Access to Improved Sanitation in Informal Settlements: The Case of Dar es Salaam City, Tanzania

  • F H Mughal
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Access to Improved Sanitation in Informal Settlements: The Case of Dar es Salaam City, Tanzania

Access to Improved Sanitation in Informal Settlements: The Case of Dar es Salaam City, Tanzania

Having proper sanitation in informal settlements is a major problem in most emerging countries. Informal settlements have to reply on pit latrines in relatively affluent homes. Those who are poor simply discharge sewage in open improvised drains, or just in depressions.

The paper: Access to Improved Sanitation in Informal Settlements: The Case of Dar es Salaam City, Tanzania ( dx.doi.org/10.4236/cus.2016.41003 ) provides useful “ingredients” for having improved sanitation in informal settlements. These ingredients are:

The existence of community groups or organisations for dealing with sanitations issues provides a fertile ground for improvement of sanitation situations. However, sustainability of such community groups depends also on how the government is engaged in the whole sanitation improvement process.

Efforts to improve sanitation conditions in Keko Machunga did not depend on the government; instead, the efforts were dependent on Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI) as a local NGO and Tumaini Letu Organisation (TLO) as a community based group.

Given the broad impact of poor sanitation, and the fact that there are some decisions that cannot be made by local NGOs (e.g. law enforcement) the involvement of the government in an effort to improve sanitation conditions is very crucial. This calls for collaborative approaches in improving sanitation conditions.

In addition to local groups and the government, other key stakeholders (e.g. private sectors, donors) need to be involved as well. The presence of an active Community organisation (TLO) in Keko Machnungwa contributed to attract attention of the local NGO (CCI).

In addition, if the aim is to improve sanitation conditions for poor people in informal settlements, some new arrangements need to be considered. That is:

1. Each informal settlement has to have a community based group or organisation for sensitizing community members to take part in appropriate sanitation practices.

2. Every household in an informal settlement must be an active member of such a community group. The presence of strong and active community groups or organisations will help to strengthen financial capital, and consequently facilitate sanitation improvement efforts.

Loans provided, in a way, contributed to encouraging people to improve the conditions of their toilets. The findings of the study, however, show that, the decision to take a loan for improving toilet conditions depends on willingness of individual household. This implies that the responsibility to ensure every citizen get effective, efficient, and sustainable sanitation services is in the hands of individual households themselves and that authorities have forsaken their responsibilities. This is against the provisions of the Tanzania Water Supply and Sanitation Act No. 12 of 2009.

3. There is a need to make sure that improvement of latrine and sanitation in general is managed and enforced by responsible authorities. This is in addition to efforts by community groups.

Local authorities need to monitor sanitation conditions in different settlements and devise standards to hold responsible the households with poor latrines.

An effort to improve conditions of toilets is one of the ways of improving sanitation. In order to help communities live in an environment that meets health standards, sanitation initiative should not focus on latrines alone. They should go beyond that to include improving access to safe and clean water, solid waste management and flood mitigation measures.


The authors give useful and interesting tips for improving sanitation in informal settlements. Some involvement of the local government appears to be necessary. The point: “Every household in an informal settlement must be an active member of such a community group,” makes sense as this will act as an pressure point.

For me, the most interesting, take home point is: “…….. the responsibility to ensure every citizen get effective, efficient, and sustainable sanitation services is in the hands of individual households.” This is a great point that researchers have made, and is believed to be highly instrumental in improving sanitation in informal settlements.

F H Mughal

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  • hajo
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Re: Access to Improved Sanitation in Informal Settlements: The Case of Dar es Salaam City, Tanzania

Dear Mr. Mughal,

Sorry, if I tend to have some different views especially with your last bold statement…

The paper you refer to reports from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, thus it describes the situation in Tanzania but which may be similar to other African or Asian countries.

My first point of unease: in Tanzania construction of sewer systems and waste water treatment plants are financed from public funds, tariff contributions by users will not cover O&M costs and may require subsidies. Emptying services for septic tanks are provided by private or public service providers, the faecal sludge is (hopefully) treated in public waste water treatment works.

Thus services up on the sanitation ladder (sewer, septic) are provided by (mostly) public service providers with little financial contribution by the users as neither connection fees cover investments nor do tariffs cover O&M.

BUT these services are provided only to about 20-30% of the urban population, while the remaining 70-80% who depend on pit latrines (in peri-/urban informal settlements!) are being told that ‘construction and O&M of household latrines are the households own responsibility’. Thus your ‘take home point’ is not the recommended outcome of an independent research but just a repetition of the official sanitation policy of Tanzania.

But is it fair and in line with human rights for water and sanitation, if the 20-30% ‘better off’ are supported by public funding and services while the poorer people are told to help themselves?

I do not question that even the poorer households should build their own latrines as the richer build their WC, sewer connection or septic tank. But beside equality, is it not also in the interest of public health that household latrines (be it pit latrine, VIP, pour flush to pit, UDDT, compost toilet, …) are being emptied by an effective, efficient, and sustainable sanitation service chain?

Therefore my second point: I believe exactly the opposite that an individual household is NOT able to ensure such service and the result can be viewed in any Tanzanian town: as 90% of the ‘poor’ have pit latrines, pits (and even septic tanks) are emptied haphazardly. Unaware pit emptiers risk their health in emptying pits by hand and contaminate the environment dumping the faecal sludge in the next available gutter, gulley, bush or river. Very ‘clever’ people take advantage of heavy rains and have their pits ‘flushed out’ for no pay. In Moshi we estimate that 60-80% of pits are emptied unsafely.

And to a certain extend you cannot even blame those households for their ‘wrong doing’. If you scan the SuSanA Forum you find numerous threads where we discuss ways (= pumps) to empty pits in a more effective way than by hand. So far we have not found the golden bullet and even eThekwini empties 35,000 pit latrines by hand, but using and paying professional contractors for the work (because by nature pit latrines are not supposed to be emptied, but that is a different story!).

My conclusion: also the 70% households with pit latrines have a right to be provided with a sustainable service chain for their latrines (emptying, transport, treatment, disposal/reuse). It is only fair and it is in the interest of public health. That is, why I am in Moshi.

Ciao Hajo

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  • evemackinnon7
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  • I am PhD student at UCL. My research is on risk management frameworks for container based sanitation systems. I shall be exploring the key public health risks to different groups using field based case studies to pilot risk management frameworks.
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Re: Access to Improved Sanitation in Informal Settlements: The Case of Dar es Salaam City, Tanzania

Hi there,

I find the results of this paper one slightly framed the results to suggest that community driven and behaviour change approaches are key drivers of sanitation. Although uptake was higher where there loan schemes that doesn't necessarily imply causation and I believe other factors such a tenant/leasing, lack of space, lack of time, vulnerably households, are equally important and were not considered during the discussion.

However, community approaches are essential for framing solutions to the problems through ways that support responses and address needs identified by the community themselves.
Perhaps they could have made more effort to understand from the community the problems at the local level?

Warmly,

Eve

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