Tag Archives: slums

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.


“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.


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.


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

Kenya: cholera outbreaks in the north, Coast and Nairobi slums

In early October 2009, at least 29 people died of cholera and hundreds more were being treated for cholera-related symptoms such as acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) in the larger Turkana District in the northwest and in the eastern regions of Garbatulla and Laisamis, say health officials. The regions are not only facing an acute water shortage, due to a prolonged drought, but also have poor latrine coverage.

Cholera has also surfaced in several parts of the Coast in the aftermath of flooding. Coast Provincial Medical Officer Dr Anisa Omar confirmed on 3 November 2009, that 12 people have been admitted at Lamu district hospital after contracting cholera. There were also outbreaks of water-borne diseases in Magarini and Tana Delta district.

Cholera has also killed 11 people in Nairobi. The first case was reported in the sprawling Mukuru kwa Njenga slum. Some 949 people — most of them pregnant women and children under five years — had been treated for cholera and other water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, vomiting and dysentery.

See below two NTVKenya video reports on cholera in Mukuru, which also show the poor sanitary conditions in the slum.

Source: IRIN, 09 Oct 2009 ; Mathias Ringa, Daily Nation / allAfrica.com, 03 Nov 2009 ; Mike Mwaniki, Daily Nation, allAfrica.com, 29 October 2009

Kenya: two million people live in a human rights black hole in the slums of Nairobi

The Kenyan Public Health Act prescribes the health and safety measures that landlords must comply with, including the provision of sanitation and other services. As with other provisions, the local authorities do not enforce these against landlords or developers who build and rent homes in slums and settlements like Kibera.

Amnesty International has visited Kibera and other Nairobi slums as part of their global “Demand Dignity” campaign. The lack of adequate water and sanitation are recognized as human rights abuses. Amnesty is mobilizing slum residents to demand adequate housing and basic services.

Amnesty International released its report “The Unseen Majority: Nairobi’s Two Million Slum Dwellers” on 19 June 2009, which describes the dire conditions and gross human rights abuses endured in Nairobi’s informal settlements.

A performer from Black Marimba Cultural troop entertains marchers as they gather at Central Park, Nairobi. Photo: Amnesty International

A performer from Black Marimba Cultural troop entertains marchers as they gather at Central Park, Nairobi. Photo: Amnesty International

Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign aims to end global poverty by working to strengthen recognition and protection of the rights of the poor. Besides on slums, the campaign focuses on maternal mortality, corporate accountability and making rights law.

Read more on the Demand Dignity campaign web site

Demand Dignity Poster. Amnesty International

Demand Dignity Poster. Amnesty International

Source: Amnesty International, 19 Jun 2009

Senegal, Dakar: slum uses garbage to stay dry

In Médina Gounass neighborhood of Guédiawaye, a slum on the outskirts of Dakar, people use garbage “to shore up their flood-prone houses and streets”. “Garbage, packed down tight and then covered with a thin layer of sand, is used to raise the floors of houses that flood regularly in the brief but intense summer rainy season, and it is packed into the dusty streets that otherwise become canals. The water lingers for months in the low-lying terrain of this bone-dry country. Garbage is a surrogate building material, a critical filler to deal with the stagnant water — cheap, instantly accessible and never diminishing. The plastic-laden spillover from these foul-smelling deliveries pokes up through the sandy lots, covers the ground between the crumbling cinder-block houses, becomes grazing ground for goats, playground for barefoot, runny-nosed children and breeding ground for swarms of flies. Disease flourishes here, aid groups say: cholera, malaria, yellow fever and tuberculosis”.

[…] “In an upside-down world where garbage is sought for and dumped among homes, not removed, “people have no alternatives; they are left to themselves; they can only count on themselves,” said Joseph Gaï Ramaka, a leading Senegalese filmmaker, who made a documentary [see below] about an incomplete government effort, the Plan Jaxaay, to build modern housing for people in vulnerable neighborhoods. 

Read more: Adam Nossiner, New York Times, 03 May 2009

Tanzania, Arusha: Rotary Club Donates Toilet Facilities to Slum Dwellers

Residents of a slum area in Sakina, west of the municipality [of Arusha] who for a long time had no access to toilets are now proud owners of facilities built through the help of the Rotary Club of Arusha. The facilities […] will be under the supervision of Rotary Community Corps who will collect users fees for maintenance and cleanliness. The community corps is composed of residents of the slum who are beneficiaries of the toilets and bathrooms.

