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Before yesterdayIRC Sanitation

100,000 toilets sold and counting!

12 May 2022 at 15:58

Partnering with Ethiopia's private sector for market-based sanitation.

By Dagim Demirew, WASH Business Development Associate Director, PSI

Local small businesses in Ethiopia play a significant role in flushing away the country’s sanitation woes. The big win: these businesses recently hit a major milestone—selling their 100,000th toilet to a household in Ethiopia. Through two USAID-funded multi-year initiatives, Transform WASH and Feed the Future Growth through Nutrition, Population Services International (PSI) has been supporting these local businesses to introduce a broad range of affordable sanitation products and services to local markets.

Products for sanitation businesses in Ethiopia

What existed before

Prior to the launch of the two projects—Transform WASH in 2017 and Feed the Future Growth through Nutrition (GTN) in 2016— the sanitation market serving rural and peri-urban communities barely existed. Previous ‘sanitation marketing’ projects focused only on selling expensive concrete slabs and largely relied on inexperienced businesses. The product and service offerings were not viable for businesses, were undesirable for many households, and lacked potential for scale.

A new approach

The projects have operated in more than 80 woredas (districts) across 9 regions. Learning quickly that the old approach of focusing on concrete slab manufacturing resulted in low quality products and low sales, the team adapted by expanding delivery models to a range of products and services that suited various customer segments. The team recruited experienced entrepreneurs and business partners, selected based on their interest and capacity, and introduced lower-cost improved sanitation innovations, such as the SATO pan, which automatically seals to eliminate odours and flies.

With the introduction of SATO pans, small businesses and service providers, such as masons, became pivotal players in the supply chain. These actors offered simple upgrades and installation services for existing unimproved toilets. Transform WASH’s basic toilet upgrade model—the most popular among newly introduced models—entails masons conducting door-to-door sales of SATO pan installation services.

Diagram showing toilets sold cumulatively

Getting to 100k toilets

Reaching 100,000 toilets in sales was no easy feat. Besides early challenges with installation quality, the team had to overcome stakeholders’ scepticism about using market-based solutions for public health challenges as well as negative community expectations stemming from a history of projects providing free handouts. Transform WASH and GTN transcended these challenges by focusing on customer needs, flexible business models, and business profitability. WASH sector actors have embraced this success, and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health and the cross-sectoral One WASH National Programme have incorporated the new approaches into the National Market-Based Sanitation Guideline.

Sales and access to basic sanitation services have also been heavily impacted by both national and global events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and internal conflict. While consistently growing over time, sales trends among project business partners have fluctuated—i.e., alternating rise and fall in sales—as depicted in the chart below.

Diagram showing toilets sold monthly in Ethiopia

During the first three years of market development activities, sales tripled every year, peaking in February 2020. This trend suggested sales would continue increasing until the onset of the rainy season in June. However, sales declined by 150%, from 4,276 in February to 1,700 in April 2020, due to the onset of the pandemic. The toilet market has just recently recovered from the effects of the pandemic.

Supporting market recovery

To support market recovery, PSI-Ethiopia introduced the Decision Quotient (DQ) Sales® method, an approach developed by PSI’s partner, Whitten and Roy Partnership, that helps customers better identify their sanitation problems and the financial and social cost of those problems. Project staff were trained in this approach and in turn built the capacity of business partners, typically mason toilet installers, to use the DQ Sales® approach for executing effective door-to-door promotion and sales. Using this approach, nearly one out of every three households reached with the DQ approach purchased a product and installation service.  

Following the introduction of the DQ Sales® approach, sales rose rapidly from June until November 2020, when the security situation in the Tigray and Benishangul Gumuz regions forced an end to toilet sales in those regions. The expansion of the conflict to the West Oromia and Amhara regions (North and South Wollo) in September 2021 also correlated with a decrease in sales in the following month.


100,000 toilets have given nearly half a million people access to basic sanitation.  This is far from Ethiopia’s goal of achieving universal access, but reaching this milestone proves that, despite significant external challenges and shocks, that market-based sanitation efforts can create a resilient market in Ethiopia that will continue to accelerate toilet sales into the future. 


About Transform WASH

USAID Transform WASH aims to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes in Ethiopia by increasing market access to and sustained use of a broader spectrum of affordable WASH products and services, with a substantial focus on sanitation. Transform WASH achieves this by transforming the market for low-cost quality WASH products and services: stimulating demand at the community level, strengthening supply chains, and improving the enabling environment for a vibrant private market.

USAID Transform WASH is a USAID-funded activity implemented by PSI in collaboration with SNV, Plan International, and IRC WASH. The consortium is working closely with government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, the One WASH National Programme, and regional and sub-regional governments.

About Growth through Nutrition

USAID Feed the Future Ethiopia, Growth through Nutrition Activity was a five-year (2016-2021) multisector nutrition and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) project which aimed to improve the nutritional status of women and young children in Ethiopia. The project worked with the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock; Health; Water, Irrigation, and Energy; and Education at all levels to strengthen institutional capacity and influence policy to improve nutrition. Save the Children led the implementation of the project in collaboration with six international and five local partners. PSI was one of the international partners.

Transform WASH partner logos:

partner logos Transform WASH

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Strategic Plan, Dera Woreda, Amhara National Regional State, Ethiopia

9 May 2022 at 11:31

This 12-year costed plan will serve to guide the Dera Woreda's multisectoral WASH activities.

An SDG planning tool was used to align with local and global WASH indicators and to design a plan in collaboration with a planning team comprised of Woreda WASH Team (WWT) and key staff from NGO partners in the woreda and with support from Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) and IRC WASH. This 12-year costed plan will serve to guide the woreda's multisectoral WASH activities. Additional outputs of the model are "consequences" of the plan, such as financial needs and sectoral and institutional requirements. Based on results of monitoring and periodic review meetings, updates and adjustments will be made regularly to the plan.

