Tag Archives: slums

Campaign uses “Slum Britain art” for fundraising

Slums encroach on Buckingham Palace - still from Practical Action video

Slums encroach on Buckingham Palace – still from Practical Action video

A UK charity has set images of iconic landmarks like Buckingham Palace in typical South Asian slums for its latest campaign to tackle urban poverty. Practical Action’s Safer Cities Christmas appeal aims to provide clean water, sanitation and safe housing to over 4,000 poor people in Nepal and Bangladesh. The appeal is backed by the government’s UK Aid Match initiative which matches public donations pound for pound. UK Aid Match will award up to £120 million (US$ 200 million) in grants over 3 years.

Source: Practical Action, 20 Dec 2013 ; The Independent, 22 Dec 2013

India, Delhi: how sexual violence against women is linked to water and sanitation

Girls under ten being have been raped while on their way to use a public toilet, say women living in Delhi’s slums. In one slum, boys hid in toilet cubicles at night waiting to rape those who entered. These are some of the incidents mentioned in a recent briefing note based on research supported by WaterAid and the DFID-funded SHARE (Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity).

The link between a lack of access to water and sanitation facilities and sexual violence against women is not well known and to date has received insufficient attention. The briefing note highlights this link within the context of urban slums in Delhi, and suggests how this problem can be addressed.

Lennon, S. 2011. Fear and anger : perceptions of risks related to sexual violence against women linked to water and sanitation in Delhi, India. (SHARE briefing note). London, UK, SHARE, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 15 p. Available at: www.shareresearch.org/Resource/Details/violenceagainstwomen_india

When are communal or public toilets an appropriate option?

When are communal or public toilets an appropriate option?We would all prefer to have our own household toilet rather than just access to a communal or public toilet but in some low-income urban communities, provision of individual household toilets is problematic. A recently published Topic Brief from WSUP (Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor) argues that, despite numerous challenges, communal or public toilets can be the most appropriate medium-term solution in some specific situations: notably in high-density slums with a high proportion of tenants and/or frequent flooding and water-logging. In such situations, what can be done to ensure that communal or public toilets provide a high-quality service of genuine benefit to all members of the community including women and the very poor? This Topic Brief offers an overview of these questions for sanitation professionals and planners.

Financing communal toilets
The financial sustainability and ongoing maintenance of communal and public toilets is a particular concern. The WSUP Practice Note “Financing communal toilets: the Tchemulane Project in Maputo” takes a look at issues around the financing of communal toilets in Maputo (Mozambique), including citywide scale-up costs.
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These publications form part of a newly initiated series of Practice Notes and Topic Briefs, through which WSUP aims to share experience and stimulate debate about water and sanitation service provision for the urban poor.

To keep up to date with this growing publication series, go to http://www.wsup.com/sharing/index.htm or join our mailing list at http://www.wsup.com/news/index.htm.

India: land of many cell phones, fewer toilets

Rafiq Nagar, Mumbai. Every family has a cell phone, but no safe sanitation. Photo: Guy Walder, http://www.guywalder.com

In the wake of President Obama’s visit to India, AP journalist Ravi Nessman writes that “he will find a country of startlingly uneven development and perplexing disparities, where more people have cell phones than access to a toilet”.

Interestingly, Nessman ends his article by suggesting that the spread of cell phones could empower slum dwellers to demand better sanitation services.

The Mumbai slum of Rafiq Nagar has no clean water for its shacks made of ripped tarp and bamboo. No garbage pickup along the rocky, pocked earth that serves as a road. No power except from haphazard cables strung overhead illegally.

And not a single toilet or latrine for its 10,000 people.

Yet nearly every destitute family in the slum has a cell phone. Some have three.

[...]

It is a country buoyed by a vibrant business world of call centers and software developers, but hamstrung by a bloated, corrupt government that has failed to deliver the barest of services.

Continue reading

Sierra Leone, Freetown: photographer documents extreme sanitation conditions in Kroo Bay slum

He then asked me: you want to know the truth? We’re all suffering here in Kroo Bay. He began talking about the water issues again and showing me his arms with open sores, “you see these, they move at night” – he was talking about the worms in his body.

