“Access to sanitation in towns and cities of the global South are hampered by multiple challenges”, expert

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) published “Environment & Urbanization Brief –32” (December 2015).

The author, Professor Diana Mitlin talks about “Building towards a future in which urban sanitation “leaves no one behind””.  The brief draws on the Editorial in the October 2015 issue of Environment & Urbanization on “Sanitation and drainage in cities”.

In the summary, Diana Mitlin explains that: “Plans to improve access to sanitation in towns and cities of the global South are hampered by multiple challenges”. One is lack of reliable information. “In particular, global and national-level data often diverge from data on particular settlements, collected by inhabitants of those settlements themselves. Local data highlight the inadequacy of living conditions – and in so doing evidence the difficulties in securing improvements”, reveal the Brief. Another challenge lies in the setting of standards around acceptable sanitation. “At a global level, for instance, shared sanitation is not considered part of “improved” sanitation. Yet the reality for many low-income urban populations is that communal sanitation can be hygienic, cost-effective and locally acceptable. The difficulties in reaching a consensus around data and standards point to the importance of diverse approaches to increasing and improving sanitation, including considering both on-site and off-site solutions. They also highlight how crucial it is for the planning and implementation of all such solutions to be inclusive of those often missing from global debates, such as the low-income urban groups that cannot afford substantial sanitation spending. Financial and political commitments, drawing on the circumstances and approaches articulated by low-income groups themselves, will be key to securing a future in which everyone has access to the sanitation they need”, conclude the summary.

In her research, for African countries, ProfessorDiana Mitlin mentions situation in East Africa with finding of Opportunities and limits to market-driven sanitation services: evidence from urban informal settlements in East Africa”.

A Case study of Lusaka is also considered: “The role of power, politics and history in achieving sanitation service provision in informal urban environments: a case study of Lusaka, Zambia”.

Other example mentioned are:  Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) , Accra (Ghana) and Johannesburg (South Africa)

To illustrate the lack of the reliable information, the Brief points out the fact the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) of UNICEF an WHO (2015) on progress of sanitation and Drinkg Water, reports that in sub-Saharan Africa, 40 per cent of the urban population use improved sanitation. The figure is 67 per cent in southern Asia, and 63 per cent in India. “These figures still appear to be high according to the research reported in this and the previous issue of Environment and Urbanization. However, the data themselves are problematic and reflect a lack of accuracy on the part of those collecting data on living conditions, particularly the situation in informal settlements. And this may reflect that critical information is still not being recorded. This suggests that we need to look again at data collection, particularly in informal settlements”, explain Diana Mitlin.

You can download the Brief here

For Information: Global sanitation commitments of the SDGs 

6.2 By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations

11.1 By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums

See also: 6.b Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management