This document is a draft version.

North Mecha Woreda and Merawi Town 2019 to 2030 West Gojjam Zone, Amhara National Regional State

9 May 2022 at 11:17

A 12-year woreda WASH strategic plan to be implemented in 33 rural and 6 urban kebeles of the woreda.

Cognizant of the need to improve the water supply sanitation and hygiene status of the woreda in line with national and global standards, the need for a long-term strategic plan has been identified. Hence, the Woreda has developed its 12-year woreda WASH strategic plan to be implemented in 33 rural and 6 urban kebeles of the woreda.

This document is a draft version.

Strategic development plan of Farta woreda and Debre Tabor town (2019-2030)

9 May 2022 at 10:59

A strategic plan to achieve 100% universal access to water supply and sanitation services by 2030.

To align the programs with the 2030 agenda, CARE Ethiopia through the collaboration of the government and Millennium Water Alliance designed a strategic development plan to meet the 2030 agenda for Farta woreda. Therefore, this document clearly indicates the strategic plan of Farta woreda and Debre Tabor town up to 2030 to achieve 100% universal access to water supply and sanitation services, 30% of the community will have safely managed and 70% of them will have basic services for both water supply and sanitation facilities. This strategic plan helps the woreda give direction and outlines measurable goals and measures their day-to-day progress towards the achievements.

This document is a draft version.

Plan stratégique des services publics d’eau, d'hygiène et d'assainissement Commune Rurale de Tioribougou - 2018-2030

4 May 2022 at 13:57

Plan stratégique communal de Tioribougou 2018-2030.

Le Code des Collectivités Territoriales confère à la commune de Tioribougou, le rôle de maître d'ouvrage des services d'eau potable et d'assainissement dans l'espace communal. La présente stratégie communale qui en découle vise à rendre plus performant, le service public d'approvisionnement en eau potable, hygiène et assainissement (AEPHA).

Avec l'appui technique et financier de : Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, IRC Burkina Faso, World Vision

Plan stratégique des services publics d’eau, d'hygiène et d'assainissement de Commune rurale de Ouolodo - 2018-2030

4 May 2022 at 13:47

Plan stratégique communal de Ouolodo 2018-2030.

Le Code des Collectivités Territoriales confère à la commune de Ouolodo, le rôle de maître d'ouvrage des services d'eau potable et d'assainissement dans l'espace communal. La présente stratégie communale qui en découle vise à rendre plus performant, le service public d'approvisionnement en eau potable, hygiène et assainissement (AEPHA).

Avec l'appui technique et financier de : Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, IRC Burkina Faso, World Vision

Plan stratégique communal des services publics d’eau, d'hygiène et d'assainissement 2018-2030 de Nossombougou

4 May 2022 at 13:38

Plan stratégique communal de Nossombougou 2018-2030.

Le Code des Collectivités Territoriales confère à la commune de Nossombougou, le rôle de maître d’ouvrage des services d’eau potable et d’assainissement dans l’espace communal. La présente stratégie communale qui en découle vise à rendre plus performant, le service public d'approvisionnement en eau potable, hygiène et assainissement (AEPHA).

Avec l'appui technique et financier de : Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, IRC Burkina Faso, World Vision

“Being a storyteller is like eating multi-flavoured candy”

21 April 2022 at 10:14
By: Daalen

An interview with Khorik Istiana the winner of the 2021 Ton Schouten Award.

Khorik talking to children at a Youth with Sanitation meeting

How does it feel to be a storyteller?

Sharing stories about what it is like to be a storyteller made me reflect on myself. I chose to be a storyteller. Not because I'm good at telling stories. Being a storyteller was my choice, not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

Being a storyteller is like eating multi-flavoured candy. Sometimes it tastes bitter when my story is not well received and cannot touch the hearts of the audience. At other times, it is sweet if the stories I bring are accepted easily and move people’s hearts. Sometimes it is sour if I am confused or run out of ideas about what to tell and what other stories I want to share. These various flavoured candies have shaped my personality and made me become a better storyteller.

I love telling stories and I enjoy every bit of the process. Being a storyteller in the context of sanitation is not easy, especially because the issue is very foreign to people even to my friends and family. It is not easy to introduce issues such as menstrual hygiene and maintenance of sanitation facilities. But by continuing to try, slowly my friends begin to realise and understand it, and we have had more discussions about sanitation. It has made me happy and excited again to be a storyteller.

What is your reflection on applying for the Award?

Learning about this Award made me excited to apply, although to be honest I felt like I hadn't done much. I feel that what I did was not fully optimal, so applying for this Award made me unsure. But I brushed off that feeling and I began to reflect on myself. I have realised that for more than 3 years I have been doing good work for my family, friends and the environment. I am doing positive things by continuing to voice sanitation issues. I also have not stopped being a storyteller in the field of sanitation. So being passionate and consistent is my ninja move to continue the good things I'm doing.

Raising awareness for the rehabilitation of toilets in one of the Kelurahan (neighbourhoods) in Bandar Lampung City

How does it feel to win an Award?

As I said before, I did not feel confident that I would win this Award. So, when I was told that I had won, I was in shock, my body was shaking, and I wanted to cry because I couldn't believe it. Then I realised that maybe this is a form of appreciation for myself and that my efforts are appreciated. I can and am able to do many more things in the future. It has made me so motivated to do more and more in voicing the sanitation issues.

What have you done with the Award money?