Photographer Dominic Chavez spent a week documenting the life of communities in Kroo Bay, one of the worst slums in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He writes about his encounters in the summer 2010 issue of Global Health magazine, a publication of the Global Health Council.

[A]fter meeting a wonderful family who lived underneath a small bridge in Freetown. I was surprised by the amount of raw sewage and the lack of clean water. After visiting this family a couple more times they told me there were communities in Freetown much worse.

This was when I first heard of Kroo Bay, a difficult slum filled with good families and shanty structures overrun with garbage, extreme sanitation issues, and a long list of health conditions due to the lack of clean water. Some of the biggest issues they are facing are polio, ringworm, typhoid fever and malaria, not to forget a high incidence of child malnutrition.

Kroo Bay, Freetown. Photo: Dominic Chavez

In Kroo Bay, Chavez saw some of the worse conditions he had ever seen: homes without with dirt floors, no windows, no doors and roofs that provided no shelter from the heat and rain, and children “digging in heaps of trash and pools of blackened water”.

See the full story and pictures.

Kenya, Nairobi: lack of sanitation leaves women sick and “prisoners in their homes”

Women and girls in Nairobi’s slums live under the constant threat of sexual violence, leaving them often too scared to leave their houses to use communal toilet and bathroom facilities, Amnesty International said in a new report released on 7 July 2010.

Amnesty International calls on the Kenyan government to enforce landlords’ obligations to construct toilets and bathrooms in the slums and settlements and provide assistance to structure owners who are unable to meet the costs of constructing toilets and bathrooms.

Insecurity and Indignity: Women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya [1] details how the failure of the government to incorporate the slums in urban plans and budgets has resulted in poor access to services like sanitation, which hits women in slums and informal settlements especially hard.

“Women in Nairobi’s settlements become prisoners in their own homes at night and some times well before it is dark,” said Godfrey Odongo, Amnesty Internationals East Africa researcher. “They need more privacy than men when going to the toilet or taking a bath and the inaccessibility of facilities make women vulnerable to rape, leaving them trapped in their own homes.

“The fact that they are unable to access even the limited communal toilet facilities also puts them at risk of illness.”

The situation is compounded by the lack of police presence in the slums and when women fall victim to violence they are unlikely to see justice done. Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum and home to up to a million people, has no police post.

“I always underestimated the threat of violence,” said 19-year-old Amina of Mathare slum. “I would go to the latrine any time provided it was not too late. This was until about two months ago when I almost became a victim of rape.”

Amina was set upon by a group of four men while she walked to the latrine at 7pm. They hit her, undressed her and were about to rape her when her cries were heard and a group of residents came to save her. Although she knew one of the men involved in the assault, Amina did not go to the police as she feared reprisal attacks.

Unable to leave their one-roomed houses after dark, many women in informal settlements resort to ‘flying toilets’ – using plastic bags thrown from the home to dispose of waste.

Women also told Amnesty International how the poor sanitary conditions they live in – which include widespread disposal of human excreta in the open because of lack of adequate access to toilets – directly contribute to cases of poor health and to high health care costs.

Other women describe the humiliation of bathing in front of their relatives and children.

Even by day, public bathroom facilities are few and far between and invariably involve walking long distances. According to official figures, only 24 per cent of residents in Nairobi’s informal settlements have access to toilet facilities at household level.

Despite some positive features, Kenya’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) policies to meet the target on sanitation do not address the specific needs of women who face the threat of violence because they lack adequate sanitation.

They also do not address the lack of enforcement of regulations requiring owners and landlords to provide sanitation.

“There is a huge gap between what the government commits to do, and what is going on in the slums everyday” said Godfrey Odongo.

“Kenya’s national policies recognise the rights to sanitation and there are laws and standards in place. However, because of decades of failure to recognize slums and informal settlements, planning laws and regulations are not enforced in these areas.

“The lack of enforcement of these laws has ensured that landlords and structure owners in the slums can get away without providing any toilets or shower places for their tenants”

Lack of security of tenure also remains a long standing problem for tenants, despite a national land policy in place, removing any incentives that landlords or owners could have to ensure proper sanitation, and measures to increase security.

