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UNICEF Innovation

Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS)


CATS is an umbrella term used by UNICEF sanitation practitioners to encompass a wide range of community-based sanitation programming. CATS focus on creating a social norm around sanitation behaviour and elimination open defecation. The strategy works well in creating the norm and countless villages have been declared “open defecation free”, resulting in families financing and building their own latrines. These constructed latrines are often basic, placing families on the “base of the sanitation ladder”.

Challenges to current model: 

These initial latrines built are often not considered hygienic and families are eventually expected to climb the sanitation ladder through the investment in improvements to their latrines.  WASH programmes promote (through social marketing campaigns) families to buy more durable and hygienic latrine components.  Unfortunately, the availability of appropriately designed and priced sanitation products is a challenge faced by many of the households targeted by UNICEF programming.   

UNICEF is therefore interested in exploring methods for engaging with a diverse set of private sector partners in order to promote the development of low-cost, fit-for-purpose sanitation products which can be made readily available at the community level.   

The UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) has recently engaged with a private sector partner to conduct market research and test improved sanitation products with end-users. The intended outcomes of the project are: 

1) Detailed market information on the needs of the “base of the pyramid” (including both functionality of the products and price point) in the region.

2) A more thorough understanding of sanitation marketing techniques and the supply chain for difficult–to-reach communities.

3) More appropriate and affordable sanitation products available on the local market for households to purchase. 

Purpose of project: 

This Innovation project aims to document and evaluate the ESARO project and subsequently replicate it in other regions and countries. UNICEF hopes to find more ways to offer its unique insights and field experience in order to support private sector to improve the design of sanitation products to the culturally specific needs of communities and households, and improve cost  and access to products which can be purchased directly by beneficiaries.




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