I have used it to improve my skills on languages. I'm a little bit constrained in communication due to a lack of knowledge of foreign languages. So, I took a course to improve my language communication skills to get more out of networking and discussing with people who are also campaigning for a better environment globally. Also, I used the money to encourage the campus press to raise issues around sanitation in their respective campuses so that sanitation is also a topic of discussion that is highlighted in campus publications. Some of the money I used to produce content. This money has really helped me in many ways and helped me to become a better storyteller in the future.

How will you proceed?

I have realised that the relay to continue being a storyteller certainly shouldn't stop with me. I am also looking for and recruiting new storytellers to work with so that new stories will keep coming from many different people with different backgrounds. 

Can you encourage young people to apply?

By giving an example of what I do with my organisation Youth with Sanitation Concern (YSC). We are educating about good sanitation online and offline, we are also often campaigning on social media platforms. Recently, we raised funds for the rehabilitation of toilets in one of the Kelurahan (neighbourhoods) in Bandar Lampung City. By giving examples of activities that our organisation and I have done, it may be possible to trigger someone else to duplicate these activities. I and the YSC organisation will share a post about what the Tom Schouten Award is on social media platforms to inform young people engaged in the WASH sector that they can apply regardless of background, culture, ethnicity and origin. Because your efforts and hard work can earn an appreciation that you never imagined. I recommend registering yourself because you will get support that will help you to develop your potential for the future.

With 5 years of change, looking 10 years into the future

12 January 2022 at 11:31
By: Smits

Stef Smits' in-depth review of the JMP 2021 data on the progress made in 15 countries and discussing the implications towards 2030.

When the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced in 2015, at IRC we spoke about ’15 years to make history, 5 years to make change’. The argument was that in order to achieve the SDGs in 15 years from then, the first 5 years would be crucial. That is the time it would take to get the sector’s system geared up for accelerating towards delivering universal access. With the publishing of the 2021 JMP report in July last year, we got the first insight into whether the sector has made changes, and whether it is ready for the next 10 years of the future. The headline message of the report is that good progress is being made, but that it is insufficient to meet the 2030 targets. For that, the rate of progress needs to quadruple globally, and multiply by a manifold of that in certain groups of countries.

In this blog I build on those headline messages and review the changes countries have undergone in the past years, and discuss the implications for the coming 10 years. I do so by zooming in to the 15 countries in which IRC and its strategic partner Water For People have presence: Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru in Latin America; Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda and Uganda in Africa; and, Bangladesh and India in South Asia. They are the countries to which we are committed as part of Destination 2030 (D30), our joint vision for the sector for 2030, and the strategy towards that vision. These 15 countries are from different (sub)regions and income groups. And I believe them to be illustrative of the various water and sanitation situations found across the globe.

Making the step towards safely managed services implies a stronger focus on water quality
Making the step towards safely managed services implies a stronger focus on water quality. Photo by  © Elias Assaf

The present: access to at least basic services

The 5 Latin American (Figure 1 in the Annex) and 2 South Asian (Figure 3) countries show a very similar situation with respect to drinking water supply: very high levels of access (of around 90%), and where data is available around 50% of access to safely managed services. Among the African countries (Figure 2) there is more diversity in terms of access. Access levels in Ghana and Mali are just a bit below the ones in South Asia and Latin America. But in the other countries, levels of access are significantly lower, between 40% and 60%. And safely managed services are enjoyed only by very minor percentages of the population.

Levels of access to basic sanitation are 10-20 percentage-points below access to basic water supply in the Latin American countries and India (see Figure 4 and Figure 6). But what stands out above all are the very low levels of access (around 20%) in most African countries (Figure 5). However, a closer look at the data reveals very different situations with respect to the types of sanitation between the countries. Burkina Faso and Niger have a majority of their population still practising open defecation; in Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda a majority uses unimproved sanitation; and in Ghana, a large share of the population uses limited (shared) toilets. This means that across these countries there are very different levels of demand for sanitation, and probably need for different approaches to move forward on at least basic services.

The present: safely managed services

The JMP report and accompanying database contains data on the percentages of the population having access to water and sanitation that meet criteria of elements of safely managed services. Below, we present those data, but as percentage of population that have improved services. This gives better insight into which aspects of safely managed services are more commonly met, and which ones not.

For water supply, I have taken only the rural population as the differences are the most striking there and where safely managed services are less common. As can be seen in Figure 1, there is a marked difference again between the Latin American and South Asian countries on the one hand, and the African ones on the other. In Latin America and South Asia, accessibility is the element of safely managed services that is most commonly enjoyed. In other words, it is the least limiting factor. In the African countries, it is the element of safely managed that is least enjoyed. This has all to do with the technologies employed. In Latin America, and increasingly in India, piped supplies with household connections are the standard, also in rural areas. In most African countries, boreholes with handpumps, and to some extent piped supplies with communal standpipes, are the common forms of rural water supply. For the African countries to progress on safely managed services, moving towards supplies on premises is therefore key – also because on the factors of availability and water quality the African countries perform at a similar level as countries from the other regions.

Figure 1: Percentage of rural population with access to improved water supply, meeting elements of safely managed

Figure 1: Percentage of rural population with access to improved water supply, meeting elements of safely managed

The situation with respect to safely managed sanitation yields a different picture. First of all, there is also a marked difference there in terms of technologies. The Latin American and South Asian countries see a mix between sewers, septic tanks and latrines. In some countries, such as Peru, even a large part of the rural population uses latrines. In the African countries, latrines form more or less the only sanitation option, with small percentages of septic tanks, and negligible percentages of sewers.