Amnesty says the government must also take immediate measures to improve security, lighting and policing and ensure that relevant government authorities coordinate their efforts to improve the water and sanitation situation in the settlements.

Amnesty representatives met with officials from the Ministry of Health, the City Council including the Town Clerk, and also some officials from the official regulator of water and sanitation services within Nairobi, the Athi Water Services Board.

In almost all of the meetings, it was agreed that there was little coordination between the relevant Ministries in the government to ensure that women in slums had access to water and sanitation.

Even though Amnesty recognised that the situation is complicated, representatives stressed that this is no reason to pass the buck from one Ministry to the next.

Some of the officials committed to asking the Office of the Prime Minister to bring together all of the relevant officials in an attempt to ensure that water and sanitation is provided for women in slums.

[1] Amnesty International (2010). Insecurity and indignity : women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. London, UK, Amnesty International Publications. Download full report

The report is one of the outputs of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign

Source: Amnesty International, 07 Jul 2010 ; Amy Agnew, Livewire, 07 Jul 2010

Indonesia, Jakarta: slums struggle with sanitation

In Jakarta’s northern Muara Angke coastal area, a lack of access to piped water has forced people to bathe and wash clothes using murky grey water from fish ponds.

“I don’t feel disgusted at all. I’ve gotten used to it,” Ibu Nunung, who shells mussels for a living, told IRIN outside her house in Muara Angke Blok Empang, a slum in the area.

Nunung said residents, many of whom live on less than US$2 a day, had to fork out the equivalent of up to $1 daily to buy clean water for drinking and cooking from vendors transporting water in jugs.

She admitted that itchy skin was a common problem among locals.

Jakarta, a city of 10 million people, is dotted with slums like the one in Muara Angke.

Many people live without running water in shanty towns built in the shadow of gleaming skyscrapers, and gutters are clogged with rubbish, causing foul smells.

“Poor sanitation, lack of access to clean water, overcrowding and poor nutrition are among [the] major problems in Jakarta, and the government’s commitment is needed to address these problems,” said Erlyn Sulistyaningsih, a project manager with Mercy Corps Indonesia.

Less than 50 percent of Jakarta’s residents have access to piped water, according to the NGO, which runs water, sanitation and health programmes in the city.

More than 75 percent of the city’s residents rely on shallow groundwater, but an official study found that 90 percent of shallow wells are contaminated with coliform bacteria or heavy metals, Mercy Corps said in a 2008 publication entitled Urban Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Jakarta produces 6,000 tons of waste each day, but can only manage 50 percent of it, it said.

Sulistyaningsih heads a project aimed at increasing access to sanitary facilities, including toilets, providing access to clean water, and educating child caregivers about nutrition in several villages in Jakarta and neighbouring Bekasi District.

“Our programme seeks to prevent diseases which are spread by the faeces-to-mouth route, and we hope it can be replicated by other communities,” she told IRIN.

Premature deaths

A study released by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme in 2008 revealed that only 57 percent of Indonesian households had easy access to a private and safe place to urinate and defecate in 2004.

Poor sanitation, including poor hygiene, causes at least 120 million disease episodes and 50,000 premature deaths annually, the report said.

The study also found that poor sanitation costs the Indonesian economy $6.3 billion per year, or equal to 2.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Nugroho Tri Utomo, head of the subdirectorate of drinking water and waste water at the National Development Planning Agency, said part of the problem was a lack of funding, with spending on sanitation accounting for only 1 percent of the city’s budget.

“Both the general public and authorities have yet to realize the importance of sanitation, not only to health but also to the economy,” he said.

Improvement plans under way

The government last month launched a programme to provide access to adequate sanitation to 80 percent of urban households by 2014.

The Settlement Sanitation Development Programme, estimated to cost $5.5 billion, aims to develop waste water services in 226 cities, build sanitary landfills serving 240 urban areas, and stop inundations in strategic urban locations covering 22,500 hectares.

Under a separate programme called the National Strategy for Community-Based Total Sanitation, launched in 2008, the government aims to provide access to sanitation and introduce more effective water treatment methods in 10,000 villages by 2012.

