Category Archives: IYS Themes

Community-generated data crucial for implementing New Urban Agenda

Community-generated data crucial for implementing New Urban Agenda. CitiScope, Oct 20 2016.

Good urban planning can’t happen without a better understanding of informal settlements, advocates say.

Earlier this year, when the Liberian government wanted to demolish informal housing in the West Point section of Monrovia, local community members had a strong argument to dissuade them.


West Point, Monrovia. (Nick Fraser/flickr/cc)

Thanks to a slum profiling initiative done the previous year through Shack/Slum Dwellers International, the community knew that many of West Point’s rudimentary, wooden toilets — so-called “hanging toilets” because of how they are built over the water — were located where the demolitions would take place. The toilets likely would get destroyed too.

Destroying the toilets, they argued, would pose a public health threat.

“That was where we came with our data and said ‘no’,” recalls Bill Jlateh Harris, of Shack/Slum Dwellers International, who lives in West Point. “If you take away [toilets] you expose us to open defecation and disease outbreaks. We appealed to them, using our documents, to stop the demolition exercise. It worked. Those structures are still there, in fact. They were not touched.”

The data community members collected in West Point includes information about the number of taps and toilets in the area, as well as population figures. It is available online through the “Know Your City” campaign, a data initiative from Shack/Slum Dwellers international that provides community-generated data from more than 7,700 communities in 224 cities.

Read the complete article.

UNC Water Institute WASH Research Policy Digests

These useful UNC research digests discuss a key article and include literature reviews on the selected topic:

Issue #1, July 2015: Sanitation Subsidies
Our first Digest deals with the difficult issue of when and how to use subsidies for on-site sanitation.

Issue #2, October 2015: WaSH in Healthcare Facilities
Issue two of the WasH Policy Research Digest digs in to the critical issue of WaSH in health care facilities, including a detailed review of WHO and UNICEF’s 2015 report on the topic and a synthesis of literature and solutions to address its impact on infection, mortality, maternal and neonatal health.

Issue #3, March 2016: Handpump Functionality Monitoring
The third issue of the WaSH Policy Research Digest focuses on handpump functionality monitoring. This issue of the Digest explores recent literature on this topic, focusing on policy implications, recommendations, and a call for standardized functionality measurements.

Issue #4, August 2016: Sanitation and Nutrition
Our fourth digest addresses sanitation and nutrition. This issue explores recent literature and the emerging evidence base on the connection between sanitation, nutritional outcomes, and child stunting.

The Art And Science Of Winning The Poo War

The Art And Science Of Winning The Poo War, by by Shaon Lahiri , Jyotsna Puri, Businessworld.In.

The Swachh Bharat Mission needs to refocus. Toilets may indeed be more important than temples, but only if they are used

A silent war has gripped India as the forces of open defecation threaten to defeat our overall health. In 2014 Prime Minister Modi, armed with a broom and a now familiar public relations machine, swept the streets of Delhi and Assi Ghat, and exhorted us to dream about winning this war and think of a Swachh Bharat by 2019.

The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), like its predecessors (Total Sanitation Campaign, Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan, Central Rural Sanitation Programme, the first national sanitation plan in 1954), is doomed to fail. india-sanitation

It will fail to achieve its target of an open defecation free India. Even if constructing toilets for all Indians is (miraculously) achieved, building and using toilets are not the same thing.

A survey by the research institute for compassionate economics (r.i.c.e.) conducted in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh found that only 48% of rural households that had a functioning latrine still had at least one household member defecating in the open.

In fact, the percentage of verified open defecation-free (ODF) villages in India stands at a paltry 5%, including those verified before SBM.

Standing in the way of toilet use are a number of factors, such as poorly constructed toilets, lack of access to toilets, the convenience of open defecation, and sociocultural perceptions about impurity and fear of a pit latrine filling up with no recourse for emptying it.

Read the complete article.

Urban Sanitation: A Messy Problem for Habitat III

Urban Sanitation: A Messy Problem for Habitat III | Source: Reuters, Oct 15, 2016 | by Alberto Wilde, Ghana Country Director | Global Communities

As we approach Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, one of the most essential topics that must be addressed in the New Urban Agenda is urban sanitation.

One in three people in the world lack access to a toilet. The traditional view is that lack of access to toilets is a problem in rural areas. But with rapid urbanization across the developing world, the number of people without access to proper sanitation who live in cities is growing rapidly. This serious urban problem presents a host of new challenges for cities looking to improve sanitation. Since 2011, with Global Communities, I have overseen a series of water and sanitation projects in both rural and urban Ghana. During that time, we’ve identified some of the biggest challenges of urban sanitation:

Lack of planning — In the wealthier neighborhoods of cities that were developed with proper urban planning, providing a toilet can be as simple and low cost as hooking it up to the existing sewer system. But rapid urban expansion in developing countries tends to be in slums which grow haphazardly, with little in the way of planning for the expansion of services, and often little taxation to pay for these services.