Figure 2: Percentage of population with access to improved sanitation through different technology options

Figure 2: Percentage of population with access to improved sanitation through different technology options

The extent to which these technologies lead to safely managed services is presented below. It shows the percentages of people with sewers whose sewage is treated adequately, and the percentage of people with latrines and septic tanks, that either practise safe disposal in situ, or have the faecal sludge managed adequately. It shows reasonably high levels of wastewater treatment in three Latin American countries, and low levels of treatment in Honduras and the two South Asian countries. Safe disposal and/or faecal sludge treatment fluctuates around 60%.

Figure 3: Percentage of population with access to certain technologies, that also meet safely managed criteria

Figure 3: Percentage of population with access to certain technologies, that also meet safely managed criteria

The past

Whereas the figures above describe the current levels of access, this section explores the past, how the countries got there. To test whether there have been 5 years of change, ideally, I would have to plot the rate of progress over the past 5 years only. However, such data is not available, as the JMP calculates the rates of change using a linear regression analysis over the entire period of 2000-2020, and not for five-year periods within that. So, I have compiled the rates of change from the JMP database (see Table 1). Rates of change of more than 1 percentage-point per year are indicated in green as they can be considered high (only 10% of countries and territories had rates of change higher than that for water, and 18% for sanitation). Moderate rates of change of less than 1 percentage-point per year are indicated in yellow, and negative rates of change in red.

In addition, I have looked into whether countries appear to be accelerating, using the methodology explained in this blog, based on data from the previous JMP report. These are countries where data from the last 5 years indicate that the rate of change is increasing, indicated in the table below by a plus sign in parenthesis. As mentioned in that blog, the appearance of acceleration needs to be treated with caution, and requires a more detailed analysis of the country-specific data.

Table 1: Rates of change in access to at least basic water and sanitation (percentage-point/year)

Table 1: Rates of change in access to at least basic water and sanitation (percentage-point/year)

In the countries in Latin America, the annual increase in access to water supply is moderate or low. That is understandable as the levels of access are already high. In two of the countries the rates of change in sanitation are high, and one of them appears to be accelerating: Bolivia. Bolivia was already identified in my blog on the previous JMP report as a country appearing to accelerate, particularly in rural areas. The new datafile shows that this acceleration has continued. Since about 2015, the data points are all well-above the original regression line.

The rates of change in the African countries yield a mixed picture. Some countries have been increasing access at a high rate for water only (Ethiopia and Uganda), sanitation only (Rwanda) and both water and sanitation (Mali). Mali appears to even be accelerating its access to basic sanitation. A deeper look into the country sheet shows a similar pattern as Bolivia, with a number of datapoints since 2015 being well above the original regression line. However, Mali has very few datapoints from the period 2000-2010. This means that there may not be a real acceleration happening, but that this is merely a statistical effect of having more recent data. In my previous blog, Uganda was identified as a country undergoing acceleration in its rural water sector. The data from the 2021 JMP report confirm that acceleration appears to be happening. This is explained above all by the fact that there are various datapoints since 2015 which put the percentage of people (in rural areas) that live within a 30 minute roundtrip higher than earlier datapoints. In Burkina Faso the opposite happens. It is the only country among these 15, in which access to at least basic services has actually gone down. A more detailed look into the Burkina Faso data reveals that access to improved services has actually gone up, but to at least basic services has gone down. This can be explained by the fact that more and more people have to take a more than 30 minute roundtrip. Or in other words: more people have access, but also disproportionally more people have to take a longer trip to fetch the water.

For the two South Asian countries the high rates of change in sanitation stand out, particularly the 2.8 percentage-points per year of India. Since 2015, the data on access to sanitation show a remarkable increase, probably as a result of the Swachh Bharat campaign. In the table, however, it is not indicated as 'appearing to accelerate' as it seems that the increase already started a bit before 2015. But Swachh Bharat has surely contributed to that acceleration.

The future: 10 years from now

By making linear extrapolations of these rates of growth from the current levels of access yields the projected levels of access in 10 years from now, by 2030, both for at least basic and safely managed services. Universal access (more than 99%) is indicated by dark green, high access (more than 90%) by light green, moderate access (more than 75%) by yellow, and low access (less than 75%) by orange. For safely managed, I use dark green to indicate more than 60% access, light green more than 40%, yellow more than 20%, orange below 20%. Moreover, I indicate whether the rate of growth is high (indicated by +), or negative (indicated by -); the ones without indication have a moderate rate of growth.

Table 2: Projected levels of access to at least basic and safely managed services in 2030

Table 2: Projected levels of access to at least basic and safely managed services in 2030

Apart from Nicaragua, the Latin American countries are projected to achieve all but universal access to at least basic water services, of which some 50-60% through safely managed supplies. They are projected to achieve that, even without having high rates of growth. In essence, if they continue what they have been doing they will achieve universal access. For sanitation, the picture is less rosy. Only Honduras is projected to get to high levels of access. And Bolivia, in spite of having a high rate of growth, and appearing to accelerate, would only reach some 81% access. Bolivia and Peru are the only two countries with projections for safely managed services, and both are expected to reach reasonably high percentages of safely managed sanitation.

Among the African countries, only Ghana and Mali are projected to reach close to universal access for water supply, if they keep up their current high rates of change. Ghana is the only country projected to reach a reasonable level of safely managed water supply services. In spite of the high rates of change, countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda will still only end up with low to moderate levels of access to water supply and sanitation. They are performing well, but the gap is simply too big. Particularly worrying is the projection for sanitation. Apart from Mali and Rwanda, none of the countries is projected to reach more than 40% access to at least basic services. Safely managed water and sanitation are projected to remain low to moderate in all countries.

