Significantly, researchers also found the clearest discriminant between low- and high-quality sanitation was not number of households sharing (1, 2 or more), but rather technology: flush/pour-flush toilets showed much better quality than non-flush latrines, independently of number of households sharing.
Our third lesson: shared sanitation can and often does provide acceptable high-quality sanitation.
4. Quality of life indicators could provide a standard metric to compare sanitation systems and services
Sanitation access impacts our sense of wellbeing and quality of life in myriad ways, with women and girls disproportionately affected: beyond directly affecting health, livelihoods and school attendance, access to a toilet can be core to personal safety and dignity. These factors are important demand-side drivers of sanitation improvement, and should be taken into account in evaluating the effectiveness of sanitation options.
Led by Ian Ross at LSHTM, the development of SanQoL — a metric for quality-of-life dimensions of sanitation services — is an important step forward in this area. SanQoL indicators were used to measure the user-perceived impact of interventions in the MapSan trial, and a USRI evaluation of user satisfaction with Clean Team, a container-based sanitation service in Kumasi, Ghana — in both cases to striking effect.
The Clean Team Evaluation revealed that customers experienced substantial quality-of-life gains after adopting the service, in comparison with their previous use of existing public toilets; importantly, while women were less satisfied than men with public toilets, access to the Clean Team service closed the gender gap completely (watch out for a forthcoming WSUP Research Brief on this impactful research, led by i-San).
In MapSan, the SanQoL analysis revealed that user experience may differ significantly between sanitation solutions, even where they provide apparently similar levels of services: user experience was found to be better for shared toilets than for the more expensive option of communal sanitation blocks.
Our fourth lesson: this experience suggests that from a public investment perspective, user-centred approaches like SanQoL may be helpful — alongside health impact projections — for identifying which types of sanitation investment can be effective.
Achieving high-quality sanitation within a low-income context is challenging — but it is possible. When designing sanitation interventions, policy makers, city planners and donors need to assess whether the solutions they are supporting are able to deliver in terms of health and quality of life outcomes and expected impacts. We hope that the reflections and recommendations in this report will help support decision-making around sanitation quality in low-income urban areas.
As a large number of children around the world return to school, how do we ensure the environment they study in is safe?
As uncertainty continues to loom with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, ensuring water, sanitation and hygiene services in schools has never been more important.
This International Day of Education, we focus on the work we have been doing to help children return safely to schools, through the sustainable provision of water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. Access to these basic services is crucial for recovering and revitalising education for the Covid-19 generation.
Whilst learning has moved online, the team has worked to ensure children are safe when schools reopen. 60 primary teachers and officials from local education departments participated in Training of Trainer events across three cities in December 2020. The events equipped teachers with the appropriate knowledge on water, sanitation, and hygiene as well as ways to share that knowledge with their students.
Mirza Nurun Nahar, Thana Education Officer of Chattogram said, “20 teachers from 10 primary schools (in Chattogram) were trained on delivering hygiene education to their students and this is a fantastic initiative from WSUP. Now the teachers are required to share this knowledge with their students and their parents.”
Hygiene awareness sessions were also conducted in the communities within the school catchment areas in Rangpur and this will be rolled out to other cities later this month.
Construction of 26 school WASH blocks have also taken place and school management committees have been set up to ensure that these new facilities are maintained under a financially sustainable management model.
Ghana and Kenya
Drawing up on our experience of delivering major handwashing campaigns, WSUP is a lead partner in multiple cities in Kenya and Ghana for the delivery of the UK government and Unilever initiative – Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC).
In Ghana, School Hygiene and Education Programme (SHEP) coordinators and the officials from the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) participated in capacity building workshops focusing on hygiene behaviour change approaches.
Meanwhile in Kenya, teachers from 86 schools were trained on the School of 5 approach that targets handwashing with soap in preparation for school reopening. These were selected by the County Directorate of Education based on needs and priority.
The Ministry of Education through the School Health Division and its partners are working to support schools become WASH friendly. To receive a WASH friendly certification, schools need to adhere to certain minimum standards such as providing access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities, handwashing facilities with soap, and menstrual hygiene management.
We have been supporting schools to build the capacity of school staff, construct and rehabilitate sanitation blocks and handwashing points as well as promote good hygiene practices. School WASH committees have also been set up for the maintenance of the infrastructure and schools need to adhere to this to be recertified.
In Mozambique, we have been working on a long-term strategy to improve WASH facilities in schools. Through training of teachers and provision of handwashing points and soap, and hygiene promotion materials, we will be helping schools reopen safely. Watch our film to find out more:
Broken sanitation facilities with no access to clean water make it difficult for students to enjoy a clean and safe environment in Maputo’s schools. Following years of working in individual schools, a new strategy developed by WSUP and the city council aims to help schools across the city defend against Covid-19 and other diseases.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools is crucial to guarantee good hygiene practices and prevent the spread of the virus. Access to these basic services makes a huge difference to children’s ability to attend school, learn and stay healthy.