See also:

Source: IRIN, 16 Apr 2010

Urban catastrophes: the Wat/San dimension

A lack of clean water and sanitation in burgeoning slums could trigger a complex set of humanitarian crises says a new [forthcoming] paper, Urban Catastrophes: The Wat/San Dimension [1], by the Humanitarian Futures Programme (HFP) of King’s College London, which keeps an eye on possible crises that could emerge in the not too distant future.

Using plausible but fictitious scenarios set in the slums of Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, and the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil, the paper shows how water scarcity brought on by climate change and large numbers of people in urban areas could lead to water stress, especially in slums, where shortages can stoke conflicts and an outbreak of a new and virulent influenza.

Simultaneously, the new biennial report by UN-HABITAT, the State of the World Cities 2010/2011: Bridging the Urban Divide, notes that around 3.49 billion people – more than half the world’s population – now live in urban areas, of which 827.6 million are slum-dwellers. The global slum population will probably grow by six million each year, pushing the total number to 889 million in another 10 years.

Urbanization can also provoke water-quality problems, leading to outbreaks of waterborne diseases like cholera. An outbreak that began in the slums of Luanda, the Angolan capital, killed over 2,800 people in 2006, when only 66 percent of Angola’s urban population has access to safe drinking water, according to the UN.

Water shortages in slums could open the door to corruption, conflict and an increased risk of disease, setting off a range of complex humanitarian crises. Many of these factors are already evident and operating in slums across the world, the authors of the HFP report note.

Corruption

“As with any valuable good, the provision of clean water and sanitation facilities in slums is an attractive target for corruption, greed, collusion and exploitation,” the HFP researchers pointed out.

In areas where there is a lack of accountability and political oversight, “resulting in collusion between government officials and private-sector water providers”, slum dwellers have to pay a very high price for water, and sanitation falls by the wayside.

The result is that the civil society is weakened and ability of slum dwellers and external players to change the system and help the residents out of poverty is curtailed, the HFP report commented.

Conflict

There is also evidence that water shortages threaten increased violence and conflict, especially in “high-density, multi-ethnic, politically unequal environments of concentrated poverty, as is often found in many slums,” the HFP report said, citing reports of water-related protests and conflicts in Bolivia, Pakistan and India.

Risk of disease

As larger numbers of people move into already crowded areas, they are often forced to live in unacceptably poor sanitary conditions, sometimes even at close quarters with animals, giving rise to opportunities for new disease vectors, noted the report. In slums located in tropical climates, the chances of new forms of diseases evolving are high.

What to do

Randolph Kent, who heads HFP, pointed out that the projections were for 20 to 30 years in the future, “but the idea is to provide enough time to countries to plan ahead”.

He suggested setting up low-tech, cheap service delivery systems – for instance, to provide water, use segmented flexible rubber hoses that can be easily connected and disconnected. The hoses are produced by several independent companies, can be serviced and maintained by unskilled technicians, and offer plenty of design options.

For waste removal, the report suggested an improvement on the traditional chamber pot – use antibacterial plastic buckets that can be fitted with mechanically sealing covers, as on commercial compost bins. The bucket can be carried either by hand or taken by cart to a dumping point like a municipal sewer, then cleaned by hand or at a semi-automatic hot water and bleach station, and delivered to the family for re-use.

[1] The “Urban Catastrophes: The WatSan dimension” report is one of three outputs of a USAID-funded study of key future crisis drivers. The reports will shortly be made public on the HFP website.

Source: IRIN, 23 Mar 2010

Uganda, Kampala: living on the edge in Namuwongo

On a tiny crumbling concrete floor sits a raised makeshift building with stairs of half-baked bricks. With the upper part screened off by boxes and plastic materials, this is what passes for a toilet in Namuwongo. This, according to Jamila Erika would be remarkable, if the toilets were plenty and enough for everyone.

“We have been robbed of our dignity,” says Erika, a resident of Kanyogoga. “Can you imagine women living without a toilet in the house? The most difficult thing is to get a toilet because they are too few and they are closed at night.”

A levy of sh100 [US$ 0.05] is also imposed on the users of the shared toilet, which Erika says pushes some people to use the bush instead. For those who are not bold enough to engage in open defecation, there is an option ["flying toilets"], which is equally degrading.