Similarly to the Latin American countries, Bangladesh and India are projected to reach close to universal access for water supply. India is also projected to reach universal access to basic sanitation if it maintains the current high rates of growth, and even a high level of safely managed sanitation. Bangladesh also has a high rate of growth in sanitation, but it will still only reach 69% access to basic sanitation.


This review shows that some of the reviewed countries have undergone change – or at least appear to have done so – in order to accelerate progress in terms of water and/or sanitation. These include Bolivia (sanitation), Mali (sanitation) and Uganda (water). Other countries had less of a need for change as they already had high levels of growth and they maintained those (e.g. the South Asian countries for sanitation), or were projected to reach universal access anyway, in spite of moderate levels of growth (some of the Latin American countries for the water sector). So, though change has happened only to a limited extent, several countries are still projected to perform well in the years ahead.

But this analysis has also shown a number of other trends that these, and other countries, need to engage with:

  • Change in discourse on targets. Over the past 5 years, much of the sector’s discourse has been about achieving the target of universal access by 2030. This review has shown that, in spite of very high levels of growth in access, some countries are still not projected to reach universal access. It is not realistic to expect that they will increase the rates of growth with several orders of magnitude. This means that the discourse on the targets to be achieved may need to change. More realistic, but still ambitious, targets need to be set.
  • Differential approaches towards basic sanitation, particularly in, but not limited to, the African countries. The reasons for not having basic sanitation were shown to differ widely across the countries: ranging from high percentages of open defecation to having high percentages of shared toilets. Addressing these situations will require very different approaches. Where open defecation is so predominant, probably approaches focused on creating demand, and triggering behaviour change are most needed. Climbing the sanitation ladder from unimproved to improved sanitation probably also implies supply-side approaches. Shared sanitation, the extent to which that is problematic, and approaches for addressing that is subject of a whole debate in itself.
  • Transitioning towards safely managed water and sanitation. The review shows that for some countries (e.g. the ones in Latin America and South Asia), the main challenge for the next 10 years is to bring services up to the standard of safely managed, whereas for some of the African countries, safely managed services are a remote aspiration – and possibly a red herring for now. The main implication is that some of the countries would need to start setting explicit targets for that transition.
  • Understanding, and developing strategies, for the elements of safely managed services. That also implies that a good understanding is needed of those elements of safely managed services that are currently most limiting, and the strategies for addressing those. Obviously, improving water quality of rural water supplies in Latin America would require different strategies from bringing water onto premises in some African countries – and probably at very different costs. Likewise, treating wastewater in countries with high levels of access to sewerage requires different approaches from ensuring safe disposal in situ in places where latrines are predominant.
  • Engaging with the underlying data. An internal discussion we had at IRC about the JMP report revealed that in the countries where we work, little attention has been given to the JMP report. One colleague mentioned he had shared slides with the data about the country where he works among more than 300 sector experts – and he received only 2 responses with reflections on the data. In the country where I personally work a lot, Honduras, so far no reactions have been received from the Government about the data. At the same time, this blog has shown that sometimes the data requires digging deeper. For example, the diverging rates of progress in water supply in Burkina Faso and Uganda are explained above all by the percentages of people living within a 30 minute roundtrip. That cannot easily be picked up from the headlines, but requires more in-depth data analysis. For countries to deal with the trends outlined in this blog, they first need to engage with the data and unpack and understand the trends.
  • Recognizing the value of the JMP estimates. That in turn requires recognizing the value of the JMP estimates. I often hear “but those are JMP data, we as the government of Country X have our own data’”. I usually respond to that by saying that the JMP uses also official government data, coming mostly from the national statistics agencies; and that the main thing that the JMP does is compiling the data and making estimates in a uniform manner. Or to put it slightly disrespectfully towards the JMP: it just draws a trendline through the data from the national statistics agencies. But by doing such a regression analysis, it does provide the temporal perspective to whatever the most recent sector reports are.

I hope that by digging into five years of data, countries are able to set ambitious, but more differentiated, targets for the water and sanitation sector, and use those data as well to come up with strategies to reach those targets. 

Four towns launch new Town Sanitation Plans in Kabarole District, Uganda

29 March 2022 at 15:19

The four Town Sanitation Plans are a product of a comprehensive, participatory process initiated last year 2021 by the lower local government leadership and facilitated by IRC Uganda.

Mugusu, Kijura, Kiko and Kasenda Town Councils in Kabarole District are set to launch their new Town Sanitation Plans (TSPs) and officially kick-start implementation on 30 March 2022. The event is hosted at the Kabarole District Local Government Headquarters with Chairperson Hon. Richard Rwabuhinga as guest of honour. The town sanitation plans are a product of a comprehensive and participatory process led by the Town Council Leadership and facilitated by IRC Uganda as a way to support the district's targets of universal access to water sanitation and hygiene by 2030 as laid out in the Kabarole District WASH Masterplan.

"We are following our laid out strategies in the WASH Masterplan and we are steadily progressing towards the goal of leaving no one behind by 2030. With safe water and sanitation accessible to everyone even in the small towns and sub-counties, we reduce the disease burden substantially and can be assured of a healthy productive lifestyle for our people.  I congratulate these town councils for getting on board," Hon. Richard Rwabuhinga, Chairman Kabarole District.

 Mugusu participatory process of developing TSP

The launch will bring together key stakeholders from the Ministry of Health, regional units of the Ministry of Water and Environment, Kabarole District Local Government, technocrats and politicians from the four Town Councils, the Mid-Western Umbrella of Water and Sanitation and the National Water and Sewerage Corporation. Civil society representatives from Water For People, UWASNET, JESE, TURIKUMWE and Finish Mondial/HEWASA, the media and cultural and religious leadership are also expected to attend.

