JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use the Site in standard view. However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser. To use standard view, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options.

| Last Updated:11/04/2014

Latest News(Archive)

Latest News

Sanitation Software: a Smart Investment for High Level Meeting, 09 April 2014


There are great expectations for the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting (HLM) in Washington, DC, later this week. The 2012 meeting, through engagement with Finance ministries, saw almost 40 developing countries make pledges designed to provide an additional 60 million people with improved drinking water sources and another 80 million people with access to improved sanitation between 2012 and 2014.


Donors also said they would massively increase the number of people they are reaching. At this HLM, we will see how they have done. An ambitious meeting agenda has been set under the theme of Smart investments to achieve water, sanitation and hygiene for all.


One of the advantages of a partnership such as SWA is that it allows its members to bring their experience, expertise and views to the table. With that in mind, I ask the question, particularly for sanitation and hygiene, what is a “smart investment”?


It is an important question, because in these times of fiscal austerity, every Dollar, West African Franc, Pound, Kenyan Schilling, Euro or other currency must be invested with maximum efficiency if it is really to benefit poor people.


At WSSCC, we believe strongly in large-scale, “software” approaches that can bring about lasting changes in people’s behaviour as a method of eliminating the practice of open defecation, the first step up the sanitation ladder for more than 1 billion people.


Software approaches include interventions at the community level that sensitize households about the connection between sanitation and health, hygiene and human dignity.


They also involve working with local governments and other forms of local authority to institutionalize safe sanitation and hygiene; as well as collaborative initiatives with small scale entrepreneurs that strengthen emerging markets for sanitation solutions, large and small.


While software approaches undoubtedly have their challenges, hardware provision and construction of toilets based on subsidy models have several problems that make them unsustainable and poor investments.


Fundamentally, they’re expensive, and they don’t reach large numbers of a population. Also, they tend to create disincentives for people to improve their sanitation, maintain their facilities or undertake hygiene practices associated with improved sanitation.


In addition, the processes associated with the disbursement of hardware subsidies are particularly vulnerable to non-performance and cost-overruns.


Contracting out the construction of toilets to third party firms, for example, can result in kickbacks and other rent-seeking behaviours that occur as subsidies are disbursed by central government, administered by local government and third-party operators, and route to community leaders and the intended beneficiaries


Hardware subsidies are also politically problematic. Few countries in the world are able to finance subsidies to the entire population of those in need of improved sanitation. Once you have limited resources, where they go or don’t go, can become a political hot potato.