Lack of space — In the rural setting the biggest challenge for construction of latrines is finding affordable materials for construction. In an urban environment this is less of a problem as materials can be sourced fairly easily. Instead, the problem is a lack of space. Space, especially in crowded slums, comes at a premium.

Land titling — Most residents in urban settings do not own their land. Whether they are squatting or renting legally, they are not legally permitted to make improvements like adding a toilet, even if they wish to do so. Instead, it is up to the landlord to take the initiative and bear the cost, something that is rarely a priority, especially when they can increase their earnings by adding another room to rent as opposed to a bathroom.

Governance and enforcement — the Government of Ghana has a laudable policy that new homes must have a latrine. However, even when such laws are passed, enforcement can be difficult. Unscrupulous landlords may put a latrine into the architect’s plans but when construction takes place, the space changes function. It is essential that plans are checked both at the beginning and during construction to ensure laws are being followed.

Continue reading

Fed up with no sewers, Pakistan’s slum residents go DIY

Fed up with no sewers, Pakistan’s slum residents go DIY | Source: Reuters, Oct 13 2016 |

In Orangi Town, home to an estimated 2.4 million people, residents have given up waiting for the government to install public services – and built them by hand

KARACHI, Pakistan, Oct 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – For Sultana Javed, one of dozens of residents living without proper sanitation on her street in the Orangi Town slum, the final straw came when her toddler daughter fell into the soak pit where the family disposed of their waste.


An aerial view of informal settlements in Orangi Town, Karachi on October 4, 2016. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Aamir Saeed

Since moving to the Gulshan-e-Zia area of the slum in Karachi nine years earlier, Javed had poured waste into the soak pit, a porous chamber that lets sewage soak into the ground and is often used by communities that lack toilets.

Javed, whose son caught dengue fever from mosquitoes near the pit outside their home, began mobilising others among 22 families on her street to install their own sewerage system.

“We are fed up with stench of wastewater and frequent mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever. So, we have decided to lay a sewerage pipeline in our street on a self-help basis,” Javed, 45, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Read the complete article.

Dying for a pee – Cape Town’s slum residents battle for sanitation

Dying for a pee – Cape Town’s slum residents battle for sanitation | Source: Reuters, Oct 12 2016 |

Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township is seen

Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township is seen in this picture taken October 4, 2016. Picture taken October 4, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Johnny Miller

CAPE TOWN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Siphesihle Mbango was just six years old when her friend, Asenathi, begged her to go with her to the toilet then ran outside alone – and was never seen again.

Now 12, Mbango tells the story with an intense, unflinching gaze but her hands, fidgeting nervously as she speaks, show the trauma is still raw.

“We were at the crèche and she wanted me to go with her,” but I told her I was busy, I was playing, I didn’t want to go and she went out by herself,” she said, at her home in a Cape Town slum.

“It was a long time she was away and when the teachers asked me, I told them she went to the toilet. They looked and looked for her for a long, long time. But then we lost hope. We never saw her again.”

Mbango shares a one-room shack with her grandmother and two younger siblings in Endlovisi, a vast sprawl of more than 6,600 corrugated iron shacks perched precariously over the sand dunes on the southeastern edge of the South African city.

Part of Khayelitsha, one of the world’s five biggest slums, Endlovini is home to an estimated 20,000 people who share just 380 or so communal toilets.

However, the family live in an area where there are no easily accessible toilets at all – and according to the community, residents have literally been dying for a pee.

Read the complete article.

15 October was Global Handwashing Day: take the quiz!


Photo: IRC

Are you a Handwashing Champion?

Each year on 15 October, over 200 million people in over 100 countries celebrate Global Handwashing Day. Their aim is to increase awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap. This simple intervention is an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. Promoting handwashing with soap reduces the risk of diarrhoea by at least 23% according to a 2014 systematic review of research. Handwashing with soap impacts more than just health: it is also beneficial for nutrition, education, economics, and equity.

Global Handwashing Day was founded by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, and is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times. This year’s theme is “Make Handwashing a Habit!” For handwashing to be effective it must be practised consistently at key times, such as after using the toilet or before contact with food. While habits must be developed over time, this theme emphasises the importance of handwashing as a ritual behaviour for long-term sustainability.

IRC is proud to be an affiliate member of the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing. Especially for Global Handwashing Day we created a fun quiz so that you can not only test your knowledge but also learn a bit about what we are doing to promote handwashing.

Don’t forget to visit the Global Handwashing Day website for resources and updates on  global handwashing promotion. For the latest research and developments, also check out the handwashing posts on Sanitation Updates.

Now take the quiz to see if you are a Handwashing Champion!

This blog was originally posted on the IRC website.