Town Sanitation Plans

The Town Sanitation Plans aim at coordinating and integrating various sanitation-related measures at the town council level including physical planning, sanitation marketing and behaviour change communication, local private sector involvement, law enforcement, and full stakeholder participation, among others. The plans contain Town Council priority issues; objectives and targets for improving sanitation; planned activities; and a financial estimation management plan for the activities. They include estimates on the required investments to be made either by the Town Council, Kabarole District Local Government, and/or donor agencies for improvements along the sanitation value chain.

The actions and interventions presented in the plans are focused on improving sanitation in households, public schools, public places (e.g., markets, bus/taxi stops), and healthcare facilities. In addition, the plans propose interventions to improve the collection and treatment of faecal sludge in the towns. The planning horizon is the year 2040 in line with the national Uganda Vision2040.

New and Complementing Projects

As part of the launch event of the Town Sanitation Plans, IRC Uganda will introduce two new projects namely the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Safe Water Strategy Phase Two and the Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement project funded by the James Percy Foundation, through which a number of implementation activities laid out in the TSPs will be supported.

IRC Uganda and Kabarole District

IRC has collaborated with Kabarole District Local Government as a core district partner since 2006, and has supported efforts to research, develop and publish a district WASH master plan for Kabarole District. This master plan outlines a vision for 100% coverage of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services by 2030.

Funding Support

The development and publication of the Town Sanitation Plans for Kijura, Mugusu, Kasenda and Kiko was commissioned by IRC Uganda with funding support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Waterloo Foundation.

Resource mobilisation and implementation strategy of Negelle Arsi WASH master plan

15 March 2022 at 11:19

The strategy document indicates the best ways to mobilise additional finance from the community, government, and partner NGOs.

This is a resource mobilisation strategy aimed at improving the implementation of the woreda WASH SDG master plan. The strategy document indicates the best ways to mobilise additional finance from the community, government, and partner NGOs. It is developed by the district master WASH SDG master plan planning team, with technical support of IRC WASH.

Safely managed sanitation to protect our groundwater resources

10 March 2022 at 10:23

When realising safe sanitation avoid making pit emptying an afterthought.

Since 1993, the world has been celebrating World Water Day every 22 March. This year’s theme is ‘Groundwater, making the invisible, visible.’ It raises the alarm for growing global concern over the need to protect groundwater – the source of almost all liquid freshwater in the world – from further contamination, due to increasing population, urbanisation, industrialisation, and agriculture.

As more people all over the world gain access to a toilet that is not connected to a sewerage system, it is critical to ensure proper containment of human waste to minimise the threat of groundwater contamination. In making the invisible groundwater visible, it is important to also unpeel the layers of invisibility that lead to groundwater contamination – this includes poorly designed, constructed, and operated onsite sanitation facilities.

In this blog, I share some key points from SNV’s ongoing multi-stakeholder learning processes and practical research on safely managed sanitation in rural Bhutan and Lao PDR.

World Water Day illustration

Source: Share | World Water Day

In 2020, one in four people (2 billion people) lacked safely managed drinking water at their home. At current rates of progress, 1.6 billion people will remain without safely managed drinking water services by 2030. The situation for sanitation is even bleaker with nearly half the world’s population (3.6 billion people) lacking safely managed sanitation services in 2020.

Poorly managed sanitation and inappropriate sanitation technologies can pollute our water sources. In the absence of sewer connections, toilets rely on onsite storage facilities in the form of pits or (septic) tanks – usually located below ground level to which the toilet is connected – to separate human waste from people. Oftentimes, the selection of these types of toilets does not adequately consider the likelihood of groundwater contamination.

The importance of safe siting of pit latrines to avoid groundwater pollution

The importance of safe siting of pit latrines to avoid groundwater pollution

Keeping groundwater safe from human waste

As part of the Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) programme, SNV documented its latest insights and learning on rural sanitation in Bhutan and Lao PDR. The documentation explores existing regulatory frameworks around faecal waste management, faecal sludge accumulation rates, and associated pit filling rates in their respective contexts.

Several key points emerged from this research:

  • Consider the presence or absence of pit emptying services when selecting the type of toilet to be constructed or installed. For example, toilet designs that require frequent emptying in areas where professional pit emptying services do not exist (or will not be available in the foreseeable future) should not be actively promoted.
  • Promote toilet designs that meet basic sanitation criteria, but that over time, can be easily upgraded to meet safely managed sanitation criteria. For example, as long as there is enough space, a toilet with a single pit can be easily upgraded by adding a second pit at a later stage. In this way initial investment costs are more manageable as costs are kept low.
  • Encourage construction of alternative toilet designs, such as alternating twin pits, that can be safely emptied by owners. This is particularly appropriate in rural communities where professional pit emptying services are not available or affordable. Because self-emptied pits are relatively shallow, an additional advantage here is that the risk of groundwater contamination is reduced.

A simple, but effective methodology for informed choice

The research provides a simple methodology to support the selection of a suitable onsite sanitation technology. Alongside consumer considerations such as affordability and individual preferences, two critical determinants offer important insights into making an informed choice. These are:

  1. Risk of groundwater pollution; and the
  2. Availability of (affordable) pit emptying services.

Based on practical research and lessons learnt, the approach to realising safely managed sanitation in this context is to avoid making pit emptying an afterthought or only when a pit or tank is about to fill up or overflow. From the start, plan accordingly. Hence, the application of the pit emptying services versus groundwater pollution risk matrix can provide important insights in the decision-making process.

Intervention Matrix

Other factors to consider in the decision-making process and an overview of the types of onsite sanitation technologies per quadrant are outlined in the learning papers.

What else?

