Marginalised urban communities are often characterised by three things: complexity, interdependence of challenges, and constant evolution.

The sheer numbers of people living close together in poorly planned communities can make improving the quality of life extremely difficult. The rapid rate of urbanisation – by 2050, the number of people living in African cities will double to 1.5 billion – means that there is no such thing as the status quo. Every month, every year, unplanned urban settlements get larger, and more complex.

In urban environments, issues such as water access, drainage, health, street design and solid waste management are all inextricably linked. Poor drainage leads to flooding, causing damage to flimsy sanitation facilities. Rubbish collected in drainage canals can exacerbate the issue and lead to stagnant water which becomes a breeding ground for disease. Sanitation facilities cannot be safely emptied if poor road access makes it impossible for emptying services to operate.

Tackling these issues in an integrated manner makes intuitive sense – but too often it just doesn’t happen, due to significant barriers such as cost, complexity, and the siloed nature of the development sector.

This report by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and Arquitectura sin Fronteras (also known as ASF-España, referred to in the report as ASF-E), examines how to overcome this immense challenge, from the perspective of water and sanitation services.

The report demonstrates why water and sanitation improvements can be more effective when combined with other areas of urban development, and analyses how, in practice, this integration can occur.

Drawing on evidence from cities such as Maputo, Accra, Nairobi and Antananarivo, the report finds that integrating WASH with wider slum development can improve the overall impact, and the ease of delivery, of WASH services.