“With plenty of empty plastic bags, women who stay home when their husbands are away, help themselves in the plastic bags and keep them inside their houses. When the night comes, most women move out and discard the plastic bags,” says Erika.

In some of the tiny corridors, children answer the call of nature. There are heaps of faeces as one moves towards the swamp, making it difficult to walk there.

Swarms of houseflies hovering over the shacks feast on the heaps and later make millions of landings on the dirty plates nearby.

[...]

Ironically, it is rare for Namuwongo residents to wash their hands, a practice, which Sam Mutono of the World Bank says would cut down on incidents of water-borne diseases by up to 60%. “This practice has not been nurtured in Namuwongo,” says Mutono.

At the stand pipes, Erika says a jerrycan of water goes for sh50 [US$ 0.025] and that most women have only sh200 [US$ 0.10] by the husbands to run the home for the whole day. “Can you imagine hunting for food, water and firewood with just that money?” asks Erika. “For us, putting food on the table is a miracle and spending money on a shared toilet is an afterthought.”

In their tiny crumbling houses, the women have an extra burden of nursing children that frequently fall sick when water-borne diseases become so rampant. “I have to spend most of the money treating children in the rainy season,” says Erika. “This also means that I have to stay home much longer when they are sick.”

In times of hardship, it is women and children that suffer most. “The men care less because they step out of home very early and come back too late to listen to the problems their wives and children are facing,” says Erika. “It is common for men to run to other women in different parts of Kampala to escape responsibilities at home.”

Most patients during the three devastating outbreaks of cholera that spread through Kampala in 1997, 2007 and 2008 came from Namuwongo. InOctober 2009, cholera revisited Namuwongo and claimed three lives. One victim was a woman and the other two were children.

Too much unsafe water

Erika says when it rains, it floods and dirty water from the dreaded Nakivubo Channel seeps into the spring water wells contaminating the drinking water, a reliable source for those who cannot afford tap water.

“Most children miss classes because they are sick”, says Emily Hashaka, who works with an NGO. “We provide some medicine, but this is like a drop in the sea.”

The occupants of this slum count themselves lucky if the rainy season passes without cholera striking. The women sometimes sell household utensils in order to get money to buy medicine and food, according to Hashaka.

The LC1 chairperson for Kanyogoga, Emmanuel Masengere, says unsafe toilets were demolished since floods easily drain away the faeces into the houses. “This place is congested with people. The water table is high and the pit latrines are floating on water. So we constructed public latrines, which are safer, but too few.”

Asked whether their cries have been heard, Masengere replies: “Government officials only come here when there is a crisis or for votes. They never attend to issues affecting the population until it becomes a full-blown crisis.”

According to Charles Nuwagaba, a lecturer at Makerere University, half of the population in the slums in Kampala do not have access to toilets. “This”, Nuwagaba points out, “is a serious shortcoming given that about 60% of Kampala’s population lives in slums.”

Less than 10% of the two million residents of Kampala have toilets connected to the sewer line. The poor disposal of sewage has turned the Nakivubo waterway into an open sewer, which drains into Lake Victoria near Namuwongo.

To the National Environment Management Authority, the residents of Namuwongo are encroaching on the swamp. However, some of the encroachers have met their match in the floods and have had to vacate even before NEMA’s action to evict them.

“But this never lasts long. Other tenants keep on coming to rent the cheap houses in the dry season. The problem with Namuwongo is that the people who have constructed houses in the slums never stay there,” says Mutono.

The Government with the support of World Bank wanted to remove Namuwongo two decades ago, but it never happened. The owners of land sold it to their richer colleagues and the poor tenants crossed the Port Bell railway for cheaper housing deeper in the swampy settlement.

Recommendations

Mutono suggests technologies that can work better than the pit latrines as part of the way out. “Key to this is the exposure of women to new technologies such as ecological sanitation toilets that separate urine and faeces with an aim of making fertilisers,” says Mutono. “Once exposed, the women could teach many others. It could take a long time to accept such technologies, but women should be put at the centre.”

Mutono also recommends that NGOs with lessons on how to deal with sanitation in slums should be encouraged to share such knowledge. “As much as the Government tries to improve the situation, sanitation is a household responsibility,” says Mutono.

