Illegal water connections Biafra, Nairobi

Citywide access to water and sanitation services in Kenya

Clean, piped water brings dignity to people, reduces living costs, frees up time – and crucially, given the situation right now, is a critical defence against infectious diseases. With the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation’s Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has been working with Kenyan city authorities to […]


Dirty water_ John Laing

Stronger regulators crucial to improving sanitation services for the poorest, report finds

A new report published by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and the Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association identifies how stronger regulators can play an important role in improving sanitation for under-served urban residents. The report, entitled Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation, has four key […]


This Discussion Paper synthesises experience from Eastern and Southern Africa and Bangladesh to explore the evolving role of regulators in driving urban sanitation service improvements.

The paper argues that effective regulators and regulations are urgently needed to improve urban sanitation services to the poorest, and highlights some ways in which this can be achieved.

The paper features six case studies of diverse regulatory initiatives, ranging from sanitation surcharges and specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to national-level institutional and regulatory frameworks. In each case, the paper aims to document how progress has been made, but also to critically assess future challenges to implementation. Key messages of the paper are:

  • Regulatory effectiveness is a core driver of improved sanitation services. Every football match needs a referee.
  • Regulations are not enough. Clear responsibilities and active regulating are essential.
  • Problems cannot be solved in one bold step. Active regulating involves incremental change, extensive consultation and testing.
  • A Regulating Ladder could support countries in their journey towards active regulating.

This is a joint publication between The Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association (ESAWAS) and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).

Gender inequity at the level of policy, regulation and management limits the voice and participation of women decision-makers and can perpetuate inequities throughout the sanitation sector. To address this, the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative aims to analyse gender inequity in educational and professional settings of sanitation-related organisations.

  • Among staff at sanitation-related public-sector institutions in Kenya, a large majority of both men and women recognise that women have different needs and priorities when it comes to sanitation.
  • Both men and women showed awareness of the needs of women regarding particular attributes of latrines, such as menstrual hygiene management (MHM) facilities or physical safety.
  • A more participatory approach allowed more gendered perspectives and seemed to lead to gender-sensitive programming and policies; an infrastructure-led approach, focusing more on hardware installation and less on participation, led to less gender-sensitive programming and policies.

This research was led by Athena Infonomics; more information about the project and other reports can be found here.

Gender inequity at the level of policy, regulation and management limits the voice and participation of women decision-makers and can perpetuate inequities throughout the sanitation sector. To address this, the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative aims to analyse gender inequity in educational and professional settings of sanitation-related organisations.

  • Women working at sanitation-related public-sector institutions in Kenya reported challenges at work, which limited their professional aspirations, their voice and their influence on policies.
  • Barriers exist at all stages of career development: girls face gender bias in school when pursuing technical degrees; young career-women must balance greater familial obligations than men; and mid-career women lack many of the networking opportunities that men have.
  • Bullying and sexual harassment of women have not been adequately addressed thus far, leaving some women with little support and few alternatives.

It is crucial for the sanitation sector to meet the basic needs of their female staff, such as:

  1. Full access to MHM-friendly latrines at all sites, including waste treatment plants and field sites.
  2. Maternity and paternity leave, flexible scheduling and lactation rooms for new mothers
  3. For young mothers and fathers, create nearby or on-site alternatives to workshops and conferences that require travel. When travel is unavoidable, make arrangements for young mothers to return quickly in an emergency.
  4. Provide PPE that are designed for women, for all jobs that require protective gear.
  5. Create a culture that is intolerant to sexual jokes in professional settings. Create confidential systems that protect victims of sexual harassment, and discourage sexual predators.
  6. Create professional groups, systems and events which allow women to network, mentor and support each other, during hours and in locations that are friendly to women.
  7. Educate managers and staff of the benefits of both gender equity among staff, and equal representation of women and men among management.
  8. Make salary structures and promotion policies transparent and ensure that all employees are considered equally.

This research was led by Athena Infonomics; more information about the project and other reports can be found here.

Handwashing station in Accra, Ghana

Covid-19 and crowded urban settlements: how can we stop the spread?

By Sam Drabble, Acting Head of Evaluation, Research & Learning For the one billion people living in informal urban settlements in the Global South, the spread of coronavirus poses an imminent threat that could prove catastrophic. A range of factors makes transmission of the virus in these contexts more likely, and the potential impacts even […]


Henriqueta and her children access water

From the front line of climate change: residents tell their stories

What does climate change mean for the most vulnerable people living in urban areas? Ahead of this year’s World Water Day, WSUP has been finding out how climate change affects the water and sanitation needs of city residents. The following stories give a snapshot of the challenges faced around the world, from rising temperatures in […]


Emerging findings on gender and decision making in sanitation public bodies

This International Women’s Day, we are sharing some emerging findings from a research project to show how in sanitation, an equal world is an enabled world. For International Women’s Day last year, we wrote about a new research project examining the gender split of staff in Kenyan sanitation public institutions. These include utilities, government bodies […]


Game changers in water and sanitation: WSUP’s vision for change

Highlights from a panel discussion on the challenges and solutions to the water crisis. On 25th February, WSUP was joined by a panel of experts to discuss the challenges of improving water and sanitation in the backdrop of increasing urbanisation and climate change. Andy Roby, Senior Water Security Adviser at DFID, Liz Lowe, Head of […]