In Maputo, poor sanitation facilities in schools have made it difficult for students to enjoy a clean and safe environment. Primary school student Ala Cossa said, “We didn’t have soap, we didn’t have running water. We had to go to the toilet with our personal water bottle to wash our hands.”
Edmundo Ribeiro, Maputo City Councillor for Education and Sport remarked, “One of our strategic goals is to ensure a quality education to primary school students. To ensure quality education, it’s important to create improved infrastructure in water, sanitation and hygiene.”
WSUP’s Chief Executive, Neil Jeffery, on how we have been adapting to what was a very unusual year.
2020 was a complex and difficult year. However, it was inspiring to see how our global team, supporters and partners pulled together in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Given the impact of the worldwide pandemic, the relevance of our work for low-income urban residents globally has never been clearer, and its value never greater. Our analysis and understanding of long-term continuous water supply and utility strengthening have never been more in demand from governments and partners.
While we all look forward to what the New Year will bring, it is worth taking some time to reflect on how we responded to what was a very unusual and challenging year for all of us.
Over the last year, we have had to re-orient the business, revise operational plans, change our working practices, strengthen our technology systems, and support our staff through shifting global conditions. Most importantly we have had to act at all times with an awareness of our responsibility not to increase risks for the urban communities that we work with.
We drew upon our experience of implementing major handwashing campaigns, combined with our unique relationship of trust with local utilities, to deliver rapid customer focused targeted communication to combat the spread of Covid-19.
WSUP is a lead partner in multiple cities in Kenya and Ghana for the delivery of the UK government and Unilever initiative – Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC).
We are delivering targeted messaging in each city, using our detailed knowledge of utility customer billing, digital messaging, and mass communication to enhance the scale, speed and efficiency of impact. For example, Nairobi Water provides bills and payments by SMS and M-Pesa platforms to customers in the city’s informal settlements, about 70% of the urban population, which gives us an excellent opportunity to target specific COVID messaging to low-income households.
Many institutions have made commendable efforts to respond to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with significant investment being directed towards ensuring water is available to all. However, it is worth reflecting on whether these efforts are the most appropriate mechanisms to facilitate better response to future emergencies. WSUP’s Director of WASH Sector Support, Kariuki Mugo, discusses ways that we could all be better prepared in this article.
Alongside the implementation of these immediate measures described above, WSUP continues to focus on promoting the long-term availability of financially viable water supplies, particularly for the poorest residents in cities
In 2020, WSUP continued to advance progress against its Strategic Goals established in our Business Plan 2020-2025, even in the face of Covid-19. We continued to scale up our award-winning SWEEP business model in Bangladesh which allows low-income customers to access high quality sanitation emptying services at an affordable price point, whilst maintaining the profit margin of local enterprises.
Amid heightened global attention on maintenance of continuous water supply to all city residents, WSUP continues to work through our Utility Strengthening Framework to help utilities manage these heightened challenges.
WSUP also continues to encourage governments and municipalities to invest in stronger utilities and embrace the transformative power of great customer service. Quite simply, individuals will pay for a service that they value, and will value a service that they pay for.
We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all our supporters and partners for their continued assistance and encouragement in these challenging times.
Despite the difficult situation we find ourselves in right now, we remain optimistic that 2021 will be a year of renewed opportunities and hope, with much to be achieved. We continue to strive towards our commitment to bring clean water, safe sanitation, and hygiene to people who need it the most.
If you share this commitment, please support our work by donating here.
WSUP has been selected as an official member of the Million Lives Club, in recognition of our work with city authorities in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to improve water and sanitation for the poorest residents.
The Million Lives Club celebrates innovators and social entrepreneurs that are scaling and making a significant impact in addressing global development challenges, and the ecosystems and enabling environments that contributed to their growth.
WSUP has been selected for our work alongside local providers, enabling them to develop services, build infrastructure and attract funding so that they can reach low-income communities.
To ensure services can sustainably reach as many people as possible, we work with utilities and businesses on services that generate revenue and advise regulators and governments on how to create an environment in which businesses can thrive.
Since inception, we have helped over 20 million people access improved water, sanitation and hygiene services.
Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP said:
“We’re thrilled to become an official member of the Million Lives Club that recognises the importance of a customer-centric focus in global development.
Since we began work in 2005, WSUP has been innovating, testing new technologies and developing new business models that are financially viable, socially equitable and sustainable, helping the poorest urban residents lead healthy and dignified lives. As part of the club, we look forward to new opportunities with like-minded organisations and scaling our innovation to the next level.”