It takes more than just a few smart (or appropriate) technology options to achieve safely managed sanitation. The learning papers list other crucial elements of the WASH system that will require strengthening to ensure adequate and equitable sanitation for all by 2030. Think of changes to policies and legislation, improved service level monitoring, changing user behaviour and practices, and so on.

Find the original blog on the SNV website.

Realising safely managed sanitation in Lao PDR

1 March 2022 at 11:22

Exploring existing regulatory frameworks around faecal waste management, faecal sludge accumulation rates, and associated pit filling rates.

In Lao PDR the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector is guided by the Government Vision for ‘Promoting access to safe and reliable water supply and sanitation for everyone’ and the National WASH policy 2019. The elimination of open defecation is the key sector priority. According to the National Strategy for Rural WASH 2019-2030 Lao PDR expects to achieve universal access to basic water and sanitation services by 2030.

Coverage figures for safely managed sanitation are still quite low, mostly because safe faecal sludge management and treatment (before disposal or as final solution in a pit) are not in common use yet.

This paper explores existing regulatory frameworks around faecal waste management, faecal sludge accumulation rates, and associated pit filling rates in the SSH4A programme districts.

Some relevant considerations emerging from the research are:

  1. Encourage and support the construction of toilets that are appropriate to local conditions.
  2. Promote toilet designs that meet ‘basic’ sanitation criteria but that over time can be easily upgraded to meet safely managed sanitation criteria (e.g., from single pit to alternating twin pits).
  3. Do not promote toilets that require frequent emptying in areas where affordable mechanised pit emptying services will not become available in the foreseeable future.

Realising safely managed sanitation in Bhutan

1 March 2022 at 11:03

Exploring existing regulatory frameworks around faecal waste management, faecal sludge accumulation rates, and associated pit filling rates.

The Government of Bhutan’s vision is for all its citizens to have access to improved sanitation facilities by 2022. As to date, there is no baseline or targets for safely managed sanitation. Nevertheless, toilets will fill up and their contents will need to be safely managed to avoid faecal waste ending up in the environment.

This paper explores existing regulatory frameworks around faecal waste management, faecal sludge accumulation rates, and associated pit filling rates in the SSH4A programme districts.

Key points emerging from the research are:

  • Consider the presence or absence of pit emptying services when selecting the type of toilet to be constructed or installed.
  • Promote toilet designs that meet basic sanitation criteria, but that over time, can be easily upgraded to meet safely managed sanitation criteria.
  • Encourage construction of alternative toilet designs, such as alternating twin pits, that can be safely emptied by owners.

Public development banks in the water sector: Case studies from Latin America

15 February 2022 at 10:39
By: Grift

This report presents an assessment of public development banks (PDBs)' involvement in the water sector in Latin America. On the basis of a review of 8 case studies of national, regional and bilateral PDBs, it seeks to assess the hypothesis that national public development have a high potential in raising finance for achieving both the SDG 6 and the water-related Paris agreement goals, but that this potential is underused.

The findings show that the reviewed PDBs have all been providing finance for water-related investments over a long period of time. But, the extent of their involvement is often constrained by particularly demand-side factors. The study concludes that there are three inherent main limitations for PDBs to reach their full potential.
It identifies recommendations for three groups of actors (PDBs themselves, government agencies including regulators, and international finance institucions) to remove demand-side constraints and enhancing positive drivers for their involvement in the water sector.

This report forms part of a larger study commissioned by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) in the context of the Water Finance Coalition launched within the Finance in Common Initiative, which seeks to enhance PDBs' role in financing countries commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Paris Agreement.

Embracing the importance of interconnection

2 February 2022 at 11:39

 Post-COP Activists Connect

Looking back on Post-COP Activists Connect

On the 20th of January over 200 registrants from 27 countries tuned into an animated discussion between young climate and water activists. In a virtual discussion commonalities and solutions were shared to the key issues facing the world.

The global panel of passionate activists present at "Post-COP activists connect: young climate and water voices move beyond the blah," demanded more integrated thinking and collaboration to meet the vision for a more intersectional, inclusive and equitable future. 

With the biggest climate discussions to date behind us, the six young leaders shared their honest reflections on the global conference: shining a light on the glimmers of hope, but more importantly illuminating points of improvement and opportunities for greater inclusion.

The biggest problems facing our world today can only be solved if we recognise how interconnected they are – we have to learn and connect more, and do so in a variety of ways.

The event, was powered by the energy of Hajar Yagkoubi, former United Nations Youth Delegate for the Netherlands, and included six brilliant panellists and thoughtful subject expert Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Netherlands.

Here are some brief highlights from the event:

Dialogue I: Reflections on COP26

The panellists were asked to reflect on COP26 and they offered several insights about the global conference, interconnectedness and action going forward.

Gabriel Klaasen, Youth Coordinator at the Africa Climate Alliance, was not so thrilled about the conference, expressing disillusionment over the divide that continues to exist between negotiators and activists. He noted that there was a fair share of "blah blah and tick boxes." The multi-dimensional aspect of COP was a concept touched on frequently by all panellists.

Despite this divide, there were some clear wins. Shomy Chowdhury, award-winning water, sanitation and hygiene activist and co-founder of youth-led NGO Awareness 360, noted that the inclusion of the Water Pavilion among other initiatives, meant that "COP showed a ray of optimism" demonstrating an integration of issues, including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) which had previously been overlooked.

Special guest, Henk Ovink, also weighed in saying that "my outrage drives my optimism. There is outrage that we're definitely not there yet. But the optimism comes from the fact that there is still massive commitment to make it work."

“This emergence of young people from different backgrounds coming together to speak out is quite inspiring”

Dialogue II: How are water and climate integrated?