Mutono also says the landlords should be compelled to enforce the Public Health Act to create better sanitation conditions for people like Erika to lead better lives.

Source: New Vision / allAfrica.com, 20 Feb 2010.

Uganda: “Flying toilets” still not grounded

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, has led to increased use of polythene bags – known as “flying toilets” – for human waste disposal, local officials said.

The situation is worse in slums where infrastructure is basic. The few private and public facilities that exist charge up to USh200 [US10 cents] per use of a toilet.

“These areas are characterized by poor drainage systems and in the rainy season, the problem becomes worse,” said Bernard Luyiga, a councillor in Kampala district. “We have not invested enough in this area.

“Water and sanitation in Kivulu [slum in Makerere area, which he represents on the city council] are among the worst I have come across in my life. We tried to use Eco-san toilets… but the ‘flying toilet’ has remained rampant.”

Eco-san toilets use a natural biological process to break down human waste into a dehydrated, odourless, compost-like material, and save on water use. They were developed in South Africa in the 1990s.

It is difficult to tell how many facilities exist in Kivulu, but several pits latrines were visible, with dilapidated rusty iron sheets for walls, cracked floors and plastic roofs.

Contaminated springs

The situation is similar in other slums. About 6.2 percent of households in the city have no toilet facilities at all. Most, according to chief health inspector Mohammed Kirumira, are in the slums.

“Human waste is a problem to reckon with and many households lack a toilet, bathroom or kitchen,” Kirumira told IRIN.

According to the city council: “One study conducted by Chemiphar estimated that up to 90 percent of the natural springs in Kampala are contaminated, especially in the wet season, yet this remains a major source of water for the urban slum dwellers.”

Agatha Nambi, whose house stands near a drainage stream formed by an overflowing pit latrine in Kivulu, said: “It is very difficult to keep clean here. You observe cleanliness in your home, but other people just bring their mess to you and you have to give up… that is why our children keep getting sick.”

Justus Namenya, a casual labourer living nearby, added: “This is the rainy season, so this place is unbearable. [It] becomes filthy and sometimes water flows up to your house with all the dirt in it.”

Inadequate water

Only about 65 percent of Kampala’s two million residents have access to clean water. The rest use water that is sometimes contaminated by pit latrines.

According to Uganda’s Lands, Housing and Urban Development Ministry, the high cost of piped water has forced some city dwellers to rely on springs and wells.

“Over 50 percent of household occupants in Kampala are hospitalised every three months due to malaria while contamination of water by prevalence of micro-organisms is evident in the water sources of the city,” it said in a paper.

A recent survey by the Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Centre found that average toilet to household ratio in Kampala slums was about 1:25.

“The children are told to use the school toilets so that when they come back home, they do not ask for money to go to the toilet,” the survey report, The plight of the urban poor and yet increased rural-urban migration, noted.

“Poor sanitation accounts for cholera outbreaks that are usually experienced in the slums of Kampala.”

Urban poverty

According to UN-HABITAT, 44 percent of Kampala’s population live in unplanned, underserviced slums. Informal settlements cover up to 25 percent of the city’s total area.

In informal settlements, only 17 percent of the population can access piped water. According to UN-HABITAT: “There is a high prevalence of sanitation-related diseases such as diarrhoea, worm infestations. Malaria is also endemic.”

Some 92.7 percent of Kampala’s population, the African Development Bank found, used on-site sanitation systems including septic tanks and pit latrines. However, emptier services, which are offered mainly by private sector on a cash-on-demand basis, were inadequate.

“As a result, effluent from latrines and septic tanks is often discharged into the environment untreated,” it added.

Government response

Uganda’s State Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Michael Kafabusa Werikhe, said the government was determined to address the appalling sanitation in the city.

Kampala authorities are trying to roll out a new sewage system by 2014, financed by the European Union, German government, African Development Bank and Ugandan government.

“Uganda is targeting to uplift the lives of at least one million people by the year 2020 through implementing the slum upgrading strategy and action plan,” Werikhe told IRIN on 7 January.

“We believe that slums are a development challenge which must be addressed to create harmony in our societies,” he added.

Source: IRIN, 08 Jan 2010