Private-public partnership to improve urban sanitation
Lessons in sustainable urban sanitation programming from Mukono District
At 210 square kilometres, Mukono Municipality is one of the largest urban councils, with the biggest industrial park in the country and the busy Jinja Highway. Mukono also has one of the more appalling urban sanitation statistics with open defecation at 1.4 per cent and 7 in 10 sanitation facilities not safely managed.
“As with many urban centres, increasing population growth over a fixed land mass and resource are causing the district sanitation standards to fall below the minimum Public Health Act standards,” Mugerwa Henry, the Principal Health Inspector of Mukono Municipal Council says.
UNICEF’s pilot Urban Sanitation Programme thus seeks to contribute to the reduction in life-threatening WASH-related diseases and creation of a clean environment for communities and schools. By supporting local and central governments to plan, implement and monitor the hygiene and sanitation services, the Finnish National Committee for UNICEF -funded project initiated in January 2022 seeks to create demand for sanitation facilities and ensure that every home meets the minimum standards of sanitation and hygiene, particularly a model pit latrine, the most common form of toilet facility in the region.
The basic sanitation facility
The programme highlights durable, drainable and hygienic as the three basic features for a model pit latrine.
Durable; lined from the bottom so that it is leak-proof;
Drainable; has a soak pit and septic tank with a pre-treated layer to reduce the pollutants as the liquid waste drains into the ground;
Hygienic; fitted with a sato pan; a plastic pan that seals off the stance hole from air and vermin.
This model is especially useful for urban areas as it enables the use of the same facility over a lifetime as it can be emptied and reused.
Less about money, more about mindset change
Upon realising the severity of open defecation and poorly constructed toilets during a triggering session in his village, Mubiru Cephas the Local Council 1 Chairman of Kirangira Village in Ggulu Ward, Lutu Central Division in Mukono Municipality, was the first to install a sato pan in his pit latrine. Working with two trained masons to sensitise his community, the chairman purchased more sato pans which he sells on credit to the villagers. Since June 2022, 130 households in Kirangira Village have installed sato pans, seven of them on credit.
‘Good sanitation not only benefits the health of individual members but also enhances the economic value of the village,’ the chairman says.
Leveraging the private sector
Cate Nimanya, the UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist underscores a key realisation that households can pay for the toilets they need. Between April and June 2022, over 500 toilets have been upgraded and 44 new ones constructed. She further notes that strategic partnerships with the private sector can be used to mobilise resources for investments in sanitation as well as ensure sustainability since profitability can be a motivation for them.
Meddi Semakula has been a mason for 12 years but notes a marked difference in his life when the municipality trained him on standardising design and costs. “I used to go months without work but now I only spend a maximum of a week,” the mason notes. Having personally installed 160 sato pans since he was trained in May 2022, Semakula reveals that for the first time in many years he has been able to pay school fees for his children on time. He now actively markets the new model latrine, using data provided by the village health teams.
On an institutional scale, an innovative financing partnership with four financial institutions has facilitated the extension of sanitation credit to households and schools, while hardware shops also have stocked up on materials required for the model latrines, including the locally produced sato pans.
Urban sanitation and stubborn landlords
A key challenge to the programme has been cash-minded landlords who focus more on rental payments and less on sanitation, considering the latter a government responsibility. However, with sensitization and enforcement, this mindset is changing. Nathan Were is the landlord of a six roomed structure on an approximately 10 decimal piece of land in Kitega Village, Mukono Ward, Central Division. When he received a nuisance note from the municipality Nathan broke down the old latrine, which was not drainable, tore down a shop and allocated the space for a new latrine. He used his personal finances totalling UGX7 million (US$1,817) to finance the construction of a two-stance model latrine with a bathroom.
“We needed a new toilet, so one shop had to go,” he says, nonetheless noting his gratitude that the new structure is drainable and can be used for a lifetime.
For many landlords, the municipality is using the law on one hand and positive engagement on the other. Livingstone Mulindwa, the Health Inspector Mukono Central Division and Focal Person for the Urban Sanitation Programme requires landlords to set up basic toilet facilities prior to approval of building plans. He also conducts continual inspections for use of right material in right quantities especially in the lining of the pit latrine which is key to it being drainable.
However there still are a few individuals, particularly the elderly who are too poor to even purchase a sato pan, which costs less than UGX 20,000 (US$0.52), for the basic upgrade. “We are working with the municipality to ensure that no one gets left behind in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2 on access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, particularly women and children, ”UNICEF WASH specialist concludes.