The facilities will serve 25 families which previously used plastic bags, famous by the name of Rambo, as toilets and subsequently dumped them near their houses or on roadsides. The facilities cost Tsh.2.3 million, an amount raised by members of the club.

Source: Edward Selasini, Arusha Times / allAfrica.com, 15 Feb 2009

Indonesia: Educating Kids for a Healthy Future

By teaching children proper hygiene practices, a teacher educates and improves the health of poor river communities.

[…] For 11 years, Nurhayati, or Teacher Nur has been teaching proper hygiene practices and caring for the environment to her students in communities along the Kali Malang and Sunter riverbanks in Jakarta. She also encourages residents to use the public toilets built by the government.

[…] Today, even with public toilets, the communities’ onslaught to the environment continues. Teacher Nur brings her classes by the river to show her students the murky water and floating garbage as evidence of the communities’ indiscreet waste disposal.

[…] Indonesia has about 66 million people practicing open defecation (OD), more than one-third of the country’s total population. Next to India, it is the most OD-prevalent country in the world. .

Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital with a population of almost 10 million, obtains about 80% of its fresh water supply from the Citarum River [often called the world’s most polluted river]. […] Slum communities clustered around […] waterways contribute greatly to the city’s severe water pollution.

[Poor sanitation in Indonesia is a leading cause of] diarrhea [which] alone claims almost 100,000 babies’ lives every year.

Residents of the slum communities {living] along […] riverbanks […] cannot afford the most basic sanitation facilities, [and] dispose of their wastes directly into the waterways.

[…] At school, Teacher Nur’s students wash their hands and brush their teeth together, while singing songs about hygiene and cleanliness. But her greatest accomplishment is that her students bring the lessons they have learned in school into their homes and share them with the entire household.

Since the government built the public facilities, Nurul, a girl and one of Teacher Nur’s students, and her mother have been using them everyday.

[…] The public toilets are not enough. Nurul and her mother have to stand in line for hours before they can use the facilities. Furthermore, some public toilets require a certain fee and most poor families have to scrimp for the costs. Nurul said, “I must pay 500 (rupiahs) to take a shower and another 500 to use the toilet. If it’s full, we shower outside. My mother pumps out water from the deep well.”

In 2008, in line with the United Nations’ Year of Sanitation, Indonesia launched a National Strategy for Community-Based Total Sanitation, which aims to provide 10,000 communities with access to clean water and sanitation by 2012. [The Asian Development Bank] ADB […] is also working with the Indonesian government on increasing sanitation coverage in the country.

Source: Cezar Tigno, ADB, Feb 2009

India, Bangalore: Changing the Sanitation Landscape

The residents of Sudhamnagar, a slum community in Bangalore, made the big leap from defecating in the open until 2007 to having household latrines in 2009, proving that once people understand what they’re missing, they will find ways to get it.

Sudhamnagar comprises 300 households of mostly daily wage earners. For a long time residents had no access to safe water supply, no basic sanitation facility in their homes, limited educational opportunity for children, and very little hope for a better quality of life.

“Everything changed when AVAS [Association for Volunteer Action and Services] stepped in and helped us by constructing a community toilet,” says Josephine, a local resident and member of the WATSAN committee.

In a dialogue faciltated by AVAS, residents identified basic facilities like housing, water, sanitation, and electricity as their most urgent needs. The dialogue later branched out to wider grounds-from education to health to land tenure to livelihood.

After ensuring that the community had stable land rights, AVAS and the WATSAN Committee negotiated with the local government and the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) for the installation of water connections and construction of public toilets.

The public toilets were so popular that frequent use led to maintenance and cleanliness problems. As a result residents began constructing household latrines with technical guidance from AVAS, a little financial assistance, and the support of the WATSAN Committees.

The community’s efforts easily demystify many myths about sanitation: that sanitation requires expensive and high-tech solutions, that the poor have more important needs than sanitation, or that governments and utilities do not have access to financing for sanitation.

“The poor are willing to pay if they have access to the service,” says Anita Reddy, AVAS’ Managing Trustee. “Accessibility, affordability, and participation in decision making are the critical ingredients that helped the residents change their lifelong habits,” she added.

See also: Water rights: access to water means access to education in the slums of Bangalore, India, Source South Asia, 19 Nov 2007

Contact: Association for Voluntary Action and Service (AVAS), No. 9, 5th Cross, Puttaiah Compound, Ashwath Nagar, Bangalore 560094, India, Ph: +91-80-23516227, Email: avas [at] vsnl.com

Source: Ma. Christina Dueñas, ADB, Feb 2009