from emergency to development with sustainable sanitation


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  • Elisabeth
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Re: costs - from emergency to development with sustainable sanitation

This is related to the points raised by Nicole above (I think).
I have recently had an interesting e-mail exchange with Andy Bastable from Oxfam, UK, who is an expert on emergency sanitation. We started the e-mail exchange while I was doing some editing work on the factsheet of WG 8. With his permission, I am posting here what he wrote (you see the e-mail trail in reverse chronological order, i.e. most recent on top; the most important part is marked in red):


The actual costs spent by Governments on sexy filmable water treatment plants could actually be alot more than U$ 20,000 for 4,000 people - the US Government sent one unit to Pakistan that was U$500,000 - i also met a unit in the landslides in Venezuela in 1999 that was a unit from the US army that could produce clear water after bacteriological and nuclear warfare - that one was a million dollars. Also, these units have expensive filters etc that need to be replace ever 2 weeks and other consumables.

I haven't got all the prices at my figure tips but Governments and agencies do often (in nearly every big emergency) fly in expensive water treatment units that are used only for a very short time where as they never fly in units that assist safe excreta disposal and donors don't question this while arguing with agencies about the high cost of a U$100 or U$150 latrine which could be in operation for 2 years or more (if constructed properly). Many of these units are over spec'ed and done as a publicity stunt as there are cheaper and easier ways of providing clean drinking water.

In my statement below i could well have said U$40,000 for 4,000 people


Andy Bastable
Public Health Engineering Coordinator

From: "Muench, Elisabeth von GIZ" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

This means that the statement is flawed, doesn’t it…? It is saying: Sanitation is more expensive than water supply per capita?

Agencies and donors are willing
to spend U$20,000 on water treatment units for 4,000 people
a day (=5 $ per person), but reluctant to spend more than U$150/toilet (=7.5 $ per person) (A.
Bastable, Oxfam GB, personal communication).

From: Andy Bastable

Dear Elisabeth

In Sphere, the main manual that relief agencies use we calculate for 50 people per latrine for the 1st phase and then 20 people per latrine for the medium to long term. Best if you take the figure of 20 people per latrine.

All the best


From: "Muench, Elisabeth von GIZ"

Dear Andy,

I am currently in the final hours/days of finalising the factsheet of SuSanA working group 8 which Ase has done such a great job in compiling.

On page 1 you are cited with this interesting statement:

Agencies and donors are willing
to spend U$20,000 on water treatment units for 4,000 people
a day, but reluctant to spend more than U$150/toilet (A.
Bastable, Oxfam GB, personal communication).

To make the numbers comparable, my question is: how many people would be served by this toilet of 150 $? If only 5 people (household toilet), then I would say: No wonder, as the capital cost per person are higher for sanitation. But is it serving 10, 20 or 50 people perhaps?
(and I would convert the costs to EUR using the current exchange rate if you don’t mind)

I have realised that the factsheet does not say anything about costs, and am wondering if it would be easy at this late stage to at least refer to some other document that says something about costs? E.g. is the cost higher per person for water supply than for sanitation (if such a general statement can be made)?


And if you want to see the final version of the above-mentioned factsheet, see here:

Do others have point to share about the issue of costs for sanitation systems in emergency scenarios?

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Freelance consultant on environmental and climate projects
Located in Ulm, Germany
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • asej
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Re: from emergency to development with sustainable sanitation

Dear Nicole,

It would be very interesting to talk to you more in depth about this, and get a structured view on exactly what you think is not working, and what in that case a group like the susana working group 8 could do/ or what could be done better by the donors/agencies implementing these solutions. Hopefully we can bring this into the working group as something to work on and advocate further. Please feel free to post in this forum further details or contact me on ase.johannessen (at)

Best regards
Lead of the Swedish Water House Cluster on Water & Disaster Risk Reduction:
Researcher “SPLASH urban sanitation in Maputo” and “WASH & RESCUE - WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene in RESilient Cities and Urban areas adapting to Extreme waters”
Co-lead on “SuSanA working group 8 in sanitation in emergencies” see Blog:

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  • Klaesener
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from emergency to development with sustainable sanitation

Dear all,

I am working in Haiti as a WASH manager and we are currently on our way from emergency to development in one of the most challenging environments worldwide. An urban post disaster context in one of the poorest countries worldwide in regards to sanitation coverage amongst many other problems.

I see more and more sanitation approaches in my daily work life that are some kind of "sustainable sanitation" approach. This meaning mostly composting toilets, UDDTs, and similar in various different designs.

Unfortunately quite some of them fail because there is no time or will for proper feasibility studies of the context nor of the social acceptance of the chosen system. On the other hand there are some small organizations that are implementing nationwide with success.

None-the-less "EcoSan" or "sustainable sdanitation" are often only brands that are put on top of a massive latrinisation project without any attempt to actually implement a sustainable (in the best sense of the word) sanitation initiative. Creating demand, which then will be met by socially acceptable,
User friendly systems with smart and flexible management systems cannot be found easily.

I feel a profound sadness when I see what an incredible chance of donor interest, international attention, beneficiary happiness, for and with sustainable sanitation solutions is wasted in this beautiful country. All coordination efforts and technical working groups cannot stop that sustainable sanitation gets a bad name because it is often seen just as a label or a poorly implemented and therefore unsuccessful projects.

Fortunately some projects start to root themselves into the Haitian everyday life,

If there are some Haitian colleagues in this forum, please let me know if you share my point of view, everybody else, have you been in the same situation already? What can be done in cases like this? How to change the perception of sustainable sanitation in peoples minds in an environment that is uncontrollable due to the unmanageable amount of people in it???

Looking forward to your thoughts.

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