The link between water and climate and the impact both have on people and the planet was undisputed amongst the panellists. "A water crisis is also a climate crisis – they're not two separate things. So, we need to understand that connection," admitted Shomy Chowdhury.

But we have to have higher ambitions. "Climate change is not just an environmental issue; it is a justice issue. When we miss that inclusion of that justice lens in how we're responding to the climate crisis, it's a fail," said Valery Molay.

"Water is life. Water is climate," said Desmond Alugnoa, Co-founder of Green Africa Youth Organization. "It needs to become everyday language, not just a one-time event."

Climate change is not in the future, it's here and it will continue to have an impact on people around the world. Patience Agyekum, climate and youth activist from Ghana, touched on how the lack of water has had implications that stretch beyond administrative boundaries--that a drought in one community can fuel tensions between neighbouring communities, as overstretched resources grow even more scarce. Srilekha Chakraborty, gender rights activist from India, touched on how limited water resources and existing gender imbalances have been exasperating gender disparities in the rural indigenous communities she works in.

Water is life. Water is climate.

Dialogue III: Moving forward

Inclusion needs to be real, rather than just on paper. Senior policy makers must communicate with people who are on the ground and are directly affected by climate change, and people in these communities should be engaged in the conversation. "There is an aspect of saying there's inclusion," Gabriel Klaasen mentioned, but that is far from the reality. "People [those most severely impacted by climate change] are viewed as needing to be saved, not worth engaging. And that is the most toxic narrative that is being painted."

The politics of language was raised by Srilekha Chakraborty, expressing the need for us to deconstruct the jargon and make the issues more relevant at the grassroots level.

Panellists were eager to focus on action and partnerships, changing the narrative and stepping out of boardrooms to work with communities. "We need to understand that whatever community we are representing, we need to ultimately acknowledge that we have to work together. We cannot work in silos," said Shomy Chowdhury.

Valery Moley expressed disappointment over the lack of cohesion. "It's great that we have a 'village', but if we're not getting all the villagers inside," solutions will be fractured. "If were not scheduling the time [for key negotiators] to have those conversations, expanding our knowledge and understanding", we should not be surprised by the lack of integrated thinking in the end outcomes.

Overall, the panellists agreed that climate change is already here and it's time to shift the narrative, step out of negotiating rooms and work with communities to take action now.

“It’s important to take a human-centred approach.To engage the community in the solution.” width=1200 height=646 //ph4Toilet Talks and Interconnected Thinking/h4pThis event, the Toilet Talks show and website launched at the end of the event, form part of IRC's larger ambitions to move beyond siloed thinking and fuel connection. We need more impassioned people to join us and commit to connect! Unite with a group of like-minded people who are moving toward a more holistic, interconnected thinking. Explore the Toilet Talks website, contribute your own stories of change and sign up for our newsletter./ppa class=button href=http://www.toilettalks.org target=_blankExplore Toilet Talks/a/ppMore information on the event and the panellists can be found via a href=https://www.ircwash.org/events/post-cop-activists-connect-young-climate-and-water-voices-move-beyond-blah target=_blankthis link/a./p/div/div/div</div></body></html>

Guideline for WASH SDG project staff to support LGIs in rolling out the Pro-Poor Strategy for Water and Sanitation Sector 2020 in Bangladesh

31 January 2022 at 17:03

Informing Local Government Institutes about the strategy and how to adopt action plans for the implementation of the strategy.

This document is written as a guideline for the staff of the Bangladesh WAI sub-programme of the WASH SDG project. Its main objective is to assist Local Government Institutes (especially DPHE, Pourasavas and Union Parishads) in implementing the Pro-poor Strategy for the Water and Sanitation Sector of Bangladesh. Primarily, this guideline will help the WASH SDG WAI project partner staff to inform Local Government Institutes about the strategy and to adopt action plans for the implementation of the strategy. This guideline will need to be updated over time.

Ethiopia’s business environment and how it influences WASH market development - Updated edition

31 January 2022 at 09:54

This is an updated version of the learning note with the same title published in September 2020.

The purpose of this Learning Note is to explore the key challenges faced by private sector WASH enterprises, as well as high-lighting opportunities for future growth and investment. A strong private sector will not only help expand access to critical WASH products and services – but also will help Ethiopia to realize its ODF goal and to achieve GTP II and SDG targets.

Information used to formulate this paper was gathered from document research and augmented by in-depth interviews with more than twenty key informants in Ethiopia and the East Africa region.

The earlier version of this learning note can be found here.

At the crossroads of health, water and sanitation in Niger

27 January 2022 at 13:39

The daily reality of a community health worker in Niakatiré in the commune of Makalondi, Niger.

Mourtala Abdou

My name is Mourtala Abdou and I am a community health worker in charge of the healthcare facility in the village of Niakatiré in the commune of Makalondi, Niger.

Every day that I work I receive and treat patients. The biggest challenges that I face on a daily basis are the hygiene of the premises, the sensitisation of my community and the care of the patients.

What I most enjoy

The aspect of my work that I most enjoy is raising awareness about hygiene. The improvements I'd like to see in the future in terms of biomedical waste management and environmental cleaning in healthcare is the construction of an incinerator at the facility – in most healthcare facilities, especially in villages, waste is disposed of through open burning. Also, in terms of general needs for our healthcare facility, I would like to have a birthing room for the community.

Working at the crossroads

My work is at the crossroads of health, water and sanitation. I recently participated in a workshop on biomedical waste management and environmental cleaning. We were provided with a series of tools to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services as part of the larger goal of improving health care facilities.

We are trying hard now to get the community to participate in the management of the healthcare facility. Little by little the community is getting more involved.


This work is done with the support of DGIS, the Swedish Postcode Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.