In Bangladesh, as in other developing countries, one of the biggest issues behind delivering improved sanitation services to the poorest urban residents is the collection and treatment of waste.

The challenge is simple: Nearly half of the 55 million urban residents in Bangladesh lack access to sanitation facilities which enable faecal waste to be safely collected and removed for treatment.

As a result, huge quantities of faecal waste are being dumped into drains or rivers, contaminating the environment and posing a serious public health risk.

Tackling this issue is about much more than simply investing in toilets. There is an urgent need to find safe and affordable ways in which waste can be collected and treated.

A further challenge is the practice of unsafe manual emptying, where “sweepers” empty toilets using basic equipment and at great risk to their own personal health.

WSUP’s SWEEP initiative is a response to this challenge: a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) which has enabled the private sector to enter the market.

The model was tested in Dhaka from 2015 and is now being scaled up across the capital, as well as into the country’s second city Chittagong, Rangpur and Barisal.

Our goal is to reach over six million people in these four cities by 2021.

This is our analysis of the size of the market in Dhaka:

The market for emptying services in Dhaka

To assess whether Skoll Foundation could support WSUP in achieving its goals, a team from the foundation traveled to Bangladesh in May for a week of investigation. The team met with customers, community members, NGO and government partners and sanitation experts to gauge the effectiveness of SWEEP, buy-in for the service and potential for scale.

As a result of the extensive due diligence conducted on the service, Skoll Foundation agreed to invest US $2 million into the partnership.

Lucien Chan, Principal at Skoll Foundation, explains the rationale behind the investment:

“It’s clear that the urban sanitation issue cannot be solved by investing in sewered sanitation alone.

Sewers will not be able to reach many low-income urban communities across the country, presenting a need for FSM services to safely manage fecal sludge in Bangladesh’s growing cities.

Based upon the track record to date and the interest and demand from the public and private sector players involved, the Skoll Foundation believes in the potential for SWEEP to create systemic change in the sanitation landscape of urban Bangladesh and is proud to support WSUP in its effort to scale and replicate this program.”

Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP, said:

“There is a huge challenge today in Bangladesh involving getting harmful human waste away from communities so that it can be safely treated. SWEEP is a practical model to encourage well-run businesses to deliver an efficient waste collection service for all consumers and help cities respond to this growing issue.

With the backing of the Skoll Foundation, SWEEP is now set to scale up, demonstrating one practical way that muncipal authorities can successfully implement the country’s new Institution and Regulatory framework for faecal sludge management.”

We would also like to recognise the following institutions for supporting SWEEP since 2015: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Stone Family Foundation, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), UNICEF and the Vitol Foundation.

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Image credit: Skoll Foundation